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 ago.
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 armor 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
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
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 less massive.
Source: New Zealand rare Breeds (www.rarebreeds.co.nz )