Historically, toy animals have been prominent in many different cultures across the world, and they have been traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The most widespread animal chosen for these toys happens to be the horse! From small horses on wheels to be pulled around in Egypt, to stick horses made for children to race around in ancient Greece, some of these traditions have followed us to modern times. In fact, Finland hosts hobby horse competitions, where young people participate in faux equestrian events using the same concept of a stick horse set up by those ancient Greeks. One toy modeled after the horse became a household favorite that can be traced back to the middle ages and is likely a part of some of your own family photos or videos: the rocking horse.
Variations of the Rocking Horse
Horse-like toys have evolved over time from the very basic creations of the ancient Greeks as far back as 500 BC, to the intricately hand crafted family heirlooms we know today. Carousels, also known as merry-go-rounds, are still highly popular amusement park rides for young kids today that feature brightly colored, festive faux horses. One of the first toy stationary horses dates back to the 16th century. A slightly evolved version of the Medieval hobby horse, which is a long stick with a crude horse head meant to be straddled by kids as a makeshift horse to ride, the 16th century brought forth the barrel horse. This new creation was made from a wood log, which posed as the horse’s body on 4 wooden legs with a wood carved horse head. It wasn’t long after this that the first wood rocking horses started to emerge in the 17th century.
A Long Way to Go…
When the first rocking horses were made in the early 17th century, they weren’t flawless in use. As woodworkers refined the product, often times the solid wood horse on the curved bows for rockers would cause an uneven center of gravity causing these rocking horses to fall over frequently. Eventually, the safety stand was invented that allowed for rocking horses to stay safely in one place while allowing children to rock back and forth on them freely with minimal chance of toppling over. It was after this that Queen Victoria’s personal interest and love for the rocking horse created a widespread fad among family households. Her favorite for her children was the classic dappled grey horse, which still remains the most popular rocking horse design today.
Making a Comeback
While production of the rocking horse slowed down drastically during the great depression and world wars due to a decrease in available materials and craftsmen, there has been a strong re-emergence of this family favorite over the past several decades. Artists and wood workers are still creating these timeless pieces that are adored by children and parents, who both have fond childhood memories focused on these classic and beautifully crafted family toys!
Looking for a way to share a classic childhood pastime with a member of your family? See some of our authentic rocking horses made from fine hardwoods by Amish craftsmen. Learn more at either of our furniture stores locations in San Antonio and New Braunfels, TX.