Bob The Massive Long Maned Brigg Barge Horse c1860
Bob The Massive Long Maned Brigg Barge Horse c1860
Bob The Massive Long Maned Brigg Barge Horse c1860
Bob The Massive Long Maned Brigg Barge Horse c1860
Bob The Massive Long Maned Brigg Barge Horse c1860

Ancholme Brigg Wharfs Early 20th Century, after the era of barge horses.


Bob The Massive Long Maned Barge Horse c.1860

A recent find and we think he is wonderful.  That eye!

This is a truly huge watercolour of, as taken from the inscribed panel on the reverse:


"Bob the Massive Brigg Barge Horse Famed for his Magnificent Mane and Tail Which was Braided when Pulling Barges up the River Ancholme Circa 1860"


I now doubt the veracity of the inscription, given recent information that has come to light regarding barge horses on the Ancholme.  However, he was a really heavy horse and is placed against water in the background, and so could possibly have been a barge horse, somewhere else.


In the middle of the 19th century there was a fascination with breeding of all domesticated animals, with many early prints circulated in the press.  For more information on prize winning animals  take a look my article here.


Signed M N Carr lower centre. 



Frame:  36.5" x 28"   93cm x 71cm  

Sight:   28" x 19.75   71cm x 50cm


Ref:  478




A Brief Look at Barge Horses


I would like to thank canal historian Tony Lewery who is the author of the horse boating material, excepts of which I have taken from an excellent site:


Anyone interested in the subject would do well to make a start here.


"At a steady walking speed a horse can move approximately fifty times as much weight in a boat as it could with a cart on old fashioned roads, possibly a hundred times its own body weight. The load moves with minimal friction whilst the strength of the animal is linked directly to the load with little wasted energy.


Horses are a critically important part of canal history, but a part that is in danger of being overlooked in this mechanical age. It wasn’t so much the steam engine that created the industrial revolution as the horse that brought the coal to the boiler in the first place.



Boats are only transport when they move. The cheapest way of moving is to drift, using the current, but on inland rivers this is obviously a one way traffic, downstream. 


The captain is faced with a choice. He can wait for days for a fair wind, and get paid eventually, or he can hire a gang of men or a man and a horse to drag his barge upriver and get paid for delivery tomorrow. This was the regular dilemma that faced inland waterway transport before the eighteenth century - it was constantly subject to delays from too much wind, or too little, or from floods or drought. It was better than pack horses or road transport, but not much.


Horse boating, for all its apparent slow romantic grace, was not for the fainthearted. It was very hard work requiring skilled judgement and experience interspersed with long hours of plodding drudgery and most of the boating population were pleased to move on to motor boats as they became available. Engines didn’t get tired, and you didn’t have to walk behind them all day, every day."


The canal people and the canal horses

Again excepts from this excellent site follow:


"It needs two people to work a horse drawn boat, one to steer and keep the boat in deep water and the other to drive the horse. A third hand to set the locks would be a bonus but the income possible from one boat was rarely sufficient to pay for more than a crew of two. Very often that was a man and his wife, and their children would fulfil the role of unpaid extra crew.


Some horses would work by themselves without a driver, but it was a risky business and someone had to be ready to leap ashore anytime they met another horse boat coming the other way. 


Every boat horse needed a stall in a stable at each end of every day’s journey, for a hot tired horse cannot be put out in a cold field for the night, so every regular stopping place, whether warehouse, wharf or canal side pub had to be equipped with stabling. Larger establishments employed ostlers to look after the change horses and sick horses, and they would keep the stable mucked out and ready for use for their boating customers. A boat horse could wear out a set of shoes in four to six weeks so an army of blacksmiths had to be on hand as well to keep the industry running."


With thanks to the following online resources:

Tony Lewery, historical horse boating expert and author