An age old city tradition has now turned into a 'curse' for the animals, as they are cruelly treated for making a quick buck.
The horse-carriage was launched by the Armenian community, which migrated to Dhaka in the mid-19th century.
By the end of the 19th century, the colonial culture accommodated the main mode of transport and later it became a tradition of Dhaka.
The kochwans (coachmen) force the horses to carry two to three times over the load of passengers they are capable of carrying from morning till the first half of the night.
The greedy coachmen often fail to provide sufficient fodder to satisfy the horses' appetite, complained some people living in the coachmen's locality.
An iron made device (locally known as Naal) comprising one-two inch-long
sharp iron pins, four in all, are punched
into each horse-shoe attached to each
hoof of the horse after every three to four weeks.
The coachmen termed the device as the shoes for the hooves to protect those from wear and tear from running over hard bitumen roads.
But some veterinary doctors claim that the horse-grooms hammer the oversized iron devices into the sensitive tissues of the legs of the horses causing much pain and often bleeding to the animals.
The horses are forced to draw the carriages with passengers numbering 14 to 18 per trip mainly from Gulistan to Sadarghat.
"When a pair of horses draws a heavy wooden carriage with passengers in the traffic-packed city roads, the eyes of those animals are found in tears," said a doctor of the Central Veterinary Hospital.
"It seems the horses cry for their release from slavery," he commented.
Some stables at Phulbaria, Kamrangirchar and Keraniganj were found cramped and unhygienic.
Many horses, found under the Mayor Hanif Flyover at Phulbaria, were malnourished and had festering wounds sustained from accidents with fast moving motor vehicles.
According to the Section-12 of the City Corporation Administration Ordinance, the horses used in vehicles must be uninfected and free from contagious diseases.
A coachman said Tk 500 is needed a day to feed each horse. After this expenditure he can earn Tk 500 to
Tk 600 from the use of the horse.
Another coachman said that Tk 1.5 lakh to Tk 2 lakh is needed to make a horse-carriage and Tk 70,000 to Tk 80,000 to purchase a horse.
He said that they had to pay tolls to local goons on a daily basis amounting to Tk 50 to Tk 60 against each carriage, along with payment of regular tolls to traffic police personnel.
According to the coachmen, there are 30 to 35 carriages and 80 to 90 horses in the city.
As per the Wheel Tax Section of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), licences were issued to 14 horse carriages only.
The government is not issuing fresh licences, said Abdus Salam, an official of DSCC.
Dr ABM Shahid Ullah, Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of Central Veterinary Hospital Dhaka, told this correspondent that punching iron pins into horse's hooves is a scientific method introduced by the British rulers several decades ago.
"But unscientific method causes infection to the animals," he said.
"Two horses can draw five to seven passengers along with the carriage. But overloading the carriage is inhumane," the vet added.
He says the horses in the country are not fed properly as the coachmen are needy.
Eng Abdus Sobhan, Executive General Secretary of POBA, depicted the horse carriage non-friendly to the environment and liable to traffic jam in many cases.
He said, "In this age, when motor vehicles are available, the horse-carriage is not important.
A carriage grabs the space of at least three-human haulers on the roads.