A boatman was only as good as his horse, and they took great care of them.
The last working canal boat horse on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal retired in 1960.
"It was a funny thing, but a good cart horse never made a good boat horse. The pull is so different, when a horse pulls at a cart it expects the cart to move... well a horse had to take the strain on the rope and stand like that until the elasticity in the rope started the boat off.
"The horse would spread all its four legs like four posts and stand like that until it felt the boat move... boatmen called it ‘standing tight’."
Will Hodgson, carpenter at Five Rise Locks, talking 1960
Watch the video to see boat horse Bilbo Baggins pulls narrowboat Elland through the Bingley Five Rise Locks on the Leeds & Liverpool canal in April 2012.
Boat horse Bilbo Baggins pulls narrowboat Elland through the Five Rise Locks in April 2012.
Bilbo takes the strain and pulls Elland through the Three Rise Locks.
Horse drawn boat ‘Tiger’ around 1900. Note the large collar on the horse to take the strain.
Bingley Heritage Awareness Project:
Last date edited: 20 July 2015