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Breeds Of Horses

BREEDS OF HORSES The British breeds of light horses include the Thoroughbred, the Yorkshire Coach-horse, the Cleveland Bay, the Hackney and the Pony; of heavy horses, the Shire, the Clydesdale and the Suffolk.

The Thoroughbred is probably the oldest of the breeds, and it is known as the " blood-horse " on account of the length of time through which its purity of descent can be traced. The frame is light, slender and graceful. The points of chief importance are a fine, clean, lean head, set on free from collar heaviness; a long and strongly muscular neck, shoulders oblique and covered with muscle; high, long withers, chest of good depth and narrow but not extremely so; body round in type; back rib well down; depth at withers a little under half the height; length equal to the height at withers and croup; loins level and muscular; croup long, rather level; tail set on high and carried gracefully; the hind quarters long, strongly developed, and full of muscle and driving power; the limbs clean-cut and sinewy, possessing abundance of good bone, especially desired in the cannons, which are short, broad and flat; comparatively little space between the fore legs; pastern joints smooth and true; pasterns strong, clean and springy, sloping when at rest at an angle of 45; feet medium size, wide and high at the heels, concave below and set on straight. The action in trotting is generally low, but the bending of the knee and the flexing of the hock is smooth, free and true. The thoroughbred is apt to be nervous and excitable, and impatient of common work, but its speed, resolution and endurance, as tested on the race-course, are beyond praise.

Many of the best hunters in the United Kingdom are thoroughbreds, but of the substantial weight-carrying type. The Hunters Improvement Society, established in 1885, did not restrict entries to the Hunters' Slud-Book to entirely clean-bred animals, but admitted those with breeding enough to pass strict inspection. This society acts in consort with two other powerful organizations (the Royal Commission on Horse-breeding, which began its work in 1888, and the Brood Mare Society, established in 1903), with the desirable object of improving the standard of light horse breeding. The initial efforts began by securing the services of thoroughbred stallions for specified districts, by offering a limited number of " Queen's Premiums," of 200 each, to selected animals of four years old and upwards. Since the formation of the Brood Mare Society mares have come within the Sphere of influence of the three bodies, and well-conceived inducements are offered to breeders to retain their young mares at home. The efforts have met with gratifying success, and they were much needed, for while in 1904 the Dutch government took away 350 of the best young Irish mares, Great Britain was paying the foreigner over 2,000,000 a year for horses which the old system of management did not supply at home. The Royal Dublin Society also keeps a Register of Thoroughbred Stallions under the horse-breeding scheme of 1892, which, like the British efforts, is now bearing fruit.

The Yorkshire Coach-horse is extensively bred in the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire, and the thoroughbred has taken a share in its development. The colour is usually bay, with black or brown points. A fine head, sloping shoulders, strong loins, lengthy quarters, high-stepping action, flat bon^ and sound feet are characteristic. The height varies from 16 hands to 1 6 hands 2 in.

The Cleveland Bay is an ancestor of the Yorkshire Coach-horse and is bred in parts of Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland. He is adapted alike for the plough, for heavy draught, and for slow saddle work. Some specimens make imposing-looking carriage horses, but they have low action and are lacking in quality. The colour is light or dark bay, with black legs. Though rather coarse-headed, the Cleveland Bay has a well-set shoulder and neck, a deep chest and round barrel. The height is from 1 6 to 17 hands.

The Hackney has come prominently to the front in recent years. The term Nag, applied to the active riding or trotting horse, is derived from the A.S. hnegan, to neigh. The Normans brought with them their own word haquenee, or hacquenee, a French derivative from the Latin equus, a horse, whence the name hackney. Both nag and hackney continue to be used as synonymous terms. Frequent mention is made of hackneys and trotters in old farm accounts of the 14th century. The first noteworthy trotting hackney stallion, of the modern type, was a horse foaled about 1753, and known as the Schales, Shields or Shales horse, and most of the recognized hackneys of to-day trace back to him. The breeding of hackneys is extensively pursued in the counties of Norfolk, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Lincoln and York, and in the showyard competitions a keen but friendly rivalry is usually to be noticed between the hackney-breeding farmers of Norfolk and Yorkshire. The high hackney action is uncomfortable in a riding horse. Excellent results have sometimes followed the use of hackney sires upon half-bred mares, i.e. by thoroughbred stallions and trotting mares, but it is not always so. As regards the movement, or " action," of the hackney, he should go light in hand, and the knee should be well elevated and advanced during the trot, and, before the foot is put down, the leg should be well extended. The hackney should also possess good hock action, as distinguished from mere fetlock action, the propelling power depending upon the efficiency of the former. The hackney type of the day is " a powerfully built, short-legged, big horse, with an intelligent head, neat neck, strong, level back, powerful loins, and as perfect shoulders as can be obtained, good feet, flat-boned legs, and a height of from 15 hands 2 in. to 15 hands 3j in. Carriage-horses hackney-bred have been produced over 17 hands high.

The Pony differs essentially from the hackney in height, the former not exceeding 14 hands. There is one exception, which is made clear in the following extract from Sir Walter Gilbey's Ponies Past and Present (1900):

Before the establishment of the Hackney Horse Society in 1883 the dividing line between the horse and the pony in England was vague and undefined. It was then found necessary to distinguish clearly between horses and ponies, and, accordingly, all animals measuring 14 hands or under were designated " ponies," and registered in a separate part of the (Hackney) Stud-Book. This record of height, with other particulars as to breeding, etc., serves to direct breeders in their choice of sires and dams. The standard of height established by the Hackney Horse Society was accepted and officially recognized by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1889, when the prize-list for the Windsor show contained pony classes for animals not exceeding 14 hands. The altered polo-rule, which fixes the limit of height at 14 hands 2 in., may be productive of some little confusion; but for all other purposes 14 hands is the recognized maximum height of a pony. Prior to 1883 small horses were called indifferently Galloways, hobbies, cobs or ponies, irrespective of their height.

Native ponies include those variously known as Welsh, New Forest, Exmoor, Dartmoor, Cumberland and Westmorland, Fell, Highland, Highland Garron, Celtic, Shetland and Connemara. Ponies range in height from 14 hands down to 8 hands, Shetland ponies eligible for the Stud-Book not exceeding the latter. As in the case of the hackney, so with the pony, thoroughbred blood has been used, and with good results, except in the case of those animals which have to remain to breed in their native haunts on the hills and moorlands. There the only possible way of improvement is by selecting the best native specimens, especially the sires, to breed from. The thin-skinned progeny of thoroughbred or Arab stock is too delicate to live unless when hand-fed and hand-feeding is not according to custom. Excellent polo ponies are bred as first or second crosses by thoroughbred stallions on the mares of nearly all the varieties of ponies named. The defective formation of the pony, the perpendicular shoulder and the drooping hind quarters, are modified; but neither the latter, nor bent hocks, which place the hind legs under the body as in the zebra, are objected to, as the conformation is favourable to rapid turning. One object of the pony breeder, while maintaining hardiness of constitution, is to control size to compress the most valuable qualities into small compass. He endeavours to breed an animal possessing a small head, good shoulders, true action and perfect manners. A combination of the best points of the hunter with the style and finish of the hackney produces a class of weightcarrying pony which is always saleable.

The Shire horse owes its happily-chosen name to Arthur Young's remarks, in the description of his agricultural tours during the closing years of the 18th century, concerning the large Old English Black Horse, " the produce principally of the Shire counties in the heart of England." Long previous to this, however, the word Shire, in connexion with horses, was used in the statutes of Henry VIII. Under the various names of the War Horse, the Great Horse, the Old English Black Horse and the Shire Horse, the breed has for centuries been cultivated in the rich fen-lands of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, and in many counties to the west. The Shire is the largest of draught horses, the stallion commonly attaining a height of 17 to 17-3 hands. Though the black colour is still frequently met with, bay and brown are more usually seen. With their immense size and weight 1800 Ib to 2200 ft the Shires combine great strength, and they are withal docile and intelligent. They stand on short stout legs, with a plentiful covering sometimes too abundant of long hair extending chiefly down the back but also round the front of the limbs from knees and hocks, and when in full feather obscuring nearly the whole of the hoofs. The head is a good size, and broad between the eyes; the neck fairly long, with the crest well arched on to the shoulders, which are deep and strong, and moderately oblique. The chest is wide, full and deep, the back short and straight, the ribs are round and deep, the hind quarters long, level and well let down into the muscular thighs. The cannon-bones should be flat, heavy and clean, and the feet wide, tough, and prominent at the heels. A good type of Shire horse combines symmetrical outlines and bold, free action. There is a good and remunerative demand for Shire geldings for use as draught horses in towns.

The Clydesdale, the Scottish breed named from the valley of the Clyde, is not quite so large as the Shire, the average height of stallions being about 16 hands 2 in. The popular colour is bay, particularly if of a dark shade, or dappled. Black is not uncommon, but grey is not encouraged. White markings on one or more of the legs, with a white star or stripe on the face, are characteristic. The long hair on the legs is not so abundant as in the Shires, and it is finer in texture. It is regarded as an indication of good bone. The bones of the legs should be short, flat, clean and hard; the feet large, with hoofs deep and concave below. With its symmetry, activity, strength and endurance the Clydesdale is easily broken to harness, and makes an excellent draught horse. This breed is growing rapidly in favpur in Canada, but in the United States the Percheron, with its round bone and short pasterns, holds the field. A blend of the Shire and Clydesdale strains of the British rough-legged draught horse (virtually sections of the same breed) is a better animal than either of the parents. It is an improvement upon the Shire due to the quality contributed by the Clydesdale, and it surpasses the Clydesdale in strength and substance, as a result of the Shire connexion. To secure success the two Stud-Books will require to be opened to animals eligible to be entered in either record. The blend is being established in U.S.A. as a National breed.

The Suffolk is a horse quite distinct from the Shire and the Clydesdale. Its body looks too heavy for its limbs, which are free from the " feather " so much admired in the two other heavy breeds; it possesses a characteristic chestnut colour. How long the Suffolks have been associated with the county after which they are named is unknown, but they are mentioned in 1 586 in Camden's Britannia. With an average height of about 1 6 hands they often have a weight of as much as 2000 Ib., and this may explain the appearance which has given rise to the name of the Suffolk Punch, by which the breed is known. The Suffolk is a resolute and unwearying worker, and is richly endowed with many of the best qualities of a horse. The Suffolk Stud-Book and History of the Breed, published in 1880, is the most exhaustive record of its kind in England. (W. FR.; R. W.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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