|The Shire Horse - Equiworld horse breeds and horse breeding.|
|[Index of Horse Breeds]||[Equiworld Magazine]|
The Shire Horse is the most numerous and largest of the heavy horses found in Great Britain. The recognised colours in the breed are black, bay, brown and grey. The height of the stallions should be 17.2 hands at maturity with mares a hand smaller. However, many of the leading prizewinners are up to and over 18.00 hands. The characteristic of the Shire is the nice silky feather on the legs, obtained from crossing with Clydesdales in the early 50's to alleviate the grease problems in the older type Shire. More recently the market pressures are wanting white legs to make the best use of the action and presence of the breed in the show ring, particularly in turnout classes.
The history of the breed goes back to the medieval "Great Horse" used in time of war to carry knights in armour weighing up to 400lbs. In the 1800's the horse was to become the main power in agriculture and commerce particularly the docks and railways. For this they required massive horses with great muscular strength. In 1878 a selection of the best types of heavy horse was made from the old English carthorse and the Shire Horse Society was formed. The marshy fen counties of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire laid claim to having exerted the earliest beneficial influence upon the breed and it was from these counties that sales were first made for the improvement of the draft horse all over England. Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire were the first to benefit from these counties and thus the Shire slowly spread over virtually the whole of England.
One of the reasons for this upsurge of interest was the introduction of stallion premiums, which are awarded at the annual breed show in March each year from monies given to the Society from the Horse Race Betting Levy Board. To this day over £35,000 a year is received. The other reason is the increase in markets particularly abroad. In recent years over 100 Shires per year are exported to all parts of the world. Active Societies have been formed in Germany, France, Holland, Canada, and the USA. The Society have taken horses and promoted the breed at shows on the continent and North America. As a result of which new markets have been found. These markets continue to prosper, with horses being exported to Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Germany and America.
To help breeders in far flung areas such as Australia, frozen semen has been used for AI with successful results.
This article and photographs were kindly provided by the Shire Horse Society
Equiworld.Com Copyright Equiworld 2005. Equiworld is a registered trademark in the UK and/or other countries. Equiworld, Hayfield, Aberdeen, Scotland, AB15 8BB
To submit equestrian news items to Equiworld please visit, www.equiworld.com/horses/
To submit links to horse web sites please visit, www.equiworld.net/links/
Updated: October 2005.