Numbers of Irish Horse Board-approved outcross Draught stallions available to Irish breeders has decreased at an alarming rate, according to a new study.
Early findings of the study, which has been funded by the Royal Dublin Show, also indicate that inbreeding within the Irish Draught Horse (IDH) population has been increasing to the point that 38% of the population born between 2000 and 2003 is inbred to some degree. The most dramatic increase occurred from 1996 onwards.
“These results show that the Draught Society must utilise all rare bloodlines and genetic resources, including those outside Ireland in the UK and America,” says a spokesman from the Rare Bloodlines Trust of the society, warning that if this trend continues unchecked it will lead to irreparable erosion of the genetic base of the Irish Draught Horse.
The Irish Draught was originally bred to be a versatile assistant to Irish farmers, who was equally capable of working the land, pulling a cart to market and carrying the farmer fox hunting. More recently the Irish Draught has been a popular choice for breeding with Thoroughbreds to produce the successful Irish Sport Horse, which has been extremely successful in the show jumping arena, as well as being an ideal allrounder.
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust lists the pure-bred Irish Draught as a vulnerable breed with a UK population of 120 breeding females in 1997.
This latest study, by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, is part of a project to help the breed remain pure by broadening its genetic base.