Jump to: navigation, search

Coach (carriage)

File:Gold state coach.jpg
The Gold State Coach of the British monarch

A coach was originally a large, usually closed, four-wheeled carriage with two or more horses harnessed as a team, controlled by a coachman and/or one or more postilions. It had doors in the sides, with generally a front and a back seat inside and, for the driver, a small, usually elevated seat in front called a box, box seat or coach box.

Kocs (pronounced "kotch") was the place of manufacture, from the 15th century onwards, of an exceptionally well designed example of such a vehicle with durable and comfortable suspension and steering. Therefore the English word coach, the Spanish and Portuguese coche, and the German Kutsche all probably derive from the Hungarian word "kocsi", literally meaning "of Kocs".[1]

File:The Great Coach.jpg
The Great State Coach in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg

A coach with four horses is a coach-and-four.[2] A coach together with the horses, harness and attendants is a turnout.[3]

The bodies of early coaches, as of American Concord stagecoaches, were hung on leather straps. In the eighteenth century steel springs were substituted, an improvement in suspension. An advertisement in the Edinburgh Courant for 1754 reads:

The Edinburgh stage-coach, for the better accommodation of passengers, will be altered to a new genteel two-end glass coach-machine, hung on steel springs, exceedingly light and easy...

A coach might have a built-in compartment called a boot, used originally as a seat for the coachman and later for storage. A luggage case for the top of a coach was called an imperial; the top, roof or second-story compartment of a coach was also known as an imperial.[4] The front and rear axles were connected by a main shaft called the perch or reach. A crossbar known as a splinter bar supported the springs. Coaches were often decorated by painters using a sable brush called a liner.

File:Goldene Kutsche.JPG
The Golden Coach of Princes of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen in Sondershausen

In the 19th century the term coach was applied to railway carriages[5], and later to motor coaches.


Types of coaches

There are a number of coach types, including:

  • araba, aroba or arba: used in Turkey and neighboring countries
  • coachee: American, shaped like a coach but longer and open in front
  • Concord coach: large, closed, horse-drawn; body swung on thorough braces, driver's seat outside in front, covered baggage compartment at the rear
  • The park drag carriage was a lighter, more elegant version of the road coach. A park drag (or simply drag) is also known as a "private coach" as it was owned by private individuals for their own personal driving. A park drag has seats on its top and is usually driven to a team of four well-matched carriage horses.
  • fly: horse-drawn, public
  • funeral coach: hearse
  • hack or hackney: let for hire
    • hackney coach or jarvey: used as a hackney carriage; especially, one with four wheels, drawn by two horses, seats for six persons
    • fiacre: small
  • rumble-tumble: heavy, moves with a deep rumbling sound
  • stagecoach: heavy, usually four-in-hand, closed; formerly made regular trips between stations, carrying passengers and goods
    • mail coach or post coach: used for carrying the mails
    • mud wagon: lighter and smaller than the Concord coach, flat sides, simpler joinery
    • road coach: revived in England during the last half of the 19th century
  • tally-ho: a four-in-hand (the Tally-ho was the name of a coach that once plied between London and Birmingham)
  • whirlicote: heavy, luxurious

A coach of state is used to convey persons in state. The principal ceremonial coaches in the United Kingdom are the Gold State Coach, Irish State Coach and Scottish State Coach.

Coach miscellany

The business of a coachman (or coachee, formerly coacher) was to drive a coach. He was also called a jarvey or jarvie, especially in Ireland (Jarvey was a nickname for Jarvis). If he drove dangerously fast or recklessly he was a jehu (from Jehu, king of Israel, who was noted for his furious attacks in a chariot (2 Kings 9:20), or a Phaeton (from Greek Phaëton, son of Helios, who attempted to drive the chariot of the sun but managed to set the earth on fire). A postilion or postillion sometimes rode as a guide on the near horse of a pair or of one of the pairs attached to a coach, especially when there was no coachman. A guard on a horse-drawn coach was called a shooter.

File:Eakins, Fairman Rogers Four-in-Hand (May Morning in Park) 1880.jpg
Fairman Rogers' Four-in-hand, by Thomas Eakins, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, 1880

Traveling by coach, or pleasure driving in a coach, as in a tally-ho, was called coaching. In driving a coach, the coachman used a coachwhip, usually provided with a long lash. Coachmen and coach passengers might have worn a box coat, a heavy overcoat with or without shoulder capes, used by coachmen riding on the box seat exposed to all kinds of weather.[6] A hammercloth, ornamented and often fringed, sometimes hung over the coachman's seat, especially on a ceremonial coach.[7]

A coach horse or coacher is used or adapted for drawing a coach, as it is typically heavier and of more compact build than a road horse, and exhibits good style and action.[8] Breeds include:

  • Breton: heavy, French, for draft or meat
  • German coach: large, rather coarse, heavy draft horse or harness horse; bay, brown or black in color
  • Hanoverian: developed by crossing heavy cold-blooded German horses with Thoroughbreds
  • Holstein: German, heavyweight, for riding and dressage, initially a carriage horse; bay, black or brown. Called also Holsteiner, Warmblut, Warmblood.
  • Yorkshire Coach Horse: large, strong, bay or brown; dark legs, mane and tail; belongs to an English breed derived largely from the Cleveland Bay

Sometimes an extra horse, called a cockhorse, was led behind a coach so that it could be hitched before the regular team to assist in passing over steep or difficult terrain.

The Dalmatian is also known as a coach dog or carriage dog, because it was formerly used to run in attendance on a coach.

A coach house was a building for keeping a private carriage in and it often also included stabling for the horses and accommodation for coachman, groom or other servants; it was usually an outbuilding on an estate or adjacent to a large house. A coaching inn, also called coaching house, located along a route followed by horse-drawn coaches, served coach travelers and offered stabling for the horses of stagecoaches and a place to change horses.


External links


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...