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 About the the Magnificent Shire Horses 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shire draught horse

A pair of Shire horses ploughingThe Shire horse is a breed of draught horse. It is the tallest of the modern draught breeds, and a stallion may stand 18 or more hands (about 180 cm) high and weigh a short ton. The Shire horse has a dense rounded body, a broad back, strong loins, powerful hind-quarters, and long legs with dense bones. It can be black, brown, bay, or gray and has distinctive long silky hair (often white) on the lower parts of its legs. The hair down the back of the legs is called the "feather", while the hair over the foot is known as the "spats".

The Shire horse descends from the medieval Great Horse brought to England in 1066 by William the Conqueror. From this medieval horse came a draught horse called the Black Horse in the seventeenth century, which was dull-colored and sluggish. The Black Horse was greatly improved by the followers of Robert Bakewell, resulting in a horse commonly known as the Bakewell Black. When the Pedigree Society was founded in 1878, the name was changed to English Cart Horse, since black was a misnomer. Six years later, the name was again changed to Shire. The breed was improved during the following years as ruthless veterinary examinations virtually eliminated the old unsoundness of wind and limb. With the increased use of mechanized farm and transport equipment, the numbers of Shire horses began to decline. By the middle of the twentieth century their numbers had dwindled to a small fraction of what they had been in their heyday. Numbers of Shires are on the rise again, however. They are now widely used in breeding heavier hunter types by crosses with thoroughbred mares.

World record

The Shire horse holds the record for the world's biggest horse; Sampson, foaled in 1846 in Toddington Mills, Bedfordshire, England, stood 21.2½ hands high (i.e. 7 ft 2½ in or 2.20 m at his withers) by the time he was a four year old, when he was re-named Mammoth. His peak weight was estimated at over 3,300 lb (approx 1.5 tonnes). The most recent Shire to hold the record was Goliath, a dray horse for the Young & Co. brewery who held the Guinness World Record for the tallest living horse at 19.2 hh (1.98 m) until he died in July 2001.

Ale deliveries

Shire draught horseThe Shire horse was originally the staple breed used to draw carts to deliver ale from the brewery to the public houses. Owing to practicality and modernisation, this is a tradition that only remains at a few breweries in the UK. These include the Samuel Smith Brewery in Tadcaster, which maintains a small stable of grey shires to deliver to public houses within a seven mile radius and the Tetley brewery in Leeds, which stables several shire horses (although these are more for show than working horses and their future is in doubt). The Adnams brewery in Southwold, Suffolk used Shire horses for regular deliveries until September 2006.