Shire horse: characteristics

Shire horse: characteristics

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Tireless and always trained, strong and resistant, the Shire horse it is a workhorse for even heavy loads but is also used in many sports competitions as it does not do badly at all. We find it excel in many different disciplines but it does not excel in complex ones such as jumping or dressage. We can find him nicknamed in many different ways and each of them tells us something about him: large horse for its imposing size, horse of the beer wagons, war horse, old English black horse.

Shire horse: origins

A large black horse, powerful and robust, already appears in the works of Julius Caesar, in his work De bello Gallico, and all experts suspect that it is precisely the our Shire, the same breed of horse that later, in the Middle Ages, was widely used as a workhorse, given his imposing bulk. It was in fact indicated not with the name of Shire but as war horse (war horse) e great horse (big horse).

Around the year one thousand, after the Battle of Hastings in England which took place in 1066, these horses were crossed with stallions of other breeds such as the Frisian, the Flemish and the Alemanno and some of the hitherto distinctive characteristics changed. Just to give an example, by mixing your own blood with that of the Frisian, the movements became more fluid, agile and light.

Another shock to the breed standard, not yet put on paper, came in the first half of the seventeenth century when the Dutch arrived in England to reclaim the marshy area of ​​Fens, in the eastern part, and brought with him Dutch, German and Flemish horses. From the crossing with the local breed of warhorse, the Old English Black originated. We are close to the birth of the Shire breed because the first specimen, the progenitor therefore, lived between 1755 and 1770 and its name has remained in the memory: Packington Blind Horse.

From that moment on there were fewer modifications and crossings and the breed acquired esteem and importance over time. These horses were often used for the transport of goods in the nineteenth century and the breed was also made official with the creation of the English Cart Horse Society which later became the Shire Horse Society in 1884. Being very linked to the transport of goods, the Shire horses risked extinction and disappear from circulation when the motor vehicles arrived but today they are still used in races and sports competitions with great success, as we will see later.

Shire horse: characteristics

When we talked about a big horse, it wasn't a joke, we are dealing with a horse that must be tall at least 173 cm and have weight between 900 kg and 1100 kg as an adult. If you compare these figures with those of other breeds you will see what a difference!

It is sometimes described as a black horse but in truth it can also be brown, bay or gray, never roan or chestnut color and if possible without white spots too noticeable on the body. The mane and tail should not be too thick, but with fine, straight and silky hair

It has a head of size in proportion to its mass, long and dry, at times with a very evident jaw, with two very sweet and expressive eyes, and also large, with a Roman profile and a nose with wide and thin nostrils and attached lips, never drooping. The ears come out nice long and dry, they always look very alert and they even have one pointed shape.

The neck is long, slightly arched and well rounded, the shoulders strong and oblique, and also wide enough to support the collar. Let's move on to the limbs that can only be very robust given the performances that this animal can boast. The ribs are round, deep and well sprung, the back is muscled and short and the loins strong and harmoniously inserted. The forelegs are straight and well in line above the pastern while the hind legs have hocks should not be too elusive nor swollen or sickle-shaped. The feet must also be strong, solid and wide, with thick and open walls.

Shire horse: character

This horse is definitely a hardy animal, otherwise he would not have been at the side of man for so long carrying loads before the advent of engines. He is also very docile and meek, it is not difficult to train him but basically he has a strong character that makes him tenacious and gritty even in competitions.

Shire horse: attitudes

Given the tonnage in the past it was decided to use the Shire horse as a towed animal, even for agricultural machinery or beer wagons, it had almost become a symbol for this. We also find him as a champion in many competitions and holder of some interesting records.

A Shire was the tallest horse of all time, he measured 2.20 meters at the withers and weighed about 1.4 tons (1,400 kg). It was nicknamed Mammoth that is mammoth. Today it is difficult for any Shire to exceed this record dating back to the nineteenth century because the maximum height of the breed has decreased and is only 2.07 m at the withers. Another Guinness won is related to its power. At the 1924 Wembley Fair Vesuvius and Umber, a couple from Shire, hauled an 18.5-ton load over a slippery granite surface.

Shire horse: breeding

There are farms in Italy that deal with this type of breed, an esteemed breed that undoubtedly knows how to surprise and make people fall in love. For more information, we recommend that you consult the website of the Italian association

Shire horse: price

For its size but also for its indefatigable being, this horse is today one of the most precious and expensive: the price fluctuates from 5,000 to 30,000 euros for a stallion, a very variable price depending on the characteristics of the individual specimen.

You may also be interested in our articles on the following horse breeds:

  • Arabian horse
  • Clydesdale horse

Video: Dressage to music at North Wales Shire Open Day (June 2022).


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