Ducati and the prancing horse

Detail of the Ducati 125 Desmo headlight fairing in 1956, with the prancing horse at the sides

The 125 Desmo, the first Ducati bike ever displaying the prancing horse

Mike Hailwood™’s 250 Bicilindrica Desmo, even this bike flaunts the prancing horse

Air Force “Ace” Francesco Baracca with his fighter plane, sporting the “prancing horse” that will later become the symbol of Ferrari and, briefly, Ducati

Photo of Major Francesco Baracca

Francesco Baracca in the cabin of its plane

Francesco Baracca on its plane, not yet customised with the prancing horse


Many Ducatisti, upon visiting our museum or leafing through books on Ducati's history, have posed an interesting question: Why do some Ducatis of the past bear a prancing horse nearly identical to that of Ferrari's?

For a short time, our racing motorcycles and a 98cc road version (called "Cavallino" in Europe and "Bronco" in the U.S.) sported on their side panels a horse identical to that of the Ferrari emblem. For those fond of old stories about Ducati, the symbol helped identify our motorcycles as "Ferraris on two wheels."

Around 1956, Fabio Taglioni, Ducati's head engineer, asked for and received approval to paint the noted horse on our motorcycles. The first bike donning this symbol was the 125 Triple Camshaft Desmo of 1956, which debuted and won the Sweden GP of that year. Later, other motorcycles such as the Marianna, several versions of the 175 F3, and the famous 250 Twin-cylinder of Mike HailwoodTM flashed the recognizable horse.


The reason why Taglioni chose the prancing horse is actually very simple: Fabio Taglioni was born in Lugo di Romagna, a town 35 km from Bologna. This same town was the birthplace of the most famous Italian personage of the First World War, Major Francesco Baracca, the Italian "ace" fighter pilot, who claimed 34 victories in air battles on the Italian front and then was killed on June 19, 1918 on Mount Montello.

Francesco Baracca was an official of the cavalry. In 1915, upon the outbreak of war against Austria-Hungary, he took his pilot's license. When Baracca reached his squadron, he decided to personalize his airplane by painting the fuselage with a black horse on a white cloud. Many historians of World War I maintain that Baracca painted the horse not so much as a reminder of his past as a cavalry officer, but to pay tribute to the cavalry corps to which he belonged, the Second Piedmont Cavalry. Indeed, this unit's emblem depicted a silver prancing horse

against a red background.

In 1923, five years after the death of Francesco Baracca, his mother, Countess Paolina Biancoli, donated the symbol of her son to Enzo Ferrari as a "good luck piece". That year, Ferrari ran the Lugo Grand Prix with his stable, then equipped with Alfa Romeo racecars. Ferrari had no symbol for his team at the time, so he used the black horse against a yellow shield and placed a tricolor band across the top. The yellow represents Modena, Ferrari's birthplace.

An interesting fact is that both horses used by Ferrari and Ducati have their tails turned up, whereas Baracca's original had its tail pointed down.

The decision by the Ducati management of the era to fold the official racing team owing to the high costs, as well as a lack of respect for the history of the symbol, resulted in the disappearance of the horse from the side panels of our motorcycles.

Thus an incidental link exists between the "rosse" on two and four wheels, consolidated by the history of two legendary personalities.