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A history of transport in SA: Exploring DITSONG’s animal-drawn vehicle collection

CF: What is one of the most interesting and/or famous animal-drawn vehicles in DITSONG’s collection? Could you tell us a bit more about it?
JS: Two of the most interesting animal-drawn vehicles in the collection share a common history as they were used by the same person, President SJP Kruger of the former South African Republic (ZAR). Prior to the English dress chariot carriage that was acquired for President Kruger in 1898 as an official vehicle, W.H. Rogers and Sons, well-known funeral parlour and services in Pretoria borrowed President Kruger a fine luxurious Landau per special occasion.

DITSONG Museums of South Africa history of transport animal-drawn vehicle
A donkey cart, modern day animal drawn vehicle

CF: Do you have any interesting facts you can share with us about South Africa’s transport history?
JS: A mode of transport that has existed for the past 120 years and which was initially advertised as an invention that would replace horses, is the motorcar. On 4 January 1897, the threatening winds of war (Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902) were temporarily blocked out by excitement when a crowd gathered at Berea Park in Pretoria. John Percy Hess, a German Pretorian of the company Messrs Hess & Co. imported South Africa’s first car and arranged for the Benz Voiturette to be exhibited and demonstrated to the curious crowd who paid 2 shillings and 6 pennies to see the invention in action. His first passengers were A.E. Reno (his business partner) and W.J. Leyds, State Secretary of the former ZAR government.

CF: Are there any animal-drawn vehicles still in use in South Africa today? Could you give an example?
JS: Donkey carts are used throughout the rural areas of South Africa as a mode of transport and you see them alongside the main roads towards the nearest towns for shopping, trading or even the transportation of school learners to the nearest school. Scotch carts and buck wagons are also used on farms and pulled by tractors. These vehicles were still in use on the farms in the 1960s as identified by the wheel tax metal badges that are affixed to them. These badges or disks are similar to the license disks for modern-day cars and also had to be renewed annually. 

Go back to page 1 of our Q&A with Jaco Schoonraad

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