Over the last few months we have had a look at our native breeds of horse and pony in the UK and Ireland. But did you know that some of our native breeds have gone extinct? Let’s take a look at some of these lost breeds.
“Thrust him down stairs! know we not Galloway nags?” Pistol – Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare
These ponies originated from Galloway, Scotland and were originally bred to haul ore from the mines. They were small but hardy horses, believed to stand between 12-14hh. They were typically brown with black legs with a distinguishable small head and neck. It’s said that they tended to pace, rather than trot.
By 1814, they were already dwindling in numbers with one survey saying “This ancient race is almost lost, since farmers found it necessary to breed horses of greater weight, and better adapted to the draught.” It’s thought they became extinct due to crossbreeding. They heavily influenced other native breeds such as; Newfoundland, Fell and Highland ponies.
In some parts of the world, Galloway is used to refer to a large pony or small horse of any breed, typically between 14-15hh.
Old English Black
The Old English Black, also known as the Linconshire Black, is believed to be the result of crossbreeding with European horses brought over during the Norman Conquest in 1066 with the native British breeds. Despite being referred to as “black” the breed was not limited to this colour. They were mostly brown and chestnut, similar to the Clysdale.
Later, William III imported Dutch horses, possibly the Friesian, to improve the strength of the draught horses in England. The current horses weren’t strong enough to drain the Lincolnshire fens. This is most likely why they are also known as the Lincolnshire Blacks.
They have heavily influenced other native breeds of draught horse, such as the Shire and the Clysdale.
“And one amang, an Iyrysch man, Uppone his hoby swyftly ran…” The Bruce by John Barbour, 1375.
The Irish Hobby was developed in Ireland as early as the 13th Century. They were known for their speed and swiftness. They were popular for racing and for light cavalry, particularly skirmishing. Over time they were imported to England & Scotland where they were used in the war for Scottish Independence. There are even reports of King Edward I trying to block the Scottish imports of these horses to give the English the edge in battle.
Similar to the Galloway pony, successful crossbreeding was likely the cause of this horse’s extinction. They are believed to be the foundation for many breeds including; the thoroughbred, Irish draught and Connemara pony.
This breed also inspired the term “hobby horse”, coming from an Irish idiom saying “go get on your hobby horse.” Meaning to complain about something when no one is interested.
Yorkshire Coach Horse
A fairly modern breed, the Yorkshire Coach Horse is a cross between the Cleveland Bay and the Thoroughbred. Previously, the Cleveland Bay had been the best and most popular carriage horse. But as the quality of the roads improved, the Cleveland Bay wasn’t seen to be fast enough anymore. So they introduced thoroughbred blood, creating a tall and elegant carriage horse with unmatched speed and power.
The Yorkshire Coach Horse stud book opened in 1886. They were brown with dark legs, mane and tail. Thanks to the boom in the coaching era, they became incredibly popular. They were loved by the rich with it being said that hundreds of pairs could be seen pulling carriages through Hyde Park every day. They were also exported all over the world.
As cars developed and there was less need for carriage horses, they numbers of the breed declined with the stud book closing in 1936.
The Norfolk Trotter and Yorkshire Trotter are two breeds that were bred in England to be trotting horses. While we believe they are separate breeds, the names seem to be used interchangably throughout history, so it’s unclear if they were actually seperate breeds or not. It could be that the Norfolk Trotter was the original, with there being earlier records of their breeding and the Yorkshire Trotter developed from the Norfolk Trotter. But they are both also known as Roadsters.
The Norfolk Trotter was developed in Norfolk after King Henry VIII required the wealthy to keep a number of trotting stallions. Thanks to some thoroughbred cross breeding, these horses became the most popular, all round travel horse in England. They were the quickest horse across country and could travel heavy men over long distances. Once trotting races became popular in the 19th Century, they excelled.
They had a major influence on the Hackney and Standardbred breeds.
Last Updated on 19/01/2024