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calendar   Thursday - January 29, 2009

History on the hoof



Standing like tanks on the brow of the hill

Up into the cold wind facing

In stiff battle harness, chained to the world

Against the low sun racing.



Bring me a wheel of oaken wood

A rein of polished leather

A Heavy Horse and a tumbling sky

Brewing heavy weather.




‘rarer than pandas’, heavy horses are facing extinction



Heavy horses could be extinct in Britain within a generation, conservationists warned yesterday. Some traditional breeds are under such threat that they are said to be rarer than giant pandas. The Suffolk Punch is listed as ‘ critical’ with only 100 pairs left in the UK. Others including the Clydesdale are listed as ‘vulnerable’ with just a few hundred breeding pairs remaining. Shires - Britain’s best-known working breed - are said to be ‘at risk’. Experts say the huge creatures are dying out before they can be replaced because of a reduction in the number of UK breeders.

Heavy horses have traditionally been used for farm work, pulling wagons and even in warfare where they hauled artillery around the battlefield. But after the Second World War the increasing use of machinery spelled the end of their widespread use on farms and numbers began to drop.



The Suffolk, the Clydesdale, the Percheron vie

with the Shire on his feathers floating.

Hauling soft timber into the dusk

to bed on a warm straw coating.



Heavy Horses, move the land under me.

Behind the plough gliding slipping and sliding free.

Now you’re down to the few

And there’s no work to do:

The tractor’s on its way.


image

The warning about their decline was issued yesterday by animal charities and by Harry Gotts, 80, one of Britain’s last heavy-horse breeders.

Mr Gotts, of Redruth, Cornwall, says unless drastic action is taken to increase their numbers they could soon become extinct. ‘It is very sad,’ he said. ‘More Suffolk Punch horses die now than are born. They are rarer than giant pandas. If we are not very careful, they will die out.’

At the the Shire Horse Farm and Carriage Museum in Redruth, Mr Gotts has ten Suffolk Punches, seven Clydesdales and six Shires. Dawn Teverson, Head of Conservation at the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, said: ‘A lot of the mares are used as show animals which means they aren’t breeding, and you also can’t guarantee that a mare will produce a foal every year.’





Poetry by Ian Anderson. You really didn’t me to tell you that did you?


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 01/29/2009 at 07:53 PM   
Filed Under: • AnimalsUK •  
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