All The Farm That Is Fit To Print

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shire horse

Shire horse

This article is about the breed of horse.

The Shire horse is a breed of draught horse (BrE) or draft horse (AmE). It is the tallest of the modern draught breeds, and a stallion may stand 18 hands or more (about 180 cm). Their weight is frequently in the region of a short ton (910 kg or roughly 2000lbs).


The Shire horse is a draught horse, with powerful and muscular build, a dense rounded body, a broad back, strong loins, powerful hind-quarters, and long legs with dense bones. The breed standard is set by the Shire Horse Society in the United Kingdom, and the American Shire Horse Association in the United States. Shire horses can be black, bay (sometimes called "brown"), or gray. In the United Kingdom Shire stallions must not be roan or chestnut, although mares and geldings can be roan. In the United States, roaning is considered "undesirable" but chestnut (also known as "sorrel") is permitted, though considered rare. The legs should have white stockings or socks (except on gray horses). The hair down the back of the legs is called the "feather", while the hair over the foot is known as the "spats".

Shire horses average around 17.2 hands (178 cm) tall at maturity (measured at the withers, with the breed standard being at least 17 hands, although a Shire horse was recorded reaching over 21.2 hands (220 cm). The girth of a Shire horse varies from 6 feet (2 m) to 8 ft (2 m). Shire stallions weigh, on average, between 144 st and 176 st.

The head should be long and lean, with a Roman nose and widely-spaced eyes. The breed standard specifies that the eyes should be docile in expression, and they are generally brown. The neck should be long and lean, with an arch. This leads to a short, muscular back, with no pronounced dipping or roaching.

Breed history

Like its close relative, the Clydesdale, the Shire horse is descended from the Great Horse brought to England in 1066 by William the Conqueror. Only stallions were imported, to carry knights in armour into battle—weighing up to 32 stones (450 lb or 205 kg)—and it is probable that they bred with native mares in the vicinity. Though oxen were used for most farm work into the 18th century, horses 'fit for the dray, the plough, or the chariot' were on sale at Smithfield Market in London as early as 1145.

A hundred horses 'of large stature' were imported into England from the Low Countries during the reign of King John. When Robert the Bruce rode a palfrey in the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), the English knights, mounted on heavy horses, realised a lighter, more maneuverable horse was needed. Horse breeding became important again during the reign of Henry VII, from 1485, and laws were passed making it illegal to export mares worth more than 6s. 8d. and stallions. At about this time, the practice of gelding (castrating) male horses began, again making breeding more selective.

The English Great Horse was valued during the reign of Henry VIII, when stallions measuring less than 'fifteen handfuls' could not be kept, but the advent of gunpowder in the late 16th century brought an end to the use of the Great Horse in battle. Oliver Cromwell's cavalry favoured lighter, faster mounts and the big horses began to be used for draught work instead. Stage coaches needed strong horses to draw them and the Great Horse found a new niche.

From this medieval horse came an animal called the Old English Black Horse in the 17th century. The Black Horse was improved by the followers of Robert Bakewell, of Dishley Grange in Leicestershire, resulting in a horse commonly known as the "Bakewell Black." Bakewell imported six Dutch or Flanders mares, notable since breeders tended to concentrate on improving the male line. Two different types of black horse developed: the Fen or Lincolnshire type and the Leicester or Midlands type.

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 rigorous 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 20th 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, and are also seen in Draught or Draft horse competition worldwide.


The 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 Wadworth Brewery in Devizes Wiltshire, the Hook Norton Brewery, the Samuel Smith Brewery in Tadcaster, which maintains a small stable of grey shires to deliver to public houses within a seven mile (11 km) radius, and Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn, which resumed horse-drawn deliveries in May 2008. The former Bass Museum, Burton upon Trent (Now Coors Visitor Centre) has a small stable of shire horses which it uses for promotional events. . Several breweries have recently withdrawn their shire horse teams, including the Tetley brewery in Leeds.

World records

Shire horses on average tend to be the tallest and heaviest of all draft breeds, though some individuals of other breeds may, on occasion, achieve a comparable height or weight.

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 long tons).

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.

Source: Wikipedia

Translation of "Shire horse"

Czech: Shirský kůň, Danish: Shire (hest), German: Shire Horse, Estonian: Šairi hobune, French: Shire (cheval), Korean: 샤이어 (말), Italian: Shire (cavallo), Dutch: Shire (paard), Japanese: シャイヤー, Norwegian (Bokmål): Shire (hest), Polish: Shire (konie), Russian: Шайр, Finnish: Shirehevonen, Swedish: Shirehäst

Monday, February 20, 2012

How much does a shire horse eat in a day?

from Wikianswers
A Shire horse eats a lot, often 15-20 kilos of good hey each day if trained a lot. And do not even think about cutting down on it, and give the horse free amount of hey as far as possible. When speaking of grain you have to be careful, especially when giving it to foals, yearlings and youngsters to avoid them "growing apart". A cold blooded horse like the Shire horse must not grow too fast, nor too slow. If it gets too rich nourishment during the first years growing up, they will get a too big and porous skeleton, which increases the possibilities of loose bone splinters and following health problems. At the same time you have to feed the horse so much that the growth does not restrain, and the horse can develop according to the Shire horse standards. This is why it is necessary to find the balance between the horses' needs and the feed it actually gets. Certain diseases can cause certain needs, and might also be decisive if the horse can function as normal.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shire Horses from Horseman Magazine

by Horseman Magazine

Reviving the Old Shire Horses of England

The name of the Shire horse breed can be a bit misleading for people who do not have knowledge of the breed. The mere mention of the breed name would most likely give you the impression that the breed is made up of small, mild mannered horses. Shire horses however are considered the biggest among all English horses.

Shire Horse History

The Shire horse is another old horse breed with uncertain origins. It is probable that the ancestors of the breed were not native to England. They may have instead been brought to England from other regions. In any case, the earliest known ancestor of the Shire horse is the Great Horse which appeared in English soil as early as the 11th century. These Great Horses indeed had massive bodies that ensured an impressive appearance and great strength. Since this was yet the time of knights and armored combat, these large horses were used primarily as war horses.

Like the rest of Europe however, England was not to remain in the middle ages forever. Changes and improvements in the art and technology of warfare eventually reduced the need for large horses. With the emergence of guns as a preferred weapon over swords, the new war horse had to be lighter and more agile. The ancestors of the Shire horse however did not disappear when they were no longer needed in battle. Like other large war horse breeds, their strength and size became useful in agriculture.

By the 1600s, breeders began breeding the direct ancestors of the modern Shire horse. It wasn’t until the second half of the 1800s however that Shire horses came to be named Shire horses. It was also around this time that a formal society was established to promote and ensure the purity of the breed. It seemed as if England had found the perfect plough and cart horse.

Unfortunately, the Shire breed went through the same path as other European draft horses. The beginning of the industrial period posed a threat to the breed. Mechanized farming and transportation became all the rage and the Shire breed seemed to have outlived their purpose. For a period in the 1900s, the population of the Shire horse dropped. Today however, loyal breeders who simply love the Shire horse have raised the numbers of the breed again.

Shire Traits

It is enough to simply say that most Shire horses are around 17 hands tall with some going well over this height. Some horses weigh close to a ton. With height and weight figures as big as these, it is easy to imagine how a typical Shire horse would look like. They are large muscular horses from head to hooves. They distinctly carry leg feathering below the knees.

Sad as it may seem, the modern Shire horse has truly almost lost any functional purpose. Farms now typically prefer machines. There are however some breweries that continue to use these horses simply out of affection for the breed and tradition. Most Shire horses are now simply used for show and parade purposes.

(At Rice Creek Shires, we would disagree with the last paragraph! Shire Horses are wonderful animals that have just as many uses as any other horse.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Shire Horses

Shire Mares

Once upon a time we talked about one of the smallest breeds of horse, now let's talk about the largest. The Shire Horse is a massively large breed, with males standing close to six feet tall at the shoulder! Shires can come in black, brown, or gray (and roan in females) and have characteristic feathering on their legs.

These giants have a pretty amazing history that goes back nearly 1,000 years. After the Norman conquest of Britain, huge horses were brought over and developed into "the English Great Horse." These mounts were used in warfare because their size and strength could support the heavy armor of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. During the reign of Henry VIII special care was taken to breed more large horses. Horses under 15 hands could not be bred, and exportation of the breed was strictly forbidden.

Once heavy cavalry went out of style, the Great Horses found a new niche in agriculture and industry. They were used on farms, in factories, and for transportation. Their proliferation into society led to the modern breed, which was first was noted at the end of the 18th century, and the first studbook appeared in the 1880s.

Shires went back to their roots during WWI and WWII, and were used to pull heavy artillery. After WWII, however, the breed began to dwindle, and almost went extinct. Luckily, the breed had endured, but is still considered At Risk by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. They have found continued use within brewery settings.

One of the largest horses to have ever lived (and perhaps the largest) was a Shire named Sampson, who stood 21.5 hands high at the shoulder! (That's 7.2ft or 2.2m!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heavy horse breeds under threat

By Frances Lewis

BBC News

There used to be thousands of shire horses in Britain

Britain's heavy horse breeds are under threat with one - the Suffolk punch - reduced to a few hundred mares, say conservationists.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust says the numbers of shire horses, Clysdale horses and Suffolk punch horses have dwindled to such an extent that their very future is at risk.

Although "heavy horses", as they are known, are renowned for their intelligence and gentle nature, encouraging more people to breed the horses in the UK has been become increasingly difficult.

For centuries, heavy breeds such as the shires worked as farm horses pulling carts and helping to plough the fields.

After the World War II, however, their numbers started declining. The need for increased food production meant more farmers used tractors for farm work rather than horses.

Most at risk

Dr Dawn Teverson, conservation officer at the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, says of the three breeds, the Suffolk punch is most at risk. There are fewer than 300 registered breeding females now left in the UK.

You are looking here at an icon for the UK and we don't want to let it go

Amanda Hillier, Suffolk Horse Society

"If it wasn't for a handful of breeders after the war, who kept this horse going, there would be no more Suffolk punch horses. It's absolutely crucial to our heritage and our future to save this horse.

"We have the responsibility to keep these breeds intact for future generations. If you do get to a very low number you could be talking about extinction," said Dr Teverson.

David Bakewell, from West Runton in Norfolk, has been breeding heavy horses for 25 years.

"The Suffolk punch is absolutely critical. As little as 100 years ago there were thousands of them," he said.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is working closely with breed societies such as the Suffolk Horse Society, which register the breeds, to encourage more heavy horses.

It is also monitoring the quality of the Suffolk punch breed to help maintain the breed's purity. State of the art computer software is being used to look at the genetic relationships and the different blood lines within the breed based on pedigrees.

Dr Teverson says the trust is spending a lot of money on a semen bank to help increase breeding, because it is easier to transport the semen around the UK than the horses themselves. The semen will be used in the future for conservation breeding.

Amanda Hillier, administrative secretary for the Suffolk Horse Society, says she is concerned about the current number of Suffolk punch horses but is quietly confident the numbers will improve.

She said: "You are looking here at an icon for the UK and we don't want to let it go. The breed has been at a very low ebb for decades because the need for these horses wasn't obvious. Now we are very keen to maintain skills for these horses so numbers will then increase."

Good news

The society is actively promoting breeding by giving grants to owners who breed horses and also running training courses to teach people the skills to get heavy horses working in agriculture again.

"There's been a definite marked increase in the breed recently. In 2007 there were 37 new foals added to the stud book, an increase on the previous year and there are 26 registered licensed stallions on our list, which is more than a few years ago. There is good news as well as bad," said Ms Hillier.

Shire horses are now found across the world in countries such as Germany, Italy, Australia and the US.

Andrew Mercer, secretary to the Shire Horse Society, says shires are increasingly popular abroad but it has been a challenge to encourage more breeders in the UK.

He says more shire horses are being used for showing, riding, and cross-country driving.

"We have been working hard to highlight the different leisure activities the horses can be used for, in order to encourage more breeders. These horses certainly have a future but only if there are successful breeders," he said.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shire Horse Operation

The pony that can prance again: Horse born blind can see for the first time after vets perform ‘miracle’ £6,000 operation

by Daily Mail

• Foal's blindness was cured after internet search revealed ground-breaking operation could be carried out

• Owners Donald and Jane: 'We have no regrets about it, we did it purely as it was a nice thing to do'

• Only 1,500 of the rare-breed horse is left in the UK

This is the moment an endangered rare-breed shire horse regained her sight after six hours of pioneering veterinary surgery and became the first horse in Britain to undergo the ground-breaking operation.

Shire foal, Mary Anne, faced being put down by vets after she was born unable to see.

Owners Donald and Jane McIntyre were told that the mare was worthless and faced a miserable existence unable to negotiate even the easiest of obstacles.

But the 62-year-old farmer and his 54-year-old wife from Bristol wouldn't give up on the foal - one of only 1500 left in the country - even when her mother, Faith, abandoned her moments after she was born.

After carrying out extensive research on the internet the couple discovered that new equipment had been developed to allow vets to perform cataract surgery on horses.

And when they were told that the foal would have an 80 per cent chance of curing her blindness the couple spent £6,000 for the sight and life saving operation.

Donald recalled the moment he saw Mary Anne alone in the paddock: 'We walked up to her and realised she was alive. We put her on the mare's teets and she started sucking like normal.

'But it wasn't until we got her into the stable when Mary Anne started to walk around and bump into everything that we suspected there was something wrong.

'The vet came out and examined her eyes and found she was totally blind. He advised us to have her put down because she wouldn't be able to guide herself around hazards.'

They even padded out her paddock and placed a bell on her mother's neck so that she could guide herself around the field without injury.

He added: 'Jane then did some research and found out about this ground-breaking piece of equipment that had been developed in Germany and was now being used by British vets.'

The couple made contact with vet Tim Knott, based at Thornbury, near Bristol, and he told them there was an 80 per cent chance of Mary Anne regaining her sight.

He said: 'It didn't make any financial sense but I guess we are big softies at heart.

'The operation cost about £6,000 and Jane had inherited some money from her late father so we used some of that.'

But it was the moment that Mary Anne was let out after the operation that they knew it had been a success.

Donald added: 'She was quite literally dancing around and jumping for joy. There was no stopping her.'

Sight and sound: Shire horse Mary Anne launches herself through her paddock after regaining her sight

Before, she would bump into hedges and fences but this time she was able to see them and stop in time.

'It was also the first time she could see her mother and it was obvious that made her very happy.

'She can now see up to ten metres in front of her which is quite adequate and means she is perfectly functional.'

Mary Anne's eyes were underdeveloped during her 11 month gestation period which meant she had white lenses in her eyes instead of transparent ones.

Vet Mr Knott made a two millimetre incision on the foal's corneas and used the revolutionary tiny, mini jack-hammer needle to turn the white lens into liquid and then drained it.

The transparent, artificial lens that has concentric rings and is like a lighthouse lens, was then inserted into the eyes and opened up like a flower to 22 millimetres across.

Mr Knott explained: 'Cataract surgery on animals has been around for 20 or 30 years but it has always been unsuccessful on horses.

'But due to research and investment, equipment to carry out micro-surgery on horses has now been developed in Germany and there are three vets in the UK using it.

'Mary Anne was one of the first, if not the first, to have this brand new lens fitted using the new equipment.'

Donald said: 'Mary Anne has settled down really well and she now has a strong relationship with her mum. You couldn't separate them now.

'We have no regrets about it, we did it purely as it was a nice thing to do.'

He said that they will not work Mary Anne or breed from her but will break her in to ride her.

Shire horses have been placed on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust list of endangered breeds. The population is believed to be less than 1,500.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What to consider before buying a Shire Horse?

by Norges Shireforening

What to consider before getting a Shire horse?

(Translated from the Swedish Shire Horse Society web page)

Do you have sufficient space and room?

The first to think of when getting a Shire horse is the size. A Shire horse is big, - really BIG. And you must therefore take special considerations about it. They need a quite big paddock/field to be able to move, and the stable need to have a sufficient ceiling height with huge boxes. Transporting a Shire horse can also cause problems if the hanger is too small, and it might be necessary to remove both partition wall and bar crossings in double hangers. The best choice can be a lorry/truck or special built hangers, if you are planning to transport 2 or more Shire horses at once. Please remember the allowed total weight of the car according to the Norwegian laws of vehicles.

How much does a Shire horse eat?

A Shire horse eats a lot, often 15-20 kilos of good hey each day if trained a lot. And do not even think about cutting down on it, and give the horse free amount of hey as far as possible. When speaking of grain you have to be careful, especially when giving it to foals, yearlings and youngsters to avoid them “growing apart”. A cold blooded horse like the Shire horse must not grow too fast, nor too slow. If it gets too rich nourishment during the first years growing up, they will get a too big and porous skeleton, which increases the possibilities of loose bone splinters and following health problems. At the same time you have to feed the horse so much that the growth does not restrain, and the horse can develop according to the Shire horse standards. This is why it is necessary to find the balance between the horses’ needs and the feed it actually gets. Certain diseases can cause certain needs, and might also be decisive if the horse can function as normal. (Look under diseases on the menu: EPSM)

Which type of Shire might fit you?

Like in other breeds, like the Norwegian Fjord horse, there are several types for Shire horses. Not all Shire horses are heavy and lumpy brewery draft horses! You can find relatively small and compact, tall and thin, big and heavy built or tall and muscular. The temper is approximately the same for them all; easy learned, good minded and calm as the day is long. And you can of course use them in much, much more than driving and farm work!!! In England and Sweden they have competitions and shows ONLY for Shire horses, something like the Norwegian Fjord horse Championship. And they compete in everything from jumping (not the tallest classes, though…), dressage, gallop (!), western riding, long-distance riding and (of course) driving. In the show ring it is very pleasant to arrive with a lighter type of Shire horse, since they are often more developed than the heavy built ones. But it is certainly just as fun to show a well built heavy and compact Shire, which really gives you the “majestetical” impression.

The height…

Even though the salesman (especially the English ones) announces Shires horses at 185 cm height, is this in many cases exaggerated. It is therefore a tip to measure the horse yourself. It is actually not so common that Shires are more than 185 cm, though many think so. When it comes to anticipating the height of youngsters, there are many different tricks and methods, but there are few that actually are reliable. Hereditary, environment, nutrition and general care are all factors that can play a part of this. All factors despites; tall horses can breed small ones, and likewise.

What about hoof care?

Before you actually buy a Shire horse, it may be useful to find out if there is a certificated blacksmith/ferrier to shoe your horse. Because they are so huge and heavy, their hoofs very often get too wide and unbalanced, if not trimmed often enough. Hoof crackers are unfortunately quite ordinary. It is therefore important that you provide for a competent hoof care for your horse that trims the hoofs often. Shire horses can function excellent as bare foot as well, but then it is very important with RIGHT hoof trim. (Link: www.barehoof.com) You also have to find out where to buy large enough shoes, since the Shire horse uses from size 5 and up. The size of the shoe can also vary from producer to producer.

Equipment size “elephant”…

Finding a saddle for your Shire horse should be pretty easy, as long as it is size x-wide. But it might be a problem finding a bellyband that is long enough. Halters and bridles must be size x-full or draft, and can be difficult to get. But luckily the availability is about to get better. The bits are also large; 15- 16,5 cm. And you can buy harness with certain producers in size shire/draft (www.nor-pol.no). Many wagons and carriages are too tight and short to fit a giant Shire horse, but if you are a bit handy it is possible to make it fit. Or you can hire someone to do it for you (www.bruvikvognfabrikk.no or www.hestogvogn.no). Tacks to avoid rain and bad weather can cause a bigger problem, since size 165 cm often is too tight. This varies of course for producer to producer and the building of the horse. You must therefore use the “try or throw away method”.

The temper

The Shire horse is actually a little dog wrapped in a huge body, and would rather sit on your lap being patted on the neck. Due to human health and natural causes, this must strictly be avoided… As written earlier it is easy learned, good minded and calm. They most certainly not jump around without reason, and take most new situations with total calmness. They are trusting and can be used to almost everything. They can also have a calming effect on other nervous horses in the traffic. The Shire horse is even calm despite having the weekend off, as long as it can come out in fresh air every day. (Remember the law on animal welfare) It is strong and can easily pull 5 tons and is pretty long-powered. But if you are looking for a good jumping horse to win lots of competitions, you should rather choose a different type of horse, though the Shire horse jump fences as well and do whatever they are trained to do like any other breed.

Then what?

If you have considered these points, you can start to actually look for the perfect Shire horse. The best tip will be to contact an experienced breeder. Unfortunately there are not too many registered Shires here in Norway, and it might be necessary to contact breeders across borders, approximately in Sweden, Germany or England. You can also call The English Shire Horse Society (0044 1733 234451) and order “List of breeders and exhibitors”. Look at as many horses you can before you make your choice. And try to meet the horse yourself and try it before you buy it. Get knowledge about parents and heritage. Has it been shown? What was the result? Has it been used in breeding? Does it have any certain problems you should know about? No questions are to dumb to ask, and if the breeder would be like to taken seriously, this should be obvious.

And remember:

When you meet the horse you must especially examine the body in general and the legs especial, and the tendons and muscles in particular. If you have no experience with this yourself, make sure to get someone who has to join you when you look at the horse. A veterinarian certificate must be taken before the deal is set, and approximately by a veterinarian that you advise to make sure that the salesman does not influence the result. It is also important to check how the horse reacts on handling, lifting feet, how it behaves amongst other horses, in the stable, at transport and study its moves. A Shire horse must always have full papers to be registrated as a full blooded Shire here in Norway. The horse must therefore have a passport. The papers must be approved to make the horse registrated at Norwegian Horse Centre it you are planning to use it in breeding. General care with deworming, dental care, hoof care and vaccination must have been fulfilled. X-rays of the legs can be necessary for stallions (to eliminate side bone) or expensive horses that are going to be used in breeding. This is to avoid future weaknesses in the heritage. You must also consider insuring the horse to make sure not to loose a lot of money if something should happen.

If there is anything else you wonder about, or just want to have a nice horse related chat, please contact us in the Norwegian Shire Horse Society. And remember: You don`t have to own a Shire horse to become a member. Everyone is welcome!