Nevertheless, it is difficult to see the end of the horses work in the Industrial Revolution. First, the Industrial Revolution was a long period which began at different times according to the countries. Then, horses are still very useful nowadays. So, we may not see a break but different evolutions in consideration of countries or human activities.
I propose a reflection around the article of Thomas Almeroth-Williams, “The brewery horse and the importance of equine power in Hanoverian London” in the periodical Urban History, 40, 3, p. 416-441 (2013).
In London, brewing was one of the most food and drink manufacturing sector during our period. Between the 1720s and 1790s, the total number of breweries fluctuated between 140 and 180. The author proposes to examine some sources of the biggest breweries as Thrale-Barclay Perkins, Whitbread, Truman etc. For example, in 1815, the production of Barclay Perkins at their Southwark site surmounted 300.000 barrels of beer still it was of 100.000 barrels in 1776.
By examining the brewer’s inventories, he noticed the importance of horses. Peter Mathias, a British economic historian, calculated that a trade of between 60.000 and 100.000 barrels would require 50-60 horses, rising to 150 for 300.000 barrels.
Truman brewery horse stock, 1790-1835
In fact, we need to differentiate mill-horses and dray-horses.
The mill-horse made turn the mill to crush grains, go up bags and pump water. It has been almost entirely omitted from the history of brewing because of its little glamour image: hidden from public, it was depicted as a forlorn ex-racer, blind, old, lean and feeble. However, the mill-horse was indispensable to the brewery until it was replaced gradually by steam engine. In the biggest breweries, the triumph of steam marked the age of the giant dray-horse.
By using steam engines, the production of breweries kept increasing. And to distribute all this beer, brewers need more and more dray-horses. It was seen as an impressive beast, appearing to combine great strength with an intelligent understanding of its role. It was an animal of prestige. These horses could haul heavy carts for more than 12 hours a day. It could memorize a work routine and perform it with little or no supervision. In fact, the improvements in nutrition and stable care, besides the selections of breeding, contributed to its strength: at the end of the 18th century, three nutritionally rich foodstuffs (clover, beans and oats) had been added to hay; particular care was taken to protect the hooves.
George Garrard, Whitbread’s brewery in Chiswell Street (aquatint, 1792)
In conclusion, this example shows both the importance of horses in the industry after the 18th century and the complex relationship between men and animals, globally the human interaction with animals in the city. Should we not forget their urban nuisances or their natural recalcitrance provoking traffic jams and accidents?