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Buffalo's Workhorse Parade, 1908

From 1908 to 1914, Erie County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – the SPCA – held a workhorse parade on the streets of Buffalo.

Designed after events in New York and Boston, the purpose was, according to the Buffalo Courier, “to induce owners and drivers of workhorses to take more pride in the appearance of their animals, and more interest in their welfare, and also secure public attention to his feature.”

To show concern and care for the thousands of animals that literally drove business in the city was considered “progressive” and “an advanced humanitarian effort.”

There were more than 30 classes of horses on display, based on age of horses and years of service of drivers, and the types of work the horses and drivers do.

Class 1 was for horses aged 14 to 40 being driven by men who’d been employed with the company for at least 20 years. Class 2 were city horses from the fire, police, streets and parks departments. Class 3 were hucksters and class 4 was for delivery animals.

More than 500 “glossy coated horses and mules” marched in the 5-mile 1912 parade. The horse teams of brewers, meat packers and ice dealers took home several dozen ribbons and awards that year, but the SPCA presented the Silver Cup to Kate – a 29-year-old horse that had trod more than 150,000 miles for Siegrist & Fraley. The blue ribbon went to Harry, a 16-year-old owned by the William Hengerer Co.

Kate, the Silver Cup winning horse.

By 1912, though, horses were sharing the roads with automobiles, often unwillingly. “Disdainful glances were cast upon the horses, but no notice taken of the growling horns.”

“The days of the horse are not yet numbered,” predicted The News. “No gasoline wagon can down him. He is faithful and can be depended upon. The automobile cannot.”

The parade review stand in Niagara Square in 1912.

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