Why Are Black Cabs Called Hackney Cabs?

The name cab derives from the French, cabriolet, the popular style of carriage in the early 19th century two-wheeled French-style cabriolets which had an exposed seat on the top. They were known for their speed and comfort and eventually replaced the heavier and more cumbersome hackney carriages for the rest of the century. By the 1830s, the word “cab” entered the Londoner’s vocabulary.


But where does the word Hackney come from? Is it related to the area of Hackney?

The short answer is no. It’s related to the horse. It’s believed the name comes from hacquenée, the French term for a general-purpose horse, it literally means, ‘ambling nag’.

The hackney horse as we know it now was developed in the 18th century by crossing Thoroughbreds with the Norfolk trotter, a large-sized trotting harness horse. The first Hackney horse is said to be The Shale’s Horse, foaled in 1760.


Listen to more of London’s black cab legacy on our podcast Episode 56: London’s Black Cab Legacy

Hazel Baker is an award-winning London Tour Guide and qualified CIGA guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Hazel’s walking tours.


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