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The Horse Manure Problem

February 5, 2014

Horse droppings are far worse than automobile droppings!

Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

When the book Superfreakonomics first appeared in late 2009, I was immensely entertained by its discussion of horse manure (pp. 8-12).

When we cast our minds back to the time of horse-drawn carriages many of us see plumed hats, ball gowns, and romance. That’s because what we’re “remembering” is actually a sanitized fantasy.

The Superfreakonomics authors draw heavily on the work of Eric Morris, whose urban planning Masters thesis explored the reality of horse-based transportation in 19th-century cities. A user-friendly encapsulation of his research appears in an 8-page article here. (It was published in Access, a U of California transportation publication. The entire issue is available here.)

Morris points out that, by the late 1800s, large urban centers were “drowning in horse manure.” Not only were there no solutions in sight, people were making dire predictions:

In 1894, the Times of London estimated that by…

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