“Urgent action” is needed to save three British heavy horse breeds from extinction, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has warned.
The RBST has launched an appeal for support in its efforts to protect Shires, Clydesdales and Suffolks, numbers of which are “worryingly low”.
Last year, 240 Shire, 199 Clydesdale and just 25 Suffolk pedigree foals were registered.
“These numbers are in stark contrast to the 2.6 million heavy horses being used in agriculture and trade at the dawn of the 20th century,” said an RBST spokesman
“The mechanisation of farming and warfare has meant the original purposes of heavy horses may be a thing of the past, but these large horses have an essential role to play today, including in the army, policing, equine therapy and commercial logging.”
The RBST, the only UK charity dedicated to preserving rare farm animal and equine breeds, has created a video celebrating the heavy horse, and a fundraising appeal.
“These working class heavy horse heroes need our help now so that they can survive and thrive in the future, said trust president Jimmy Doherty.
The film celebrates the breeds’ “crucial” roles in agriculture, transport and war, in Britain and abroad, as well as their uses today.
“These breeds of horse reflect human developments and accomplishments across centuries,” said the spokesman.
“Our use of horses throughout history alone dictates that they are just as worthy of conservation as any other breed, landscape, stately home or historic monument.”
A major aspect of the RBST’s work is collecting genetic material, which is stored in the UK National Livestock Gene Bank, “making it possible to re-create a breed if extinction occurs”.
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The Suffolk Horse Society’s Nigel Oakley said: “We, as a generation, are custodians of our rare breed heavy horses.
“We should not let down our grandchildren’s children and allow the breeds to become extinct. We are responsible.”
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