Shire: This large heavy draft breed is believed to have decended from the English "Great Horse", a cold blooded heavy horse first mentioned in around 1066, brought into England after the Norman Conquest to carry knights in full armour. The breed was further developed by the addition of flemish, belgian and friesian blood. With the flemish, flanders horse, having the greatest influence on the evoluntion of the Shire.
The "Packington Blind Horse", from Leicestershire, is one of the best known horses of the era, with direct descendents being recorded from 1770 to 1832. This horse is considered the foundation stallion for the breed, and he stood at stud from 1755 to 1770. The term "Shire horse" was first used in the mid-17th century, and incomplete records begin to appear near the end of the 18th century.
In 1878, the English Cart Horse Society was formed, and in 1884 changed its name to the Shire Horse Society. The Society published a stud book, with the first edition in 1878 containing 2,381 stallions and records dating back to 1770.
During the 19th century, this breed being the largest of England's native horses, were used extensively as cart horses to move goods from the docks through the cities and countryside along rough roads.
The breed is renowned for it's impressive strength, and is able to pull considerable loads. In 1924 at the wembley exhibition, a pair of Shires pulled 16.5 tons of weight across granite paving tiles. The massive horse was originally the staple breed used to deliver ale from the brewery to the public houses. A few breweries still maintain this tradition in the UK. These include the Wadworth Brewery in Devizes Wiltshire and the Hook Norton Brewery. Today, the breed is also used for forestry work and leisure riding.
The most popular coat color of this breed is black with white feathering on the lower leg, they can also be found in bay, brown and grey. An immense horse, the average height being over 17 hands. The largest horse in recorded history was probably a stallion named Mammoth, who was born in 1848. He stood 21.2 hands high, and his peak weight was estimated at 3,300 lb.
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