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Harness Racing

In harness racing, a Standardbred horse pulling a light two-wheeled vehicle called a sulky. Harness racing horses are of two kinds:
- the pacing horse or pacer, that moves both legs on one side of its body at the same time;
- the trotting horse, or trotter, strides with its left front and right rear leg moving forward simultaneously, then right front and left rear together.
Harness racing is ancient. Assyrians trained horses to draw chariots, to use them in a war, a sport of hunting. Homer mentioned of the chariot race in the Iliad. Four-horse hitch chariot races took place in the Olympic Games of the 7th century bc.
Chariot racing came into great prominence in Rome. A perfect site for chariot racing Circus Maximus, that could hold 200,000 spectators, was built in Rome. In the reign of Augustus (27 bc–ad 14), there were 12 races a day; by Flavius’ reign (69–96), the number rose to 100, from daybreak until sundown, the length of races being shortened to accommodate the larger number. The chariot disappeared as a military vehicle and chariot racing ended with the fall of Rome in the 4th century; modern harness racing did not begin to evolve until early in the 19th century.
In the early 19th century there were trotting tracks in the United States. Yankee trotted a mile over the track at Harlem, New York, in 1806, Boston at the Hunting Park track and in Philadelphia in 1810. In 1830s harness racing thrived at county fairs. In 1871 the Grand Circuit, the Quadrilateral Trotting Combination, was established and grew from 4 to 23 tracks. In 1879 the Standardbred horse was established in the United States.
Lady Woodruff, Miller's damsel, General Darcy and Stella: trotting for a purse of $800 mile heats best 3 in. 5 in. harness
215 Media in collectionpage 1 of 3

Gray Eagle / J. Cameron.

Print showing the horse Gray Eagle pulling a four-wheel sulky with driver.

The trotting mare "American Girl" driven by M. Roden / J. Cameron.

A harness racing portrait showing American Girl, a trotting mare, pulling a high-wheeled sulky and driver.

Diploma awarded by

Print showing farm animals, tools, and produce, and horse racing scenes.

The mutual life leads - others follow / A. Hoen & Co. Baltimore.

Print shows a horse race in progress at a racetrack; each horse and jockey represents a different insurance company, in the lead is "Mutual Life of N.Y." followed by "Equitable of N.Y., New York Life, Penn Mutu... more

Free-for-all race at Charter Oak Park /

From Maguire & Baucus catalogue: Shows a part of the enormous crowd and the start and finish of the free-for-all pacing race, in which the fastest harness horse in the world, John R. Gentry (2:00-1/2), the comi... more

Finish Gold Cup race, 2nd heat, August 1904

Photograph shows three harness horse racers racing side-by-side on track.