The Suffolk Horse
The Suffolk horse is the oldest breed of heavy horse in Great Britain. The breed dates from the sixteenth century but all animals alive today trace their male lines back to one stallion, a horse called Crisp’s Horse of Ufford, who was foaled in 1768.
Volume 1 of the Suffolk Stud Book is the classic amongst livestock books. The author, Herman Bidell, the first Secretary of the Society, spent two years tracing the pedigree of all animals alive at that time. These he published in the book, which he prefaced with a fascinating history of the breed and a contemporary account of the Suffolk and the people associated with it. The book was illustrated by the Ipswich artist, John Duvall.
At the height of its popularity there were huge numbers of Suffolks in East Anglia and one might wonder why it was that, despite its clear commercial qualities, the breed never moved out of its homeland. It must be remembered however that until relatively recently East Anglia was a remote area isolated from the rest of the country.
In the late 1930s the Suffolk did start to move out of East Anglia in a major way with new studs being started in a number of areas but it was too late, as agricultural mechanisation was looming. The need for a big increase in food production caused by the Second World War stimulated this and the large, level arable farms of East Anglia were ideal for early machinery.
This dealt the Suffolk a severe blow and numbers fell dramatically, with large farms getting rid of forty horses in a single day. The number of horses on the market meant that the only buyers were the slaughter houses and in 1966 only nine Suffolk foals were born.
It was realised that extinction was imminent and new breeders came to the rescue so that since that time the numbers have slowly risen.
It takes a very long time to secure a breed from a very low number of individuals so the situation is still far from safe.