Entertainment News A Brief History of Mechanical Horses
For most of human history, horses have been, primarily, a technology. An intimate technology, yes people named their horses, and groomed them, and sometimes loved them but horses were, for the most part, tools: They helped humanity to get around and get things done. Once steam power and internal combustion came along, though, that relationship changed drastically. As horses were eclipsed by more efficient methods of moving people and things trains, cars, planes their role in human culture shifted, as well. We quickly came to see horses more as what they had been, of course, all along: fellow animals. That shift is evident in a longstanding dream that is a little bit fanciful, a little bit practical, a little bit silly, and a little bit wonderful: the quest for the mechanical horse. While some creations the Scammel mechanical horse, the Iron Horse imagined themselves as horses' mechanized successors while not actually resembling them, many others have engaged in biomimicry of a more specific variety. While they are only one species we humans have seen fit to imitate with our machines the world now hosts, among other automatons, the mechanical dog, the mechanical dinosaur, the mechanical pack mule, the mechanical elephant, the mechanical flea, and the mechanical shark horses have held a special place in human hearts. The inventor William Brunton took an engineer's eye to something humans had known for centuries: that horses were particularly well-suited to speedily delivering cargo over varied terrain. He took that realization to his steam horse locomotive, which featured leg-like levers meant to steady the vehicle as it was propelled by a combination of a boiler and piston. "The invention excited much attention," the Catskill Archive notes. "It had the merit of acting as the designer intended it should, and one day that it was on trial, rushing along at a speed of three miles an hour, accompanied by a host of admirers, the boiler exploded, throwing hot water, pieces of iron, and disaster among the crowd. That ended the career of the Mechanical Traveller."