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A barouche is a type of carriage that is designed for use with pairs of horses. This design was extremely fashionable through the late 19th century and usually was regarded as a fancy carriage for formal occasions, especially in the summer. With the advent of the automobile, barouches are relatively rare, but they still are used in some regions of the world and on special occasions. High-quality barouches can be very costly because the best ones are made and decorated by hand.
Several things distinguish a barouche from other carriages. Like many carriages designed for groups of passengers and pairs driving, a barouche has four wheels. The carriage also has two bench seats that face each other, with passengers usually stepping up into the space between them to enter the carriage. The driver sits outside on a separate box, which might or might not be sheltered.
The top of a barouche is really what sets it apart, because it is collapsible, making the barouche into a hooded carriage that can be used in a variety of weather conditions. Most people prefer to ride in this type of carriage with the top down, enjoying warm and pleasant summer weather and showcasing elegant garments. In inclement weather, however, the top could be brought up for shelter, making the four-wheeled carriage more snug and pleasant to ride in, although the top does not entirely enclose the barouche.
This fashionable carriage is most reliable on roads that are somewhat smooth, because rough roads and ruts could potentially break axles or make the ride rather uncomfortable. Early versions of the carriage had very primitive suspension systems that probably communicated every bump in the road to the passengers, although modern barouches usually are constructed with more advanced technology. As is the case with many formal carriages, there usually is a great deal of brass, woodwork and leather on a barouche and its harness, which must be kept shining and in good order.
Driving a barouche well requires some skill because it uses a pair or multiple pairs of horses. The more pairs, the higher the implied social status of the carriage's owner or riders and the more challenging it is to manage. Pairs of horses are of the same breed and size, so that they complement each other, and many people prefer to drive matched pairs with similar coloration as well. Coordinating the horses during a ride is demanding, and it suggests a high level of patience and concentration on the part of the driver.
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