It is hoped the campaign will help raise awareness of the plight of the UK’s heavy horses and also increase donations, which will help to fund the collection of much-needed genetic material for the Gene Bank.
These gentle giants were once a familiar sight in every town and village in the country, as they managed the land by pulling drays and ploughing the fields.
The decline began during World War One, when thousands of heavy horses died whilst 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 with the mechanisation of transport, agriculture and industry, there was consequently no need to keep them.
Numbers are falling at an alarming rate, registered breeding Suffolk mares have fallen from 1,334 in 1947 to just 73 in 2017.
RBST are raising awareness that if we wish to keep our heritage alive, we need to support the National Livestock Gene Bank. Without collecting genetic material from these unique breeds now, in a decade we could lose a breed forever.
Tom Beeston, RBST CEO said,
‘These heavy horses were here for us when we needed them, now it’s our turn to act to save these iconic breeds’.
To save 1 horse: £68
Field Officer support for 1 day: £250
Save a full horse collection: £5000
Save a breed: £125,000
Save heavy horses: £375,000
To put it into context, here are equine breeds on the Watchlist (this list is based on numbers of registered breeding females in the United Kingdom):