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Posted on Wednesday, August 1, 2018 by Sasha Melia

Unless urgent action is taken, three breeds of the UK’s rarest horses could become extinct in the next 10 years. Numbers are worryingly low; just 240 Shire, 199 Clydesdale and 25 Suffolk pedigree foals were registered last year.


These numbers are in stark contrast to the 2.6 million heavy horses being used in agriculture and trade at the dawn of the twentieth century. The mechanisation of farming and warfare has meant that the original purposes of heavy horses may be a thing of the past, but these large horses have an essential role to play today, including in the army, policing, equine therapy and commercial logging.


The UK’s only charity dedicated to preserving rare breed farm animals and horses, Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), is calling for urgent public support to save them from extinction.


Jimmy Doherty, the RBST President said: “These working class heavy horse heroes need our help now so that they can survive and thrive in the future. That’s why we’ve launched a new social media campaign”.


The history of our working-class heroes

The UK’s Shire, Clydesdale and Suffolk horses have all played crucial roles in agriculture, transport and war in the United Kingdom and across the world. Heavy horses tirelessly worked the land, transported war supplies and even pulled carriages for the Royal family.


The reason why rare breed horses are so important

These breeds of horse reflect human developments and accomplishments across centuries. Our use of horses throughout history alone dictates that they are just as worthy of conservation as any other breed, landscape, stately home or historic monument.


A key part of RBST’s work involves collecting genetic material, which is stored in the UK National Livestock Gene Bank, making it possible to re-create a breed if extinction occurs.


The Suffolk Horse Society’s Nigel Oakley concluded: “We, as a generation, are custodians of our rare breed heavy horses. We should not let down our grandchildren’s children and allow the breeds to become extinct. We are responsible.”


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