Toy horses and rocking horses – a playroom staple since the 16th century – by retailer Lucy Nicholas

According to Legends Rocking Horses, ‘hobby horses’ existed in Persia as well as ancient Greece around 400BC. The earliest known arrival of the rocking horse was half-moon shaped with boarded sides and log body between the two rockers – the earliest one known to still exist is said to have belonged to King Charles I. They became popular as wealthy Europeans began using horses for leisure activities in the 16th century, when wooden rocking horses began appearing in the family’s nursery. The horse on bow rockers that creates so much nostalgia for many of us was a product of eighteenth century England, although now most people prefer the safety-stand rocking horses for stability.


New York’s ‘Strong’ National Museum of Play informs us that for 4,000 years, the domesticated horse has been a faithful servant to warriors, farmers, travellers, and freighters. “Down through the centuries, the horse has inspired likenesses and toys of many forms for children’s play. 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,’ the Strong museum informs us.

rocking-horse-image-the-saddlery-shopMoving on from the static rocking horses is the more modern ‘Interactive Rocking Horse’ made by Grays of Shenstone, founded in 1922. Pictured left, it is a modern take on the traditional rocking horse as it has push-button sound and a moving mouth and tail.

The super-cute, brown horse features a flaxen mane and tail, faux-leather bridle and saddle, wooden handles and wooden timber bow rockers at the base.

Diminutive adults can even have a go as well, as the Medium sized ‘Interactive Rocking Horse’ has a maximum weight of 70kg! What a great idea for Xmas! Click here for more info on the ‘Interactive Rocking Horse’.


Leave a Reply