The Shire Horse Breed
The Shire horse is an immensely beautiful horse of great height and strength. The Shire should stand from 17.2hh upwards and weigh in the region of around 2,000/2,500lbs.
Although being an immensely strong horse is also a very gentle animal. Heavy horses in general are often termed the “gentle giant” which is very true.
Shire horses are renowned for the hair on the lower leg this hair is called feather, another British breed of heavy horse also has this feather and that is the Clydesdale, a Scottish heavy
The Shire horse also known as the Great horse was used in medieval times and was bred from crossing a large native horse with larger heavier horses from the continent, in particular from Flanders and Holland.
Whilst Henry VIII ruled he ordered that horses were to be bred bigger and stronger so that they could carry a knight into battle carrying a heavily armoured knight, the horse also
wore chain mail armour or plate armour to protect itself in battle. This is where we get the term the Great horse or War horse.
As warfare started to change and weaponry changed the great horse was no longer need as much for this use but being strong horses with a good nature would mean they would be
ideally suited to agricultural work and haulage. This is what they are most recognised as today. In 1878 the English cart horse society was formed and this over the years then changed into the shire horse society.
Today the shire horse is used all over the world, not only as a driving horse but also as a riding horse and taking part in all manor of riding activities from general hacking to jumping,
dressage and vaulting, showing that they are truly a very versatile horse. A smaller amount these days are still used in agriculture, and dray horses, others are used in forestry and going back to the medieval period, taking part in jousting tournaments. A truly magnificent sight to see. And most definitely part of England’s heritage.
The Suffolk Punch Horse Breed
The Suffolk horse is the oldest breed of heavy horse in Great Britain. The breed dates from the sixteenth century but all animals alive today trace their male lines back to one stallion,
a horse called Crisp’s Horse of Ufford, who was foaled in 1768.
The Suffolk Punch,is one of the four English breeds of draught horses. The breed takes the first part of its name from the county of Suffolk in East Anglia and the name "Punch" from
its solid appearance and strength. The Suffolk Punch is always Chestnut in colour, although the colour is traditionally spelled “chestnut".
The Suffolk Punch typically stands about 17hh and was developed for farm work, and gained popularity during the early 20th century. However, as agriculture became increasingly mechanised, the breed fell out of favour, particularly from the middle part of the century, and
almost disappeared completely. Although the breed's status is listed as critical by the UK by the Rare Breed Survival Trust.
The Suffolk Punch tends to be shorter but bigger built than other British heavy draught breeds, such as the Shire or the Clydesdale as a result of having been developed for
agricultural work rather than road haulage.The breed has a powerful, arching neck; well- muscled, sloping shoulders; a short, wide back and a muscular, broad croup. Legs are short and strong, with broad joints; sound, well-formed hooves and little or no feathering on the lower legs. The Suffolk Punch is said to be energetic, especially at the trot. The breed tends to mature early, be long-lived, and is economical to keep, needing less feed than other horses of similar type and size.They are hard workers, said to be willing to "pull a heavily laden wagon till they dropped.”
Mechanisation and the need for food production in the Second World War was to blame for decline in the breed with huge numbers of horses going to slaughter, the Suffolk was on the
brink of extinction until new breeders came along to help keep the breed going.To date the Suffolk is still the rarest of the heavy horse breeds, but thanks to ever more breeders and the Suffolk Punch Trust and Society the breed continues to grow steadily.
The Percheron Horse Breed
The Percheron originates from the Perche region of France, and is renowned for its muscular strength and endurance as well as their quickness to learn and their calm
temperament and good nature. They stand between 16 and 19hh and are born black with some staying black and others turning grey as they age and change coats with the seasons.
Percheron's were one of the horses particularly used in medieval times carrying knights into battle and also weapons of war onto the battlefields.
When the Percheron came to Britain the British army saw great quality’s within the breed and purchased a quantity which were then shipped out to South Africa and used in the Boer War. After the war horses that returned were then used in agriculture.
Today the Percheron is a breed that is used more world wide then any other heavy horse breed, especially in Canada and the USA, where a very large population of this breed exists as well as the cross breeds from them.
In Britain the Percheron is still used with some for agriculture and for demonstrations as well as forestry, They are also popular in the show ring weather in hand, driven or ridden, and going back to medieval times make fearless jousting horses.