The History of Rocking Horses
The rocking horse as we know it dates back to the 17th Century when wooden rocking horses first appeared in Europe. A very few of these early rocking horses still survive in museums and private collections. These include one of the earliest ridden by King Charles I of England when he was a boy.
Socrates' children are also said to have ridden rocking horses.
Toy animals have been part of ancient and primitive cultures since recorded
history and horses have always been a very important part of many cultures, frequently as symbols of wealth and social position.
Crude toy horses placed
on wheels appeared around 500 BC and there are records of toy horses in
ancient Egypt. Ancient Greeks and Romans also had terra cotta toy horses and
chariots made of clay. The ancient Greeks used "stick" horses, the precursor
to the "Hobby Horse". These hobby horses was just a crude horse's head on a
stick but continued to be popular toys well into Medieval Times.
In the 16th century, hobby horses developed into the "barrel" horse. A
"barrel" horse was a log on four wooden legs with a crude horse's head on
the end of the log. During the 17th century rocking horses began to appear
with the more familiar deeply curved rocking base.
It wasn't until the 18th century that wooden rocking horses began to appear
as handcrafted creations. Probably, the most famous is the classic English
Dapple Grey rocking horse.
By the 1800's, rocking horses had changed to the traditional form. The
Victorian style horse on bow rockers is considered the safest form because
of the width of the rockers and resistance to being overturned. During the
19th Century, wooden toy making evolved from a cottage industry into a
factory production. Toys were now available to satisfy hundreds more of the
affluent society on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the late 1800's, several inventive rocking mechanisms sprang onto the
market. One alternative rocking mechanism was developed by Philip Marqua of
Cincinnati, and was patented in London in January 1880 as the "safety
stand." This has the distinct advantage over the rocker in that it does not
move across the floor and takes up less space for an equivalent size horse.
Because of its safe design, the safety stand allows a longer swing and is
used as an alternative to the bows by makers today. Most of the factory
produced wooden horses were painted a characteristic dapple-grey.
Rocking horses were popular throughout Great Britain during Georgian and
Victorian times. They also flourished in Germany and in America until the
middle of the Twentieth Century, when production of wooden rocking horses
The first world war of 1914 to 1918 saw a decline in the manufacture of
rocking horses due to a shortage of materials and the skilled craftsmen
required to make them. The last thirty years has seen a remarkable
re-emergence of this much loved traditional toy and there are now several
rocking horse makers around the world who are making quality horses.
Today, antique wooden rocking horses have become collectors' items while new
artists have emerged with their own design to make the colectors' items of
the future. There is a great range of designs and styles available and
horses are made in a wide variety of materials from cloth to plastic and
with a wide range of prices.
The Relko horse was the first of it's kind to be made in natural laminated
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