COMMON HORSE BREEDS
Europe - England
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
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.