The beginnings of the Shire Stallion go back to William the Conqueror's arrival in England in 1066, when he brought with him an enormous horse called "The Great One." But despite their intimidating size, Shire horses are quiet, calm and easy to handle. These lovely, cold-blooded horses are the most popular draft horses in the United Kingdom.
Scientific & Common Names
Genus & Species - Equus ferus caballus
Common Names - Shire, The Great Horse
Shire horses are quite large, reaching 16 to 19 hands in height. They are also heavy and muscular, weighing up to 2000 lbs. They come in bay, black, gray, chestnut, brown, and very rarely in sorrel with minimal white markings. They also have liberal feathering on their feet.
Like most stallions, Shire stallions are ready for breeding around age 3 or 4. Shire stallions, like many other draft breeds, often have fertility issues. Additionally, Shire stallions should be bred to mares that are a similar size. Because of their larger sizes, Shire stallions could injure a smaller mare or give her a foal that is too large to birth normally.
Shire horses are personable, calm and patient. Additionally, they are very hard-working, a trait that made them valuable to farmers and others who needed strong draft horses before the Industrial Revolution.
Before heavy draft breeds were introduced to the British Isles, British horses were smaller and more delicate. William the Conqueror brought heavy horses to England in 1066; by the 12th century, Flemish horses contributed to the gene pool from which Shires emerged. When knights went into battle, they needed a large, strong horse to carry their weight and the weight of a suit of armor. Shire horses fit the bill. The people of Yorkshire and Lancashire in England continued breeding and refining these horses for farming and other draft uses.
After the mechanization of modern farming, the numbers of Shire stallion horses fell from over 1 million to just a few thousand in the 1960s. Currently, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy considers the Shire horse "at risk," indicating fewer than 2,000 registered horses of this breed. Only 250 Shire horses are registered in the United States each year, and the numbers of British Shire horses are similar.