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Shire horses along with other heavy breeds were once the greatest working horses in Britain. From pulling ploughs to buses and carriages, they had a huge impact on Britain’s day to day life.
Experts say that these larger breeds could become extinct within 10 years with decreasing number of foals being produced each year. The number of foals being born are at the lowest levels since records began.
In 2017 just 240 shire horses were born along with 199 Clydesdales and 25 Suffolks according to The Rare Breeds Survival Trust who preserve rare breed animals.
In 1943 there were 935 Shires, 1,288 Clydesdales and 745 Suffolks born, which shows the huge drop in comparison with 2017 of foals produced by these breeds.
The RBTS warned that without immediate attention Britain’s heavy breeds could be extinct within the next 10 years.
The number of foals has never been this alarming.
“The figures are shocking,” she said. “At no point in time has the issue been more serious.”
“They started dying out because of mechanisation after World War 2, when there were huge changes in agriculture and industry. But I don’t think people realise how bad it is now. In a way we are losing a whole part of our history. We need people to see the value of these animals, they are an important part of our heritage.”
Heavy breeds are good riding animals too and would be particularly useful in an era where riders are becoming heavier. They are also the only horses capable of carrying huge kettle drums for the Household Cavalry.
The RBST are encouraging more breeding of heavy horses and are also collecting genetic material that will be stored in the UK National Livestock Gene Bank, so that if the heavy breeds were to become extinct, it would be possible to bring them back.