Post horn

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German post horn (19th century)
Post horn

The post horn (also posthorn, post-horn, or coach horn) is a valveless cylindrical brass or copper instrument with cupped mouthpiece, used to signal the arrival or departure of a post rider or mail coach. It was used especially by postilions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Mail coaches had tight schedules and travelled at high speed, given priority of way in most countries. Other road users were required to clear completely out of the way.[citation needed] The post horn also acted as a modern-day siren, the sound travelling some distance ahead and giving warning of a fast-approaching mail coach before it could be seen.

The instrument commonly had a circular or coiled shape with three turns of the tubing, though sometimes it was straight. It is therefore an example of a natural horn. The cornet was developed from the post horn by adding valves.[1]

In the late 17th century, Johann Beer composed a Concerto à 4 in B, which paired a posthorn with a corne de chasse as the two solo instruments, accompanied by violins and basso continuo.

Mozart, Mahler, and others incorporated the instrument into their orchestras for certain pieces. On such occasions, the orchestra's horn player usually plays the instrument. One example of post horn use in modern classical music is the famous off-stage solo in Mahler's Third Symphony. Due to the scarcity of this instrument, however, music written for it is usually played on a trumpet or flugelhorn.

In 1844, the German cornet player Hermann Koenig wrote Post Horn Galop (Post Horn Gallop) as a solo for post horn with orchestral accompaniment.[2] In the 20th century it became a popular piece for brass bands.[3] During World War I wooden post horns were used as a means of collecting war donations via a method called the Nail Men. People would donate and in exchange be allowed to hammer a nail into the horn, until the horn was completely covered.

The instrument is still used as the logo of national post services in many countries.

The post horn is included in Unicode as U+1F4EF 📯 postal horn.[4]

List of postal services that include the post horn in their logos[edit]

Examples of post horns as graphics[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Curt Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1940), 428.
  2. ^ The Posthorn Gallop, Entry in "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music", 4th edn., Kennedy (ed.), Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Taylor, Arthur (1983). Labour and love: an oral history of the brass band movement. Elm Tree Books. 
  4. ^ "Postal Horn Emoji". Emojipedia. 
  5. ^ "Top 10 Australian Logos – 9th". Retrieved 22 May 2013. 

External links[edit]