Horse collapses in central Rome

Animal pulling carriage keels over near parliament

A horse drawing a carriage collapsed in the middle of Via del Corso in front of tourists and shoppers at 15.30 on 30 October.

Police attended the scene beside Palazzo Colonna and a veterinarian was called for the horse which lay on the ground but returned, uninjured, to its feet a short while later.

The driver, backed by the president of Rome's horse-drawn carriages, claimed the 11-year-old animal had slipped in a pool of oil. Animal rights activists have condemned the incident – the latest in a series of similar episodes – which comes a month after another horse collapsed in the same area.

The capital's 40 horse-drawn carriages or botticelle have long been a subject of controversy, and environmentalists claim the conditions in which the horses work are cruel and dangerous.

A few days ago police seized two of the horses from their stables in the Testaccio district, over poor sanitary conditions, scarce bedding and for being kept in the dark.

In recent years the botticelle drivers have faced stricter controls, particularly during the hotter months of the year. The animals are not allowed to be put to work between 13.00 and 17.00 in the summer and are forbidden from working more than six hours a day.

In the past there have been a number of clashes between animal rights activists and botticelle operators, notably in 2012 when an exhausted horse collapsed in Piazza di Spagna, under the strain of carrying six tourists in 40 degree heat. The incident made headlines after the driver attempted to beat the horse back to work and only stopped following the intervention of police.