Every horse breed comes with peculiar histories and characteristics. However, most of them are not as linked to British heritage and history as the shire horse. This particular horse breed has undoubtedly proved pivotal in the nation’s development – with its roots going back as far as the Middle Age.
This shire horse has been said to have come from a popular horse known simply as the Great Horse who was a warhorse in his heyday.
When you think of the shire horse, you usually picture it in fields in the countryside and the fact is that these horses have been used for agriculture and in the pulling of heavy carts proves that point. By the time the 18th century was drawing to a close, there was a very popular stallion (Packington Blind Horse) who was a Leicestershire stud. He is referred to as the shire horse’s founding sire.
With all this in mind, let us now look at some fun facts about the shire horse.
They were majorly used in the delivery of ale from the breweries
Shire horses were majorly used in the pulling of carts that delivered ale to public houses from breweries. Prior to the initial world war, shire horses were normally utilized as farm horses that pulled wagons as well as worked on farms.
During the period coal was the main source of heat and light, shire horses were used to carry huge amounts of coal from one terrain to another. They still maintain their popularity even today, albeit just for carrying sightseeing wagons. Brewers also use these horses for deliveries.
This horse breed is among the tallest breeds
With a height of close to 17 hands, the Shire is reportedly among the tallest breeds of horses anywhere in the world. A Shire’s standard requirement is around 16.2 hands high, but stallions can be as tall as 17.2 hands. Before his demise, a Shire known as Goliath was recognized as the tallest horse in the world according to Guinness’ World Records.
This Shire was astonishingly 19 hands high. On a similar note, the largest horse in the world was also a shire known as Mammoth. This horse was 21.25 hands high while also weighing more than 3300 pounds.
This horse is able to pull a weight of close to 45 tons
During an English exhibition in 1924, it was discovered that the Shire could be able to lift a load weighing more than 45 tons. It is actually unclear the exact weight that was pulled. This is because the Shire surpassed the reading limit of the scale. On slippery surfaces, the horses were able to carry loads of over 16.5 tonnes without encountering any difficulties.
Shire horses are quite docile while being one of the biggest horses
Even with their incredible height, Shires are very docile and calm. This is a trait that is actually very typical of a lot of cold-blooded horses (like the Ardennes horse for example). They have a reputation of being calm and easy to train. This is why they’re great for every beginner. Rearing, spooking and shying are behaviors that are uncommon in Shire horses.
On a general note, these horses don’t really mind kids, pets, or loud noises. Their calm temperament is usually attributed to their time as war horses. This ultimately required them to stay calm in any situation, no matter how chaotic it was.
The Shire horse’s worldwide population is now less than 1500
Prior to machines taking over as workhorses of agriculture, Shires were well regarded for their incredible pulling power. Since horses aren’t needed anymore to pull drafts, Shire horses have joined the endangered horse breed list – especially in the UK, Canada, and the US. It is now estimated that less than 1500 Shire horses exist worldwide, making them an endangered animal.
The Shire horse is a working horse
It is almost impossible to beat the work ethic and sheer strength that is rightly attributed to the Shire horse. They are quick learners and they love to please at any cost. This horse is capable of pulling and plowing. They’re also so simple to train as riding horses. As far as they are well conditioned, they will be able to work for a long time on the fields or anywhere else.
As recreational horses, Shire horses are quite expensive
Pure Shire horses can command high prices. Stud fees for stallions are normally advertised for between $400 – $600. Even the mixed Shire breeds can command prices of up to $5,000 – $10,000.
Even though not everyone will be able to handle the Shire horse because of its height, a lot of people have found that having the Shire is a very rewarding experience – especially if you’re a heavy rider.
Shire horses require extra grooming
Even though the feathering on the ankles of the shire horse is beautiful, it still needs regular grooming. A major reason why this is done is to prevent a bacterial infection known as dew poisoning or mud fever.
It leads to the horse having crusty scabbing on its ankles which can be painful. The most effective way of avoiding this infection is by keeping the horse dry as well as treating any signs or symptoms of infection with antibiotics as soon as possible.
The Shire horse’s name comes from the place it originated from
“Shire” is actually a reflection of the place the breed originated from – rural shires like Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.
Shire horses usually vary in color
This horse comes in different colors that include black, gray, chestnut, and bay. However, the UK breed doesn’t allow or provide for the chestnut color.
Feeding your Shire horse
Shire horses actually require more food than most of the other horse breeds because of their large size. It is advisable that you find out the most balanced diet for your horse. This is because the Shire will need enough nutrient requirements and this can vary according to age and the stages of development.