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Through the city

Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

Through the city

At the turn of the 19th century, tens of thousands of horses lived and worked in Australia’s cities. An estimated 20,000 horses were stabled in Melbourne in the 1880s, and in the same period Sydney’s horse population supported over 50 livery stables, more than 100 saddlers and coachbuilders and over 200 carriage and buggy proprietors.

Moore Street, Sydney, about 1910.
Moore Street, Sydney, about 1910. National Museum of Australia.

Horses hauled goods between shops, homes, factories and docks, pulled cabs, omnibuses and private vehicles, and helped with construction projects.

They also provided humans with leisure and entertainment.

Hundreds of businesses sustained the horses’ work and, as their numbers grew, civic authorities found ways to regulate their use – and clean up after them.

Explore some of the stories and objects

 Hitching post
Hitching post

Once commonplace in Australian streets, these posts were used to secure horses.
 ST Gill printing block
ST Gill printing block

Used to print an evocative drawing of buck jumping in central Melbourne.
 Lincoln Park Dairy horsedrawn cart
Essendon milk cart

This horsedrawn cart was used by Lincoln Park Dairy from the 1940s to 1987.