Harness Horse Racing

Short History

     Assyrian kings of 1500 BC maintained elaborate stables, and professional trainers for horses used to draw chariots, originally used in war but soon also used in the sport of hunting. There were four-horse hitch chariot races in the Olympic Games of the 7th century BC and races with two-horse hitches earlier. Chariot racing came into great prominence as a sport after its transfer to Rome, where the sport involved companies, had professional racing officials, starting chutes, widespread gambling... The chariot disappeared as a military vehicle and chariot racing ended with the fall of Rome in the 4th century. Modern harness racing did not begin to evolve until early in the 19th century, being introduced to the United States and France in 1830’s.
     The modern harness racing vehicle developed from a single-seat pleasure conveyance. Earlier racing had used carts. The addition of ball bearings and pneumatic tires in the 1880s and of bicycle wheels in the 1890s established the present form, though there have been refinements. Two changes turned the tide. In North America, harness races are restricted to Standardbred horses, although European racehorses may also be French Trotters or Russian Trotters, or have mixed ancestry with lineages from multiple breeds. The advent of the Roosevelt International Trot in 1959 and the International Pace Series at Yonkers in the 1960s fostered international competition. Harness Horsemen International was founded in 1964.