Shire Horse


The Shire Horse is considered by many to be Britain's finest draft horse. Like the other heavy draft breeds, it is descended from the "Great Horse" developed in the Middle Ages. With the passing of the tournament and heavily armored knight, the ancestor of the Shire Horse was put to work in harness pulling carts over rough roads and plows on the farm. It was bred principally in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire where the soil was deep and there was a need for a horse of considerable size and strength. The Shire became the largest and most powerful draft horse in Britain. It is used by brewers in cities in stylish teams to pull beer wagons, in weight-pulling competition and in plowing competition.

The Shire is a horse of great size: a mature stallion stands between 16.2 and 17.2 hands and weighs up to 2200 pounds. Mares and geldings are slightly less massive. It has relatively large, wide-set and expressive eyes, the nose is rather convex ("Roman"). The shoulders are large and deep and the body has substantial barrel. The legs are long with considerable feather about the feet. It is usually found in bay, brown, black and gray.

The Shire is descended from the "Great Horse" developed in the Middle Ages for use in battles and tournaments. The breed's ancestors subsequently became known as the Old English Black Horse. The name Shire was given to the breed in the 1700s. It was originally bred in the counties of Lincoln and Cambridge in east-central England.

A team of Shires was observed pulling loads of 18 tons on wheels and 16 tons on a sledge at a show in London. Shires have been exported to North America in substantial numbers. They are especially popular in Canada and the western United States.

1. Friesian 2. Flanders Horse

For more information:
American Shire Horse Association
Listed as "Watch" by The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (2004)

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