The breed joins the Cleveland Bay, Eriskay and Suffolk as breeds with fewer than 300 breeding mares – classifying them as “critical”.
It is the only horse breed to move up a category from “endangered” to “critical” on the 2012 watchlist. The RBST says its dwindling numbers are “of grave concern“.
“There are fewer than 150 registered adult breeding females,” said Claire Barber from the RBST.
“We are working with the Hackney Horse Society [HHS] to promote the breed, but with the financial climate as it is people are stopping breeding.”
Once one of England’s most prolific breeds, the introduction of Arab blood in the 1700s made them popular as carriage horses with a distinctive high-stepping action.
When horse-drawn transport faded in the 20th century, the hackney moved into the showring.
Barbara Stockton produces hackneys in Staffordshire.
“We need to breed more animals, but we have to look at economic realities,” she said.
“The breed has all the attributes you could want, but also unfortunately a reputation for being difficult. In reality, properly handled, they are no different to any other horse.”
The Hackney Horse Society, alongside the RBST, is hosting a show for all 12 equine breeds on the rare breed watchlist from 22-23 September at Bury Farm, Bucks, as a showcase – the first of its kind.
The RBST has semen from two hackneys in the gene bank, but is hoping to add a third with help from the HHS.
Do you use a hackney as a leisure horse? Let us know at email@example.com.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (23 February 2012)