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Though the local "country fair" is pretty tacky in some respects, it was fun enough - and local enough - for us to go on two days, taking Draco with us. He was too young to enter the dog show (and besides, would have stood no chance against the spectacular borzoi who won the pedigree pup class.)

I also managed to startle the Aussie chap who was demonstrating sheep shearing and whip work by actually knowing that what he was wielding was a stock whip. ("Who was that said "stock whip"?" in tones of incredulity.) Blame that on all the Aussie books I read as a kid - Mary Elwyn Patchett for instance.

However, much the best thing was the chance to get up close and personal with some Suffolk horses (also known as the Suffolk Punch) one of the rarest of domestic horse breeds.

Suffolk Gelding



Suffolk Punch Gelding

Manes had been traditionally braided

Traditional Heavy Horse Plaiting

Best of all, though, they had a filly foal with them, one of two born to this particular group this year. This is great news, because Suffolk mares have a bad habit of dropping mainly male foals. I suspect this this was selected for in the days when a Suffolk gelding was one of the finest working horses around. Unfortunately, nowadays, with the breed in such desperate trouble, colt foals are not exactly as welcome as they once were.

Here she is...

Suffolk Filly Foal

Grooming Mum - Suffolk Punch Filly Foal

Though the foundation stallion of the Suffolk breed was only 15.2hh and the breed looks smaller than it is because it is so low to the ground, the geldings are over 17 hands and, though the filly is only about six months old, she's a big girl.

Indeed, when she was spooked by the wind, she proved quite a handful.

Suffolk foal playing up

I missed the bit when she stood on her hind legs!

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Aren't they? And they are such kind and willing animals too.

It is really a shame - the French equivalent, the Percheron, is now the heavy hunter cross of choice in the States, and the Belgian equivalent, the Ardennais, is still used across Europe for such tasks as dragging logs out of steep woods, and both are therefore perfectly safe, but the Suffolk just went into this decline.

Edited at 2009-09-02 10:42 am (UTC)

I like Suffolk Punches. I used to go to the Suffolk Show every year, so I used to see a lot of them. I don't know how many there would have been at this year's though - I'm betting not that many, and that's in their home county, so to speak.

Actually, there do seem to be more around at the moment - the Suffolk Horse Society http://www.suffolkhorsesociety.org.uk/ has its HQ in Suffolk and I was impressed by the number of stallions they list in the UK.

2008 was a spectacularly good year for Suffolk births in the UK - the Society registered 42 pure-bred Suffolk foals born during the year - 19 colts and 23 fillies. As at 26 July 2009 they had registered the birth of 42 foals - 24 colts and 18 fillies.

The important Suffolk Punch Hollesley Bay Colony Stud was under threat when the open prison farm where it was housed was sold off - but it was taken over by the Suffolk Punch Trust (http://www.suffolkpunchtrust.org/index.asp), and is going strong. The ones in the pictures came from Horkesley Park, which is on the Suffolk/Essex border, though there are planning problems with the proposed Heritage Centre (http://www.horkesleypark.co.uk/), which is probably vital to their Suffolk breeding programme.



Edited at 2009-09-02 11:49 am (UTC)

Oh they are beautiful creatures.

I think it is required of all local fairs that they be tacky. Heaven knows ours is.

But what beautiful pictures and what a lovely Suffolk horse.

This fair used to be better, particularly its craft fair, but the recession has hit is good and hard.

There was a time when we had several superb argricultural shows locally, but they have mainly become discos-with-a-fair-attached.

They're wonderful animals, it would definitely be a shame to see the breed lost forever. Sadly, modern farming in this country leaves little room for such pursuits any more.

The problem is that they are only agricultural haulers - they were never used a lot on the road like Shires and Clydesdales which are more spectacular for the Breweries, and they have failed to find another niche. The nearest animal in build is the Ardennes Horse (or Ardennais), but the Suffolk has gained a little in height over the years, which has put it at a disadvantage for the task at which the Ardennais excels and for which it has been imported here - working on steep wooded slopes where a tractor cannot go - and the Ardennais is even more powerful than the Suffolk.

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