Europe - England

Shire Horse
Photo supplied by the Shire Horse Society Australia - Queensland

English breeders crossed native horses with imported Friesians and Flanders to produce a strong military mount. The Shire Horse is a descendant of the English medieval war horse known as the Great Horse, which was later named Black. It is believed that Oliver Cromwell introduced the term "blacks" probably because the imported Friesian Horses were always black in colour. One of the earliest records of a Shire stallion standing at stud was Packington Blind Horse named after the village of Packington, near Ashby-de-la-Zouche. He lived between 1755 and 1770 and he and his progeny had a significant influence in the formative years of the breed.
The main breeding areas of the English Black were in the Fen country and in the Midland shires of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, which eventually gave the breed the name Shire Horse. Horses bred in the Fen country were heavier, bigger and more coarse than the horses bred in the shires. In Derbyshire and Leicestershire horses were predominantly black in colour and mainly brown in Staffordshire.
        In 1878 the Old English Cart Horse Society was founded and changed it's name to Shire Horse Society in 1884. With the publication of the first stud book breeding became more formalised and the Shire Horse became more refined. It competed with great success at leading agricultural shows attracting buyers from North and South America, Russia and Australia. In Britain they were ploughing the land, hauling timber, pulling farm wagons, railway vans, brewer's drays and coal carts.
With the start of the mechanisation the numbers of Shire Horses reclined as they were no longer needed. In the 1960's they became popular again at agricultural and horse shows and they were still used for short haul work in British inner cities where they were more economical than motorised transport.
Head: lean; broad forehead; large eyes with a gentle expression; sharp, long, sensitive ears; slightly Roman nose
Neck: fairly long, sightly arched

Shoulders: deep, sloping, wide enough to support a collar
Body: short, strong, muscular back; broad chest; wide, sweeping, muscular hindquarters; well let down thighs
Legs: clean, hard limbs with 28 - 30cm (11 -12 inches) of bone; broad, deep, flat hocks set at good angle for leverage; fine, straight, silky feather
Feet: deep, solid, thick walls, open coronets
Color: black, brown, bay or grey
Height: stallions 16.2 to 17.2hh, mares 16 to 17hh
Weight: in excess of 1,016kg (20cwt)
Temperament: kind, gentle, obedient
Qualities: great strength, stamina, soundness

Shire Horses can still be seen pulling brewer's drays and they are popular contestants at agricultural and horse shows.