Downs

How did this word come to be associated with horses?

By Deane Barker

The word “downs” is actually a geographical feature: low grassy hills. The word comes from the Gaelic “dun,” which means “hill.”

The North and South Downs in England were so-named, and they were used mainly for pasture.

This is likely where the usage comes from: “downs” became a way to refer to areas where horses were kept. One of these areas likely hosted a racetrack, and kept “Downs” in the name, and the usage propagated from there.

Why I Looked It Up

I’ve been familiar with the term for years.

I was in Jackson, Tennessee to visit my son, and we drove past “Madison Downs.” I got to wondering about the term.

(Ironically, Madison Downs is not an actually horse facility. It’s a barn-themed event hall, mainly used for weddings.)

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