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History of Rocking Horses
The history of rocking horses can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when a popular children’s toy was the hobby horse – a fake horse’s head attached to a long stick. Children would place the stick between their legs and “ride” the horse around. These toys can still be found today.
The hobby horse was replaced in the 16th century by the barrel horse, which consisted of a circular log supported by four legs and adorned with a fake horse head. Crude in nature, this toy mimicked the back of a horse better than a hobby horse.
The rocking horse in its current form is widely believed to have first appeared in the early 17th century and it was around this time that bow rockers were invented, introducing rocking to the world of toy horses. There were, however, improvements to be made to the first rocking horses. Being made from solid wood, they were heavy and their centre of gravity was high, so they could easily topple over.
It was in the Victorian age that the ‘safety stand’ was introduced and the idea of making the horses hollow was conceived. This made the horses lighter and more stable, and gave birth to the idea of a secret compartment being fitted into the horse’s underbelly.
The family heirloom horse could store photographs, mint coins, locks of baby hair and other such trinkets for future generations to discover. During this era the style of choice was the dappled grey rocking horse, a favourite of Queen Victoria. Her love of rocking horses was instrumental in increasing the popularity of the toys.
During the 20th century there was a significant decline in rocking horse makers, largely as a result of the World Wars and the Great Depression. By the 1960s it seemed like the craft was disappearing forever. Fortunately, a few skilled craftsmen began returning to the art of making rocking horses, restoring old pieces to their former glory and creating new designs. It is thanks to the work of those determined craftsmen and all those working at Stevenson Brothers today, that these beautiful toys continue to enchant adults and children alike all over the world.
For 4,000 years, the domesticated horse has been a faithful servant to warriors, farmers, travelers, and freighters. Down through the centuries, the horse has inspired likenesses and toys of many forms for children’s play. As wealthy Europeans began using horses for leisure activities in the 16th century, wooden rocking horses began appearing in the nurseries of their children.
Rocking horses aren’t hard to make. They are only slightly more difficult to build than the stick horses—“hobby horses”—that older children hop along on during gleeful pantomime. The first wooden rocking horses looked like cradles, adapting a cradle’s form so that toddlers could begin to entertain themselves. Fathers and grandfathers with spare time and carpentry skills sawed and joined two upright, solid boards (the curved base of each formed the rocker) with a horizontal seat topped by a horse’s head.
By the 18th century, the solid rockers gave way to lighter products as elegantly carved legs attached to long, narrow bows. In the next century, mass production made sleek rocking horses available to a growing number of middle-class children. By Victorian times, the rocking horse we know today became a fixture of childhood. The new materials of the 20th century and safety concerns changed the appearance of the rocking horse. But nothing has changed children’s appreciation for the hypnotic motion, the illusion of speed, and the fantasy of conquering worlds one can feel only on top a noble steed.
Most modern horses came from just two ancient lineages
Horse breeding records are some of the most impressive efforts to chronicle animal lineages in human history, with some stretching back thousands of years. Yet decoding the genetic origins of today’s horses has proved remarkably difficult. Now, a new study finds that nearly all modern horse breeds can be traced to two distinct, ancient Middle Eastern lines that were brought to Europe about 700 years ago. Understanding how these horses were traded, gifted, or stolen could shed light on human history as Eastern and Western civilization commingled and collided.
People first domesticated horses some 6000 years ago in the Eurasian Steppe, near modern-day Ukraine and western Kazakhstan. As we put these animals to work over the next several thousand years, we selectively bred them to have desirable traits like speed, stamina, strength, intelligence, and trainability. People have tracked horse pedigrees for almost as long as we have kept them, but it wasn’t until the 1700s that detailed “studbooks” emerged in Europe to keep tabs on which horses fathered which foals and what characteristics the foals inherited.
The new study’s lead author, Barbara Wallner, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, paired these old, yet meticulously kept data with modern DNA sequencing techniques to investigate the origins of today’s horse breeds.
Wallner and colleagues first located dozens of variations in a segment of DNA along the Y chromosomes of 52 living male horses representing 21 modern breeds. As tiny mutations pop up in a stallion’s Y chromosome, they are inherited by all of its future male progeny, allowing geneticists to trace which males came from which paternal line.
That may seem simple, says Ernest Bailey, a geneticist at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center in Lexington, who wasn’t involved with the study, but it’s actually quite a challenge: Locating functional genes within the Y chromosome is notoriously tricky because of its long, repetitive sequences of nonfunctional DNA. Horses in particular have extremely low genetic diversity along the Y chromosome, making it even more difficult to locate meaningful variations between individuals.
“[The Y chromosome’s] tangle is a genome sequencer’s worst nightmare,” Bailey says. “They have done an excellent and thoughtful job in marshaling materials and using current genomic technology to address the question.”
Following their horses’ pedigrees back hundreds of years, Wallner and her team identified exactly when those mutations showed up, allowing them to calculate how frequently such mutations occur. “In the years before paternity testing was available, we didn’t expect that the pedigree data would be so accurate, so we were pleasantly surprised,” Wallner says.
Based on the mutation rate and assuming an average of 7 years between each generation, Wallner estimates the most recent common ancestor to 18 of the 21 modern breeds lived about 700 years ago. Three Northern European breeds—the Shetland pony, the Norwegian Fjord horse, and the Icelandic horse—appear more distantly related to the others.
Next, the scientists expanded their analysis to include 363 males representing 57 modern breeds (about one-fifth of all recognized modern breeds), giving them a comprehensive chart of which stallion lines founded these breeds. They found two major lineages responsible for almost all modern horses: Arabian horses from the Arabian Peninsula and the now-extinct Turkoman horses from the Eurasian Steppe, the researchers report today in Current Biology . Most horse researchers have suspected that these two lines played a major role in modern horse genetics, but few would have expected their influence to be this vast, Wallner says.
Some of these horses would have arrived in Europe with merchants, others would have been gifts between rulers, and still others might have been captured during warfare, says Wallner, who has two Icelandic horses at her own home in Vienna. Untangling these waves of imported horses could actually help shine a light on human history over the same time period, she notes.
Over hundreds of years, European horse breeders found that stallions from these Arabian and Turkoman lines produced more desirable offspring, repeatedly reinforcing those two lineages in their breeding programs until they were practically ubiquitous. Today, they form the patrilineal backbone of nearly every modern horse breed, including Thoroughbreds, the American Quarter horse, the South German draught horse, and the Appaloosa.
Whereas the Arabian and Turkoman lines have long been known to have contributed to the iconic English Thoroughbred racehorse, other breeds like the Lipizzan and Franches-Montagnes weren’t known to have these influences, Bailey says. “What they found was remarkable.”
But he cautions that not everybody will be convinced by the team’s calculation. “Frankly, the speculation about mutation rates and generation times is controversial but even so, plus or minus a thousand years, it’s [still] interesting.”
Byzantine Toy Horse - History
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Pet, any animal kept by human beings as a source of companionship and pleasure.
While a pet is generally kept for the pleasure that it can give to its owner, often, especially with horses, dogs, and cats, as well as with some other animals, this pleasure appears to be mutual. Thus, pet keeping can be described as a symbiotic relationship, one that benefits both animals and human beings. As the keeping of pets has been practiced from prehistoric times to the present and as pets are found in nearly every culture and society, pet keeping apparently satisfies a deep, universal human need.
The history of pets is intertwined with the process of animal domestication, and it is likely that the dog, as the first domesticated species, was also the first pet. Perhaps the initial steps toward domestication were taken largely through the widespread human practice of making pets of captured young wild animals. Eventually, a working relationship developed between the dogs and their human captors. The dog was swifter, had stronger jaws, and was better at tracking prey therefore, it could be of great use in hunting and guarding duties. From human beings, on the other hand, the dogs were assured of a constant supply of food as well as warmth from the fire. There is indirect evidence that the dog may have been domesticated and kept as a pet since Paleolithic times, as can be surmised from the paintings and carvings that archaeologists have found in ancient campsites and tombs. In Mesopotamia, dogs that look remarkably like the present-day mastiff were shown participating in a lion hunt. Domestic pets were often depicted in the scenes of family life in ancient Egypt hunting dogs of the greyhound or saluki type accompany their master to the chase, and lap dogs frequently sit under the chair of their master or mistress.
Next to the dog, horses and cats are the animals most intimately associated with human beings. Surprisingly, both these animal groups were domesticated rather late in human history. There is no evidence that horses were domesticated in Paleolithic or Mesolithic times, but by about 2000 bce horses used in chariot battles were an established phenomenon throughout the Middle East. It seems that riding astride horses was a practice developed a few centuries later (see horsemanship). The cat too does not seem to have been domesticated as a pet until the New Kingdom period (about the 16th century bce ) in Egypt. This is all the more strange as the ancient Egyptians had tamed many types of animals, such as lions, hyenas, monkeys, the Nile goose, and dogs, since the Old Kingdom period. But once cats were finally domesticated, their popularity was enormous. Gradually, the cat became one of the most universally worshiped animals.
As has been noted, the primary bond distinguishing a pet-and-owner relationship is affection. As useful as many of these animals are, what differentiates a pet from other economically useful livestock is the degree of contact between the animals and human beings. Often, this relationship has been unabashedly sentimentalized in myth, art, and literature. The affection between Alexander the Great and his favourite horse, Bucephalus, has become legendary, while in the modern age the popularity of such canine motion-picture stars as Rin Tin Tin and Lassie is further evidence of the importance placed on the relationship between owner and pet.
The pet-and-owner relationship, however, is not only founded on companionship since the earliest period of domestication, pets have fulfilled practical, economic ends. Catching other animals to feed their human masters is one of the most fundamental uses of pets, and not only dogs have served in this capacity but cats, hyenas, and lions have also been used for hunting. The aristocratic, rather arcane sport of falconry made use of the natural talent of hawks to aid in hunting game birds. Pets have also been used for the purpose of guarding—either other livestock, the home or territory of their owners, or the owners themselves. Any pet that has a sharp sense of smell or hearing and that makes a loud noise when aroused can be used as a guard, although dogs are the best-known examples. It is thought that the Nile goose, a favourite household pet of the ancient Egyptians, may have served such a purpose. The herding and guarding of livestock is another practical use of pets, in particular the dog. Over the centuries, many specialized breeds of dog have been developed to suit this purpose.
Often, pets have been used as a source of food when other sources become scarce. This has been the case with dogs throughout their history of domestication in both the Old World and the New World. Guinea pigs, domesticated as pets in the New World, also assured a stable food supply.
Pets have also been used to eliminate animal pests. The rat-catching ability of cats is celebrated in fairy tales such as “Puss ’n Boots” and “Dick Whittington,” as is the snake-catching talent of the mongoose in Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki-tikki-tavi.”
Finally, pets themselves have become a self-perpetuating industry, bred for a variety of purposes, including their value as breeding animals. Pets that are bred for aesthetic purposes may have full-fledged show careers. Other pets may be bred for racing or other competitive sports, around which sizable industries have been built.
Animals kept as pets can be classified according to the type of premises or habitat they usually occupy. Dogs, cats, and birds such as canaries and parakeets are kept as household pets. Other birds, such as jays, magpies, and members of the crow family, are kept in aviaries. When kept as pets, reptiles and amphibians frequently require special conditions of heat and moisture. For this reason, they are best kept in glassed enclosures called vivaria. The most common vivarium pets are snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, and toads. Many people keep fish as aquarium pets. Fishes constitute a completely separate section of the pet world, and an international industry exists for catching, breeding, transporting, and supplying stock. Hutch, or cage, pets can be kept indoors or outdoors under protected conditions. These pets include rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, and, recently, chinchillas. Paddock pets are those that must be stabled outdoors and include such animals as horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules. Several kinds of insects are also kept as pets. These include walking-stick insects (kept in simple containers at room temperature) and ants (kept in artificial nests).
Byzantine Toy Horse - History
The Gibbs Manufacturing Company of Canton, Ohio, began making toys in the 1890s and
continued until 1969 - a very long run for a toy company. Their early toys included musical or humming tops which they sold continuously, in some form, until they ceased toy production.
Their toys are very popular with collectors today. They are a mix of wood construction and tin - some all wood , some all tin, and some tin and wood. Most have colorful lithographed paper applied.
The Gibbs Manufacturing Company in 2001 declared bankruptcy and in March of 2002 their buildings and equipment in their Canton, Ohio facility were auctioned off. Many of their toy tops were auctioned by the box.
|Click on the thumbnails below to view Gibbs toy ads from "Playthings" and "Toys and Novelties" |
magazines 1925-1927 and other catalogs.
Photos courtesy of Reba (rshypoke)
The following is a list of Gibbs Toys found. This list is not complete. Help is wanted from Gibbs collectors to fill in missing toys.
One week later, General Custer entered into battle at Little Big Horn after refusing the advice of his Native guides, who assured him he would lose the confrontation.
One week later, General Custer entered into battle at Little Big Horn after refusing the advice of his Native guides, who assured him he would lose the confrontation.Crazy Horse led as many as 1,000 warriors to flank Custer’s forces and help seal the general’s disastrous defeat and death at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand.
This particular reproduction seems to give buyers more trouble than any others. Many new tricycle horses commonly sell for $300 to $700.
Part of the problem may be that there is so little information about the originals which are very scarce. The original shown in Fig. 13 was located in a 1907 general catalog published in England (rarely seen in the US). The only photo of an original was also English, a Sotheby's auction catalog, London, May, 1987. Their photo shows the identical horse as the catalog illustration. Sotheby's attributes the horse to "English, ca. 1900". In 1987, the original tricycle horse brought $792.
As with the other horse reproductions, the new tricycle horses have plastic eyes, rafia type tails and a carved mane rather than a real hair tail and mane. A couple of examples we have seen have had their plastic eyes painted over or replaced so be sure to use several tests if you encounter one of these pieces.
One variation of the new tricycle horse includes cast iron bracing above the rear wheels. This bracing was never used in the old tricycle horse. Cast iron would never be used to provide strength because it is too brittle. But again, since the new pieces are made as reproductions they use materials that would be impractical and illogical in real toys built for daily play.
Some sizes, like the 15x15" variation shown in Fig. 10, is obviously too small for a child to ride. No small toys made in this tricycle horse shape are known.
Fig. 10 The new tricycle horses come in several sizes from about 15x15" (too small for a child to ride) up to 36x36". Decoration varies sometimes the saddle is carved into the horse and painted bright colors, other saddles are simple pieces of leather or vinyl.
Fig. 11 Top view of cast iron brace which appears only on new horses. It is on both sides of the rear legs above the rear axle.
Fig. 12 The pedal on this particular tricycle horse jams against the wheel, it cannot make a complete revolution. This piece cannot function as a real tricycle.
Fig. 13 Original tricycle horses are supported by two almost concealed steel rods running parallel between the hind legs to the rear axle.
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10 Historical Toys
Thanks to industrialization and changing attitudes about child labor, kids today enjoy significantly more leisure time than children living a century ago or more. Despite having fewer hours for playtime, children throughout history found ways to entertain themselves, even if the only toys available were bits of rock or scraps of fabric. Creative kids found ways to transform whatever materials they had on hand into toys that gave them just as much amusement as today's cutting edge electronics. Read on to learn about the history of play and explore some of history's top toys, from the rudimentary jacks of the caveman days to the steel building sets of the early 19th century.
The simple hoop in its various forms has entertained children for thousands of years. Kids in ancient Egypt shook dried grapevines around their waists as early as 1000 B.C.E., forming the earliest-known hula-hoops. By the 14th century, both adults and children used metal or wooden hoods for spinning, another pastime similar to what's now known as hula-hooping [source: Patrick and Thompson]. Children and adults in Europe and the Americas rolled wooden hoops over the landscape by hand or by using a simple wooden stick to propel the hoop forward. By the 1800s, young ladies in Europe engaged in the game of Graces, where two players tossed wooden hoops through the air to one another using a pair of slim wooden sticks. Graces was seen as one of the few acceptable sports or games for females of the time and was rarely practiced by men or boys [source: Boyle].
By the mid-19th century, British sailors coined the term "hula-hoop" after they noticed how traditional Hawaiian hula dances mimicked the way people in Europe spun hoops around their hips for fun. The hula-hoop peaked in popularity during the 1950s but can still be found in major toy stores to this day.
The Erector set was the Lego building set of the early 20th century. Created in 1913 by a Yale-educated doctor, this toy contained a selection of steel girders in various sizes that kids could connect using regular nuts and bolts to craft buildings, bridges, machinery and countless other structures. Like modern building blocks, the components in an Erector set could be disassembled and reused over and over, leading to years of play and learning. Later sets came with electric motors, wheels, pulleys and gears so kids could bring their creations to life, resulting in Ferris wheels that spun at the turn of a crank or steam shovels that could really pick things up.
Toy makers sold more than 30 million Erector sets during the product's first 30 years, largely thanks to one of the first national advertising campaigns used in the toy industry [source: Bass].
Since ancient history, marbles have amused children around the globe, and archaeologists have dug up specimens from Africa to ancient Greece to North America, with some marbles dating back to 3000 B.C.E. [source: Patrick and Thompson]. The earliest version of this toy was made using whatever was on hand, such as stones, nuts or fruit pits [source: Strong National Museum of Play]. Later, marbles were made from clay, and high-end versions were hand-painted with intricate designs. By the mid-19th century, toy makers used molten glass to create marbles with an integral colored swirl. Other fine specimens were made from agate or Venetian marble, which gave the toy its modern name. By 1902, marble-making machinery allowed for mass-production of this classic toy, making marbles the must-have toy among middle-class children throughout Europe and the United States [source: Scott].
The most popular marbles game is called "Ringer," where kids attempt to drive one another's marbles out of a circle drawn in the dirt. Depending on the rules, kids could play for keeps or simply for fun. Antique marbles have become a popular collector's item, with rare units selling for hundreds of dollars.
Ancient Greek documents date the yo-yo back to 500 B.C.E., when children and adults crafted models made from wood, metal or painted clay [source: McMahon]. By the 18th century, French nobles played with yo-yos made from glass or ivory [source: Patrick and Thompson]. The modern yo-yo dates back to 1929, when immigrant Pedro Flores started the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in the United States. Within a year, his company, which later became the Duncan Toy Company, was producing a whopping 300,000 of the toys each day [source: Townsend]. Yo-yo competitions and the quest for ever-evolving tricks and showmanship helped promote this toy throughout the country. While the yo-yo has fallen out of favor thanks to the introduction of more complex toys and games, the yo-yo competition circuit remains strong. Modern versions of the toy, including light-up and ball versions that automatically retract, have helped the yo-yo enjoy periodic revivals among the masses.
Little girls have always found ways to practice their nurturing skills using simple dolls made from whatever materials were on hand. Homemade dollies were often crafted from rags or scraps of clothing, though children have also used wood, bone, clay and other materials to sculpt these toys throughout history. The earliest known doll dates to the 1st century it was found in Egypt and made from scraps of rags and papyrus. While it's likely girls have played with similar dolls since ancient times, the materials used to make these toys are relatively fragile, and few specimens have survived to the modern age [source: British Museum].
Mass-production during the 20th century made store-bought dolls more accessible to children in the United States and Europe, who pushed rag dolls aside in favor of modern versions made from vinyl. The rag doll enjoyed a brief resurgence during the 1970s, when children flocked to Holly Hobbie, a soft-bodied doll inspired by the handmade dolls of the past [source: Brewer].
While performing experiments in the field of optics during the early 19th century, Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster noticed that angling a set of mirrors within a tube resulted in mesmerizing patterns of light. While Brewster didn't set out to make a toy, he quickly realized the value of his invention and patented his kaleidoscope within a few short years. Using chips of colored glass, tinsel and beads in conjunction with the mirrors helped the kaleidoscope form elaborate patterns of color and light. Expanding on Brewster's idea, American toy makers used bubbles of air contained within tubes of liquid to create similar patterns and designs when the tube was rotated [source: Sobey and Sobey]. In the days before television, film or even old-fashioned projectors, the kaleidoscope served as a wondrous and cutting-edge toy for people of all ages.
Thanks to its simple craftsmanship, some versions of the classic cup and ball can be found in many different parts of the world. The toy likely originated in France during the 16th century, when young nobles amused themselves with the bilboquet. This toy consisted of a wooden ball equipped with a small hole. A string connected the ball to a pointed stick, and players would swing the stick in an attempt to align the hole and the point, which would lodge the ball in place at the end of the stick. European explorers took this toy around the globe, where it shows up in artwork and literature from Japan to North America [source: University of Waterloo].
As the toy spread, different cultures created slightly different versions some use a wooden cup to catch the ball, while others use a flat wooden stick with a hole that the ball is supposed to pass through. Some versions, such as those found in Japan, use a two-sided cup, while the traditional pointed-stick Bilbo cup remains a common variation. While simple in design, this tough-to-master toy provides hours of enjoyment to people of all ages.
As a young John Lloyd Wright watched the construction of an earthquake-proof structure designed by his father, he was inspired by the building's interlocking beams while there was no shortage of toy building sets on the market during the early 20th century, there were none that used this type of interlocking design. In 1924, Wright introduced a set of wooden log toys with notches at either end of each log to fasten the pieces together for sturdy construction. He named his toy after President Lincoln and even used a picture of Lincoln on the box to help with advertising. He named his product "Lincoln Logs" after the former president's famous childhood cabin [source: Strong National Museum of Play].
The connection to the beloved former leader combined with the toy construction craze of the early 1900s helped Wright sell countless sets of logs. Made exclusively from wood, this classic toy is still sold today, more than a century after it was first introduced, allowing 21st century kids to craft the same log cabins and wooden forts as their ancestors.
If your most recent memories of jacks involve treading carefully to avoid stepping on their evil points, you might be surprised to learn the long and storied history of this beloved toy. Historians suggest that children have played some version of this game since the Cro-Magnon period, when kids scooped up rudimentary jacks to improve hand-eye coordination for hunting [source: Strong National Museum of Play]. Long before the days of modern metal jacks and bouncy rubber balls, kids fashioned jacks from the knucklebones of sheep or simply used beans, rocks or pits from fruit. Balls were made from wood, or kids simply tossed a rock in the air and tried to scoop up as many jacks as possible before the stone hit the ground. The song "This Old Man" was developed by young jacks players as a means of counting their progress through the game.
Toys have always served as a means of helping children learn adult skills in a fun, kid-friendly way, and the rocking horse is no exception. For centuries, horses were a vital part of life, crucial to transportation, hunting and sport. The earliest rocking horses served as a safe and easy way for kids to pick up basic riding skills, without the danger associated with falling off or being thrown off a real horse [source: Powerhouse Museum]. Sixteenth century models were homemade and built similar to cradles. It wasn't until the 18th century that the rocking horse took on its modern form, with carved wooden legs stretched over long, curved bows [source: Strong National Museum of Play]. By the mid- to late-19th century, mass production made the rocking horse more accessible to middle class families, and the toy enjoyed a golden age of popularity through the early 20th century.
In 1880, toy makers modified the classic bow design, adding a set of crossbars perpendicular to the bows. This so-called "safety rocking horse" made it more difficult for kids to tip the toy and reduced both injuries and damage to walls and furniture.
Author's Note: 10 Historical Toys
If you've ever spent any time around kids, you know that they'll always find a way to play. What surprised me as I researched this article was just how long kids have played with things we'd recognize today as toys. It's staggering to think that thousands of years ago, kids made their own rudimentary versions of jacks, yo-yos and hula-hoops. One can only marvel at the ingenuity of children and their determination to find fun regardless of the circumstances.
Watch the video: The Lead Mare - Episode 2 Schleich Horse Role-Play Series (May 2022).