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Smithfield Horse Market in Dublin, Ireland

Smithfield horse market

  • Smithfield horse market dates for 2012: January 1, February 5, March 4, April 1, May 6, June 3, July 1, August 5, September 2, October 7, November 4, December 2

Smithfield horse market, in Dublin, Ireland, is one of the oldest - and most controversial - horse fares in the world.

The horse fare takes place on the first Sunday of the month and attracts horse traders and owners from across Ireland. There are also hundreds of urban cowboys that attend as well as tourists and photographers eager to experience the atmosphere of the market.

Dublin residents are all familiar with the fare. However, it is not always as easy for tourists to find. Smithfield is a short distance from the main road through Dublin and the nightlife. The easiest way to reach Smithfield horse fare is to catch a taxi from O'Connell street. It should not cost more than five euros.


Smithfield horse fare history

The 400-year-old market started alongside vegetable and other livestock traders in one of the run-down factory areas in the North of the city.

But as the popularity of horses among farmers and city-folk grew the market developed into a bustling sale on the first Sunday of each month.

Once a month hundreds of equine traders and buyers descended on the bleak cobble square eager to make a profit or collect a bargain animal for carraiges or ploughs.

But during the 1960s the market attracted a new type of customer - bored kids from the inner city council estates who bought cheap ponies.

They became known as urban cowboys and rode the animals through tarmac streets and let them graze on public fields.

This practice gave the Smithfield market a bad reputation as many horses were mistreated and abandoned around the city.


Smithfield controversy

Further controversy came in 1997 when Dublin city council started a sweeping modernisation of the run-down Smithfield area to make Dublin a tourist hot-spot.

Residents who moved into luxury flats that now lined the former Smithfield square - renamed a 'plaza' - complained about the noise and smell of the monthly market.

And town-hall bosses tried to close the market in 2002 after a horse bolted into a car and injured a woman who had her young son in the passenger seat.

Since then the city council and various animal welfare organisations have campaigned tirelessly but without success to shut the market down.

Traders and buyers have continued using the cobbled area once a month to sell their animals and prices as low as 10 Euros - around seven dollars.


An ancient by-law giving traders the right to use the market means that there is noting police or council officials can do to remove the horses.

Tourists and photographers who are fascinated by the romanticism of the market continue visiting the area to see the market in action.

This has led to a bizarre situation in recent years where dozens of traders are surrounded by police as the cram into the square to sell their animals in a backdrop of luxury flats and chrome sculptures.

Much of the abuse that is dealt out to the animals continues and as many as 100 horses are abandoned in the city each year.

The future of this unique market is currently uncertain as council officials battle to find an alternative site for it and traders refuse to leave Smithfield.

But It should certainly be a source of interest for anybody who is interested in horses and concerned for their welfare.


There are various websites that give more information about the market and it's interesting history.

A quick search of Google news will also yield the latest newspaper articles that have been written about the market or horses connected to it.

For anybody who would like to visit, it happens on the first Sunday of every month and there are plenty of cheap hotels nearby. Dublin is great to visit on the weekend, thought it is particularly expensive.  Book a hotel in advance and it shouldn't cost more than 40 euros.

When visiting the market, be sure to take a camera. Many of the Irish horse owners are happy to pose to have their picture taken but always ask them first. The Irish people are also happy to chat at the market. But bear in mind, there is a suspicion about people such as the police and DSPCA interfering with their business. Remember to keep your wits about you as the horses can sometimes be agitated and unpredicatble.

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Erica EKS on May 02, 2012:

I see there are a lot of reasons why this is bad and why people want to shut it down but, why is it good? How come they haven't? I'm from states and I'm going to Ireland for a study abroad creating documentaries. I was thinking this topic could be a good one. on February 08, 2012:

i have never been is it like briggs fair in england,i must say that the horses look ok to me,and from what is see the horses/poneys owened by travellers,in england are treated very well, and i have been to lots of horse fairs.


lilly on January 26, 2012:

well i think yous are fu**ing ashol** how would us like if some 1 beat us up the poor horses yous prickes

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on November 07, 2011:

Tooled up?

nalser on November 06, 2011:

I love the fair I look forward. To riding threw it tooled up every month

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on May 26, 2011:

Thanks Lesley, the Fettercairn Youth Horse Project looks really interesting. I've sent a message through the organisation's site so we can connect. Rick

Lesley on May 25, 2011:

hey. Great site. I actually set up the Fettercairn Youth Horse Project in Tallaght with mixed success. have to say that although many of the sights i saw at smithfield broke my heart, when getting to know some of the kids through the project, much of this 'cruelty' was really just down to poor equine education. I hope they can improve the situation sooner rather than later.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on January 19, 2011:

For the majority of kids who become involved with horses it is a very rewarding experience which has to be allowed to continue. But when there is a small minority that mistreat the animals then that needs to be stopped. Until the cruelty is prevented then other people will quite rightly make it their business to become involved. Unfortunately that means that the innocent children who treat their animals well also suffer. There really needs to be peer pressure from the horse community to stop others treating their animals badly.

jow draper on January 17, 2011:

u wouldn't no wat it would do to the true kids horse loves it nothin doing any harm to u so leav it be

all use midend your on buzzness dont be gettin into others>:)

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on September 13, 2010:

You're right, Paddy.. There are some horrible cases of cruelty. More on the cruelty here...

Paddy on September 12, 2010:

Cruelty at it's best/worst.

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on September 01, 2010:

Thanks, Felix. There's a bit more about cruelty at the market here....


felix on August 31, 2010:

Smithfield market should be closed down. As you said nobody wants this market to proceed only the traders themselves. The cruelty that these poor horses suffer is appalling and you would not want to see it, it is not a tourist attraction. It is an eye sore on the city of dublin and the sooner its closed down the better. It costs 10,000 euros of tax payers money each month to clean up the mess that is left by these so called horse owners.

gravy on June 09, 2010:

i love smite field i got a muire at that smitefield

Rickrideshorses (author) from England on March 10, 2010:

The market is a very unique experience that can't be found anywhere else in the world - so it's well worth visiting. Unfortunately, as you know from reading my other hub, the market does have some down sides. Thanks for leaving your comment and best wishes.

Cari Jean from Bismarck, ND on March 10, 2010:

thanks for this hub - I have never heard of the Smithfield horse market before. I live here in the States but I think it would very interesting to go to something like this.

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