63 DECEMBER 2016 I HORSEillustrated.com
The Shire has a long history, ranging from
use as a war mount to a modern work horse.
BY KIM KLIMEK
The Shire horse is believed to descend from the English Great Horse, bred to have the strength, calmness of mind and willingness to serve as a war mount. Influences of draft horses from Holland and Flanders also contributed to the modern Shire breed.
From a medieval warhorse, the Shire moved on to
jobs transporting goods and helping people get from
point A to point B in the 14th century. By the 18th
century, farm work, hauling barges in the English
canals, pulling omnibuses in the cities, and carting
goods for railways, breweries, and coal mines
rounded out the Shire’s resume.
Of course, the need for the Shire, like most draft
horse breeds, declined significantly when mechanization facilitated
farming and transportation. The breed’s numbers declined until a
group of enthusiasts began efforts to ensure its continued survival in
the UK in the 1960s. As of today, the Shire population is estimated
at between 5,000 to 6,000 worldwide.
Modern Work Horse
Although heavy lifting remains largely a part of the breed’s history,
draft horses are still used in trades such as forestry because they are
easier on the environment
than trucks and tractors.
The majority, however,
can be seen in agricultural
shows featuring pulling
competitions, as well as
driving carriages for special
events and city tourists.
The breed’s calm mind and
friendly nature lend to its
strong work ethic and rapport
with its handlers.
To learn more about the
Shire horse, visit the American
Shire Horse Association at
KIM KLIMEK is a freelance writer
based in Kentucky.
HEIGHT: average 17. 1
hands; a few may be as
tall as 19 to 20 hands.
WEIGHT: 1,700 to 2,200
COLOR: black, brown,
bay or gray. Roaning
and excessive white
above the knees and
hocks is not desirable.
Shires sport fine, silky
feathering on their lower