Famed Heinz Hitch Now History

The world-renowned Heinz Hitch of magnificent black Percherons has sadly been unhitched due to a decision by the Heinz company in an attempt to curb expenses.

 

The team of eight black Percheron horses, each weighing around a ton, have proudly pranced their way through holiday parades, Rose Bowl parades, the Calgary Stampede and numerous state fairs for more than two decades.

The full complement of eight horses is used in all events, except when parades involving tight turns allow for only the four horse team to be used.   

The nostalgic scene of the magnificent black horses pulling a red 150-year-old wagon while the ground rumbled below their feet has thrilled countless people across America.

The original delivery rig manufactured by Studebaker was found in an old storage shed in central Pennsylvania. Completely refurbished, it became a popular attraction at fairs, expositions, and parades throughout the country and is believed to be among the world’s largest hitch wagons in use today. 

  

Horse-drawn grocery wagons were used by the H.J. Heinz Company to deliver their products in the late 1800s.Through the past decades, the Heinz Hitch has become an ambassadorial team and a piece of living history for the company.

For 32 years, Mr. John Dryer has driven and cared for the horses and wagons designed to evoke memories of yesterday.

And now … with the retirement of the Heinz Hitch, it is has become a piece of history.

Regardless, Dryer still cherishes the 22 years he and others spent on top of the red wagon while reining in the majestic draft horses.

“God, it was so spectacular, it was just unbelievable”.

John Dryer says the departure of the horses is like sending a son or daughter away to college without the promise of future visits. 

“Good-bye” to Justin, one of the eight Percherons.

Story information: Pittsburg Post Gazette

Photo: Pittsburg Post Gazette

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi, I was searching about for information about Percherons and came across this site. I really like what you’re doing and what you’re posting. I’ll most certainly be back to see what else you write. The reason for my interest in Percherons is that for 9 years I had a Percheron/Thoroughbred horse, Midnight, who I truly loved. Unfortunately I was recently forced to have him put down. In memory of him I want to continue my interest in horses thru writing and research. At approaching 75 yrs of age I’m not really prepared to take on a further horse. Add to this, I’d always be thinking of ‘Middie’!!
    Regards
    RUSSELL

    • Hello Russell,
      Once a horse like your Midnight comes into your life, they remain in your heart, forever! Treasured memories!

  2. Hello
    I have acquired a Percheron named Abe who was supposedly lead horse of the Heinz eight horse hitch. Abe is well in his thirties and I was wondering if there is any one with Knowledge of this great horse?
    NEIL

  3. Last week this lovely Percheron names Justin was at the Virginia State Fair. He enjoyed the visitors that came by his stall. He is over 18 hands high and weighs over 2000 lbs and I loved having my photo taken with his head next to my shoulder. When I figure out how to out it on to Facebook I’ll do so. In the meantime, please read about this very special horse.

  4. Magnificent horses. It’s such a shame they are basically being abandoned by the Heinz company. I’m sure there is plenty of money to help these horses remain in their historical position. Such a shame that where money is a considering factor it’s the horses who always lose.

  5. Mr Dryer, my husband and I visited the farm a couple of times and enjoyed see the horses and meeting you. It was about 10 years ago, my daughter in law lives on one of the farms that you used to take the team, they are magnificent and thank you. I have pictures of them. Thanks again for your hospitality and the love of the horses. Jane Ruth

    • Hello Jane Ruth,
      I will hope that Mr Dryer sees your note. How wonderful that you knew this beautiful team of horses. I’m sure Mr. Dryer will appreciate your kind words.
      Best regards,
      Marvel

  6. Why in the World would the mighty Heinz give up on this magnificent team. It was not from lack of money, it was from lack of imagination nd historical perspective, quite sad really. Bill Robson

  7. Mr. Dryer, six months ago I was introduced to a pair of Percherons that came from Arlington. A really big Black one caught my eye. His name is Lyle. Since the day we met I go to the pasture where Lyle is kept and spend numerous hours loving on him. We go for trail rides on the weekends. This last weekend I let my 11 year old son ride him and even with a mounting block he had to jump over him to get on the saddle. Lyle is so gentle I think kids could swing from his neck. I am told he is right at 19hh and when I went to buy him a new halter (because his other one is frayed and he deserves something nice) they had to special order one that fits a horse up to 2300 pounds. I have hundreds of pictures of Lyle as I take about 10 new photos daily. Anyway, I am told he is 14 years of age and he is still doing fine. If you would like pictures let me know.
    Fred Carter. I am on Facebook with a picture of me and Lyle.

  8. My family has always enjoyed the Heinz Hitch when they marched in The Fort Ligonier Days Parade, and we are saddened to learn of the Bad business decision of the Heinz Company. Mr. Dryer has done a superb job with the Hitch and their presence will be missed by children of all ages. Sadly Heinz has chosen to end a truly spectacular Tradition.

  9. Quite a few years ago I saw the Heinz hitch at the Oklahoma state fair. They were Magnificent. The wagon was so heavy and the horses so powerful that they lunged forward to get it moving they snapped the whiffletree, the cross bar on the wagon tongue that the harness is attached to. The wagon was beautifully restored. This breed is bigger than the Clydesdales of the Budweiser hitches. The Heinz people told me that they had the one hitch but Bud covered the country with several. Maybe if they hadn’t started watering down the Ketchup, in another economy move, they would have money for the horses.


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