Shire Horse

Origin: England — Central counties (Shires).

Height: Average 17hh. Can reach, and even exceed, 18hh.

Color: Bay and brown are commonest, always with white markings; black and gray are not unusual.

Character: A gentle, docile horse, so kind that it can usually be trusted with a child; active, industrious, adaptable, enduring.

Physique: Medium-sized head of delicate proportion, faintly-convex profile, kind eye, broad forehead, long, slender ears. Neck long and arched, well-set on powerful, sloping shoulders with a deep front. Body dense and rounded; back broad with strong loins; hindquarters full and powerful, often with sloping croup. Excellent legs, long for a heavy horse, with dense bone. Abundant feather, fine and silky. Possesses great strength and stamina and is of a sound constitution.

This controversial horse — controversial in the sense that it attracts enthusiasts, and enthusiasts attract argument — has a grand, although none-too-precise history. It derives from the Old English Black Horse, which in turn stems from the Great Horse of chivalric times. The Great Horse’sancestry is uncertain, but it is likely to have come from northern European stock, especially from the black Friesian horses. The extreme height of the Shire may be partly due to Thoroughbred blood, which would also account for its aristocratic appearance.

When the demand for war horses ceased and the need for strong agri-cultural animals became apparent, breeders were quick to recognize and improve the merits of the Shire. Standards of quality were established early on, records were kept, and in 1878 the Shire Horse Society was established.

With mechanization, demand for the Shire declined. Its continuedexistence is ensured by its popularity as a team horse to pull brewers’ drays (now mainly ornamental) as well as its ability to draw crowds to the show ring. It is a horse that breeds true, it is a pleasure to work with; and though its great strength is no longer needed — it can pull five tons — it will always be welcome. It is the tallest horse in the world.

See more: Schles Wig Horse


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