Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) is the only charity in the UK working to secure the future of native breeds of farm livestock. By monitoring numbers of registered breeding females, saving genetic material in the UK National Livestock Gene Bank and promoting these unique and important breeds use and future value.
Your donation will directly fund collections from stallions in the National Livestock Gene Bank, this material will be used in breeding to ensure genetic health within the breeds and some will be kept for the future and will make it possible to recreate a breed if extinction does occur. Costs of collection are high and can only be carried out at certain times of the year and to make sure these incredible breeds are safe from extinction, we need to collect from 25 different stallions from each heavy horse breed. The Gene Bank is vital to safeguard these breeds from possible extinction but so is increasing numbers on the ground, this area of our work has been complicated by the equine welfare crisis, but it is essential for the future of the breed.
Without this work in a decade we could lose a breed of heavy horse forever. The Shire, Suffolk and Clyesdale horses are all under threat of extinction as numbers continue to fall year on year.
Clydesdale mare and foal (Catherine Hodge)
These gentle giants were once a familiar sight in every town and village in the country, as they helped us manage the land by pulling drays and ploughing the fields. The initial decline began during World War One, when thousands of heavy horses died hauling heavy artillery into the trenches. Numbers steadily increased during the period in-between the World Wars, only to steeply drop after the introduction of tractors. As the UK embraced industrialisation, there was consequently no need to keep them.
Numbers have been falling since, but in the last 3 years they began to drop an alarming rate, registered breeding Suffolk mares have fallen from 1,334 in 1947 to just 73 in 2017.
Tom Beeston, RBST CEO ‘These heavy horses were here for us when we needed them, now it’s our turn to act to save these iconic breeds’.
Suffolk Horses ploughing (John Green)
Please make a donation today and help save the UK's heavy horses for the future.
Shire Horses ploughing by Bruce Deacon