The Shire Horse Society
During the British Industrial Revolution, demand for goods throughout the UK increased to an extent which saw a massive rise in use of the rail networks for transportation - rail haulage provided a quicker service at greater distances. However, more local demands also grew providing a constant stream of work for heavy horses whose numbers grew continually throughout the 19th Century.
As such, the English Cart Horse Society was founded in 1878, inspired in no small part by the enthusiasm of the future King Edward VII for heavy horses and their incredible durability. The Society’s goal was to improve the quality of horses through its pedigree and show system.
1880 saw the Society’s first Spring Show, at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, London. One hundred and seventeen animals were exhibited, with the first Champion being a stallion called Admiral 71.
In 1884, the name ‘Shire’ horse was established, and the Society’s name changed to the Shire Horse Society of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
The Society then launched educational activities to transform the standard of management, and treatment of working horses.
Early in its history, the Society was fundamental in the export of Shires, and in 1888 issued a record breaking 1,400 pedigree export certificates. The Shires were in strong demand in the USA, Canada, Australia, South America, Germany and Russia.
However, the mechanisation of transport, agricultural and industrial change, brought a decline in the numbers of Shire horses – and this decline accelerated rapidly following the Second World War. In fact, by 1958, the Stud Book contained just five colts and eleven fillies.
Just five years later, the Society faced a tough choice – was it worth continuing with such small numbers of animals, a retiring secretary, and a marked reduction in income?
Thankfully, there were a few stubborn stalwarts remaining, whose passion for the Shire over-rode practical considerations, and the Society soldiered on.
The Society’s National Show still takes place in March each year, allowing the best of Shires to be shown. Enthusiasts from all over the world meet, along with the public, to get close to and appreciate these magnificent horses.
Thanks to those stalwarts, interest in the Shire began to grow and soon turned into enthusiasm. Membership and numbers of breeders has grown with ever increasing momentum, and the export of horses has not only resumed, but has steadily increased to Shire horses exported Worldwide.
In July 2019, the Shire Horse Society moved to new purpose-built offices in the grounds of Rockingham Castle in Leicestershire to allow it to continue its work and growth.
What we do
Founded in 1878, the Shire Horse Society is your ‘go to’ resource for all things related to the Breed. We continue to promote Shire Horses, and maintain its comprehensive stud book.
The charity actively encourages and promotes the breeding of the Shire Horse throughout the United Kingdom, together with the conservation and development of these horses very much seen as a part of our national heritage.
Within our website you will find information about how we continue to protect and promote the Shire Horse, and how you can help us continue our work.