# How far would a team of 2 horses with carriage travel per hour?

I found a similar but not quite perfect question/answer at:

Possible distance travelled by horse over 6 weeks?

The thread was great, I learned about palfreys and relays, etc. My scenario is a little different. Not a single horse/rider scenario, but a team and carriage. My best guess is that a team of two horses pulling a carriage with four people might travel ~ a few miles per hour. Perhaps 3 - 5 miles per hour. So, for two hours travel time, around 8 miles would be traversed.

Is this right?

• Are they travelling on a road? Good conditions? Are they going as fast as possible or taking a leisurely pace? Aug 24 '17 at 16:10
• Yes, it's about right, maybe even a little optimistic. That is assuming that the carriage is travelling over a decent road. On poor roads or cross-country I'd say that 2 to 3 miles per hour would be more realistic. Aug 24 '17 at 16:12
• Additional information such as type of horses, type of carriage, time period, road quality, cargo weight, and weather conditions might help narrow the answer down. Aug 24 '17 at 16:33
• A four-horse stagecoach was going at average speed of 5 mph. That was the "cruising" speed, and probably was as good as it gets with this technology. Technically, carriage top speed can be much higher, but not for long, and at a risk to the horses and the carriage itself. Aug 24 '17 at 17:21
• Everything I am seeing say that 20 miles seems to be the most likely amount they can travel in a day. They can keep up a high speed trot for about 2 hours but will need to rest for some time after. It really depends on if this is something they are doing everyday or not. At best, they could trot for 2 hours and possibly get 10-15 miles in BUT these are farm horses, the carriage is probably a buckboard or some form of farm wagon. 4 people. My guess would be 10-15 miles in 2 hours. But the speed would drop after, and the rest of the day would be ~2 mph (not including feeding and breaks). Aug 24 '17 at 17:56

Very much depends on road, kind of carriage, total distance to cover and who's chasing you.

In Roman times, with relatively good roads, average daily distance was between 40km and 60km.

Conestoga wagons on the Oregon trail traveled 15-20 Mi (24-32 Km).

• So, maybe 40 km (25 miles) as an upper end. that's per day, and I guess that means ~10 hours? So, maybe 2.5 miles per hour is closer to true. Road is good condition but dirt meaning some ruts. Two hours of travel time could equal 5 miles? I can make the carriage any quality at this point.
– DPT
Aug 24 '17 at 17:34
• @DPT: Take into account those wagons weren't as comfortable as today's cars, and neither as XIX century coaches. They had to stop often. I suspect two hours of travel were upper limit, so speed probably was higher, but with sizeable stops to stretch your legs. Aug 24 '17 at 19:16

In July 1821, my great great grandmother travelled 36 miles on the Monday and this included a stop at Grantham to vist St Wulfram's Church and have lunch and then 48 miles the next day which included a tour of Lincoln Cathedral and having lunch. She travelled, as I understand it, in a carriage with 2 horses and a coachman. There were a total of three people in the coach. So not 20 miles a day but proably nearer 60 as one doesn't tour Lincoln Cathedral in 10 minutes so I expect they spent a couple of hours in Lincoln. They had travelled from Leadenham in the morning (13 miles),then travelled to Glanford Brigg after lunch (25 miles) and then on to Great Limber for the night (10 miles). I may know more when I finish transcribing her diary. She hasn't yet described her mode of travel but in 1820 she says in her reminiscences: "Another time all over North Wales. This was in 1820. We went in Mr. S's carriage with 2 horses and a coachman who did not like it at all. There were no Turnpike roads except where the Mails went to Holyhead and the Welsh roads were very bad. One day we went from Barmouth to the Harlech - so steep and rough a road that the horses could hardly accomplish it. My sister said she dare not go back, so the coachman took the horses back to Barmouth and a driver came with three pretty little Welsh ponies, to whom he talked all the way, and they brought us safely back."

Assuming good quality roads without significant elevation changes, healthy horses and well maintained carriage:

• 120 miles in one day, with multiple horse and driver changes. This is pretty much the utter ceiling distance possible.
• 50 miles in one day, but likely not repeatable the next day. (requires a day or 2 rest, or change of horses for next day)
• 30 miles per day for a week, then the horses need extended rest
• 20 miles per day, indefinitely sustainable.

These based upon accounts such as the one by Mr Richard Everard in this thread, London cab records, etc.
Hansom cab horses did about 18 miles per day, indefinitely, moving rather quickly but in relatively short bursts.
Stagecoaches covered up to 60-70 miles per day (more usually half this), but they changed horses frequently, each team only doing 15 miles per day. They also went faster, averaging 5-8mph.

And in detail answer to your question: In ONE hour a 2-horse, 4-person carriage could travel about 15-20 miles. At which point they would then stop, and dispose of the dead horses.

In 1858, John Butterfield of the Butterfield Overland Stage Co.and his New York associates made a contract with the Post Office Department that made possible the first semiweekly mail service to and from California. When Butterfield guaranteed to deliver the mail between St. Louis and San Francisco in 25 days or less, he was awarded a \$600,000 annual Post Office subsidy. As in the case of so many transportation developments in America—land, sea, and air—carrying the mail was the decisive factor. Passenger freight, even at full capacity, would not defray operating expenses over Butterfield’s 2,800 mile route. 112 miles a day.

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