On June 17, 1923, Enzo Ferrari won a race at the Savio track in Ravenna where he met the Countess Paolina, mother of Count Francesco Baracca, an ace of the Italian air force and national hero of World War I, who used to paint a horse on the side of his planes. The Countess asked Enzo to use this horse on his cars, suggesting that it would bring him good luck. The original "prancing horse" on Baracca's airplane was painted in red on a white cloud-like shape, but Ferrari chose to have the horse in black (as it had been painted as a sign of grief on Baracca's squadron planes after the pilot was killed in action) and he added a canary yellow background as this is the color of the city of Modena, his birthplace. The Ferrari horse was, from the very beginning, markedly different from the Baracca horse in most details, the most noticeable being the tail that in the original Baracca version was pointing downward.
Ferrari has used the cavallino rampante on official company stationery since 1929. Since the Spa 24 Hours of July 9, 1932, the cavallino rampante has been used on Alfa Romeos raced by Scuderia Ferrari.
The motif of a prancing horse is old, it can be found on ancient coins. A similar black horse on a yellow shield is the Coat of Arms of the German city of Stuttgart, home of Mercedes-Benz and the design bureau of Porsche, both being main competitors of Alfa and Ferrari in the 1930s. The city's name derives from Stutengarten, an ancient form of the German word Gest üt, which translates into English as stud farm and into Italian as scuderia. Porsche also includes the Stuttgart sign in its corporate logo, centred in the emblem of the state of Württemberg. Stuttgart's Rössle has both rear legs firmly planted on the soil, like Baracca's horse, but unlike Ferrari's cavallino.
Fabio Taglioni used the cavallino rampante on his Ducati motorbikes, as Taglioni was born at Lugo di Romagna like Baracca, and his father too was a military pilot during WWI (although not part of Baracca's squadron, as is sometimes mistakenly reported). As Ferrari's fame grew, Ducati abandoned the horse- perhaps the result of a private agreement between the two companies.
The cavallino rampante is now a trademark of Ferrari. Cavallino Magazine uses the name, but not the logo. However, other companies use similar logos: Avanti, an Austrian company operating over 100 filling stations, uses a prancing horse logo which is nearly identical to Ferrari's, as does Iron Horse Bicycles. Many pay homage to the Ferrari logo, e.g. the Jamiroquai album Travelling Without Moving.