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Newsday Staff Writer
May 11, 2006
Photos: Newsday - Robert Mecea
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The Big Apple has never treated its hardworking equine inhabitants particularly well.

In the 19th century, when New York City was mostly farmland and roads were made of dirt or cobblestone, as many as 200,000 horses called Manhattan their home. (Photo - 2)

In 1854, more than 22,000 horses pulled public vehicles, historical accounts show. A team of horses could haul a Long Island Rail Road street train 10 miles between Manhattan and Jamaica in less than an hour, according to the book "Gotham, A History of New York City to 1898."

And when horse-drawn carriages became affordable, thousands of city dwellers became horse owners. The proliferation of horses became a problem, since when a horse died, there was no place to put a carcass that could weigh as much as 1,200 pounds. So, they rotted in the street until decay rendered them easier to cart away, according to the article "The Horse and the Urban Environment."  (Photo - 3)

Cobblestone streets could be slick and collisions with carriages or other horses were common in the 19th century. When a horse broke a bone, it was almost always euthanized, records show. In 1860, the New York Police Department formed its first traffic-related unit, "The Broadway Squad." Its mission was to escort pedestrians across dangerous streets.

For anyone following the current effort to ban carriages, consider this: A century ago, cars were banned from Manhattan because they frightened horses, according to "Gotham." It wasn't until the end of World War I that horses were rapidly replaced by automobiles, and eventually relegated to use by a few cops and tourist carriages. (Photo - 4)

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