Historically draught horses were the workers. Do you know where the term ‘horse power’ comes from? Here is a very good description from Kathleen Walker-Meikle’s book “The Horse Book”.
“Draught horses are usually horses that were bred for work such as the heavy farm tasks or hauling freight. Their use has greatly declined since the invention of the internal combustion engine ( particularly cars and tractors). The unit of measurement ‘horse power’ was invented in the late eighteenth century to compare the output of steam engines with draught horses. Mechanical horsepower, also known as imperial horsepower, was originally defined as a measure of power equal to 550 foot-pounds per second. Early trains invented in an age dominated by the horse in all aspects of life, were often termed ‘iron horses’.
Draught horse breeds include the Shire, Clydesdale and Percheron. The largest horse on record was a Shire called Sampson, foaled in1846, who stood at 21.2 hands high ( 219 cm at his withers) and weighed 1,502 kg. ( That is 3,311 pounds) He was renamed Mammoth at the age of four.”
Today there are farms that use horse power and there is a movement in the USA to reintroduce horses for work on farms. They may never come back to the numbers of working horses on farms that there were in the days of old but the fact that they are still working at all is wonderful.
The photos I have of the draught horses are all taken in competitions at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. They may be polished and prepared for the show ring but I am certain that all of them could also pull their weight out in a farmers field! Take a look at the video from Rural Heritage Magazine at the bottom of this post!
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