Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Shire and Clydesdale: a Comparison

Imagine that you see two horses--a Shire and a Clydesdale. At first, if you know little about horses, you may say that they are the same horse. Though they are certainly quite similar physically, their historically backward has several differences.

Historical Background
  First, the Clydesdale comes from Scotland, not England. The breed was first introduced in the early 19th century after many years of selectively breeding local mares to Flemish stallions. By the late 19th century, Clydesdales had become extremely popular.  Both Scotland and North America had there own breeding association for the horse. After World War I, the number of Clydesdales dramatically declined due to the fact that most farmers had stopped using horse drawn plows. It wasn't until 1975 that they were considered on the brink of extinction and people began to breed them in order to save the species. Thirty years late the number of Clydesdale was greatly increased, and today there is estimated to be about 5,000 worldwide.

 Shires, which originate from England, have a different story. They are believed to be descendants of the Old English Black Horse, which was used in the 17th century. Later on, Friesians, as well as Dutch horses, were bred with the English horse and by the mid-17th century, the Shire was first mentioned. It wasn't until the late 1800s that the breed was officially formed. In the early 1900s, the Shire became popular in the U.S. Then, during World War II, draft horses began to disappear because of purchase of livestock feed was strict. Finally, in the '70s, the horse became popular once more in both America and England.

  In appearance, the horses are almost the same,  which is probably because of Clydesdale influence in the Shire. Both are big-boned and average  17 hands or more(a hand is four inches). Also, they  commonly have white markings on the legs and face with "feathers" around the ankles.

Uses Today
Today, both horses are commonly used for similar activities. Clydesdales often make great riding and sport horses and are often seen pulling carts or even doing agricultural work.  Shires, too, are used in sports such as cross country and obstacle driving, or just for everyday riding. 

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