Irish Draught horses in the Great War

Irish Draught War Horse

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
“Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning
“We will remember them.”

Today across the UK people will be taking a minutes silence to remember those who lost their lives fighting for this country. So many men lost their lives during the Great War, but one fact which stood out to me during my degree was the impact the Great War had on the Irish Draught breed. So since EquiPepper is an equine blog, I thought today would be a good time to remember the horses who also lost their lives during the Great War.

Horses in the Great War

The first world war was the first of its kind and no one really knew what the front lines would be like. Because of this, horses and cavalry were still considered to be an important part of the war effort. Britain alone sent over 1.2 million horses to the front lines to help with the war effort. However, only 62,000 horses made it home.

It is unknown exactly how many horses died in battle, as many would have run loose onto enemy grounds, died of injury and sickness and at the end of the war, not all horses could be brought home. I’m sure we have all seen the sad seen in War Horse when you realise Joey can’t go home and will instead go to auction!

Demands on the War Horse

Where as in the past, War Horses needed to be fit and agile to keep up with the demands on the cavalry. The grueling conditions of the boggy front line and the shift from running in the cavalry to pulling carts and guns meant that stronger, hardier horses were needed. Plus with rations on the front line slim, they also needed to be good doers.

The Irish Draught breed ticked all of these boxes. They were agile enough to spend a day hunting but could also pull the cart with ease. They were also incredibly cheap to feed. All of these things led to thousands of Irish Draughts being sent to the front line.

Almost the end of the Irish Draught

With the Irish Draught stil being a relatively new breed before the Great War, their high demand during the war nearly saw the end of the breed. This would have been a huge shame as while this breed may not be in high demand now, they have contributed to the Irish Sports Horse, which is a hugely desirable breed in a variety of disciplines.

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