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Rocking horses were a noted predecessor to rocking cradles, which are seen throughout history beginning in the Middle Ages. The rocking horse in its current form was not seen until the 17th century. In the 19th century, rocking horses became the norm, with craftsmen creating ornately carved pieces covered with real hide for children to enjoy.
During the Industrial Revolution, numerous toy companies produced tin toy rocking horses. From early American penny toys to mechanical toys, rocking horses remained popular until the ‘60s when children’s Western cowboy items began to fade and the rocking horse faded with them.
Rocking horses were created in varying grades with the finest of grades featuring miniature detailed saddles and highly carved or decorated surfaces. Several carousel horse manufacturers including Dentzel, Charles Looff, and Charles Illions carved dramatic rocking and platform horses which were as highly detailed as full-size carousel horses. These same companies also produced small-scale carousel horses which are sometimes seen in portable or small carousels still in operation today.
Though rocking horses generally sell for less than $5,000 for very fine examples, their sister-making carousel horse companies have sold for record prices. A rare Daniel Muller outside stander horse sold at Sotheby’s in October 2006 for $90,000
During the 20th century, rocking horses led to playground spring horses. Today, collectors buy, display, and restore spring animals that were deemed unsafe and removed from children’s play areas
According to “The Guinness Book of World Records,” the largest hand-carved wooden rocking horse weighs 1,200 pounds, stands 7 feet 8 inches tall, and can hold up to 5 children at a time