About Shire Horses
Shire Horses are the largest – and among the oldest – of the
British horse breeds. Among its ancestors were the chariot horses of the
Britons – described and admired greatly by Julius Caesar two thousand years
For centuries its primary role was as a War Horse (its
original name). It has also been known as the Great Horse and the Strong Horse.
Strengthened by crossing with horses imported from Europe
(e.g. Friesian Horses), the breed was steadily increased in size and strength
as the chain mail and then plate armour of its riders increased in heaviness.
This attained its greatest weight in the reign of Henry VIII. An Elizabethan
writer estimated that the average Great Horse could carry up to four
hundredweight (450 pounds or 205 kilograms).
As the requirements of warfare changed, so other uses were
found for these immensely strong horses – notably the hauling of carriages and
heavy carts on the poor roads of the times. Their use for pulling farm
equipment was a further development.
The modern Shire horse reached its present form by
development from the Great Horse in the Shire counties of middle England. The
English Cart Horse Society was founded in 1878 and in 1884 became the Shire
Horse Society. (The Stud Book for stallions, however, goes back to 1800.)
Although black is historically the characteristic color of Shire
horses, grey is also regarded as indicating pure blood. Other colors appear
more commonly nowadays. A mature stallion can stand up to 18 hands (1.83 meters)
high and weigh up to 1000 kilograms, with mares and geldings generally being
Source: New Zealand rare Breeds (www.rarebreeds.co.nz