FOR tourists being spirited around the sights of Manhattan, they are a romantic relic of a long-gone era.
But the horse-drawn carriages of Central Park may soon pass into history themselves.
The favourite candidate to become New York's next mayor has pledged to ban the carriages immediately if he wins the election next month.
Bill de Blasio, the Democrat nominee to replace Michael Bloomberg, said the horses were made to suffer. "We are in the biggest, densest urban area in North America," he said. "It is not a place for horses. They are not meant to be in traffic jams."
Three horses have died in traffic accidents over the past 30 years, and 19 have been injured in crashes in the past two years, according to NYClass, an animal rights group.
Critics of Mr De Blasio, who declined to support an attempted ban in 2007, said that senior members of the pressure group had donated thousands of dollars to his election campaign fund.
Joe Lhota, Mr de Blasio's Republican opponent, has also proposed to outlaw the $15m-a-year (€11m) horse-and-carriage trade, but on very different grounds. "The smell that they drop is unfortunate," he said.
Representatives of the drivers who work in Central Park, as well as the workers who care for the 200 horses, have protested against the potential closure.