Horse Racing in the 1800s

Image shows several people in a horse-drawn wagon.Much of the excitement surrounding horse races came from the rivalries between horse owners. Most of the race horses were farm horses unhitched from farm equipment, and the main prize was local bragging rights. With all this honor attached to having the fastest horse in town, or in the district, it was no wonder that so many Islanders were against the import of mainland horses and preached the virtues of Island stock. When there was a race between a local horse and one imported 'from away,' a lot of pride was put on the line.

In 1888, an Island businessman imported a famous horse called Hernando and pitted him against the local favorite, Black Pilot. Held at the Summerside track, the showdown set the record for the most attended race in Eastern Canada, with up to six thousand spectators filling the grandstands. Special trains crisscrossed the Island to get spectators there on time, and so many arrived by wagon and carriage that the race had to be delayed until the traffic jam cleared. But the mob went home happy, as the Island horse Black Pilot stole a victory in the five-heat race.

PARO, Acc 4400/30

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