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Will Britain's Oldest Survive?
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Will Britain's Oldest Survive?

The Suffolk Punch horse is a majestic breed that played a significant role in shaping Britain’s rural landscape and social history. At a time when the United Kingdom was industrializing and its population growing, this unique breed ploughed the fields, cut the corn, and transported wheat from farms to the mill.

Britain’s oldest, the Suffolk Punch horse is strong and a hard working gentle giant with a good temperament. These horses are characterized by their solid stature and stunning shiny chestnut coat. Today, this breed is critically endangered since there has been a decline in its numbers in the recent years.

Unlike other British horse breeds such as the Shire and the Clydesdale, the Suffolk Punch is usually shorter and massively built because of being developed specifically for agricultural work. There has been increased mechanization of agriculture in Britain and across the world, a factor that has contributed to the sharp decline in the breed’s population.

The big question now: what should Britain do to save the breed? Clare Euston, a landowner and Countess of Euston, has appealed for a campaign across the state to save the Suffolk Punch. According to her, losing the majestic breed would mean Britain doesn’t love or care for its animals, and especially its most beautiful and magnificent breed.

The special breed is known for its hard work as well as its energetic movement, particularly in the trot. Furthermore, it matures early and is economical to keep compared to other horse breeds of similar type and size. Currently, the number of Suffolk Punch horses in the United Kingdom has been reduced to about 300.

The health and viability of what was once the backbone of Britain’s rural life is now threatened. During World War I, they were harnessed for battle and also helped in hauling heavy artillery. The strong breed was also used to pull commercial vehicles and non-motorized vans. This made most of them to die but later in the 1920s and 1930s, they began increasing in numbers. Today, they are being used for forestry operations, drought work, and advertising.

Clare argues that the Suffolk Punch is indeed the oldest of Britain’s native breeds and should be given a special place in the public affections of the country. Although they were initially bred for agricultural work, it is important for them to be given new roles in modern life.

There are dedicated individuals who love the breed, and over the years they not only fought for it but also devoted their time to it by financing their efforts out of their own pockets. Clare is just one of them, and one of her strategic measures is to have a proper breeding program aimed at saving the breed. Of course, this needs funding from scientific bodies as well as conservation groups.

Clare was appointed Suffolk’s Lord Lieutenant in 2014, the first ever to be taken by a female. In her essay on the plight of the Suffolk breed, she indicates the need for urgent help for the breed to be saved from oblivion. Britain and the world as a whole cannot afford losing one of its most unique and beautiful horse breeds.

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