The iconic Shire Horse, Suffolk Punch and Clydesdale could become extinct in the United Kingdom within the next 10 years, according to Independent.
At the beginning of the 20th century, these breeds numbered in the hundreds of thousands and even millions, and were a staple of British life.
However, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) warns that their numbers are steadily decreasing. In 2017, only 240 Shire Horse, 25 Suffolk Punch and 199 Clydesdale pedigree foals were registered.
Although these breeds are still well-loved throughout the country, they are expensive to feed and breed, which can deter horse owners from keeping and raising them.
The RBST has launched a fundraising campaign to work toward saving the species from extinction. They also plan on collecting genetic material for the U.K. National Livestock Bank, which would make it possible for these breeds to be brought back if they did go extinct.
The Suffolk Horse Society is backing this campaign.
“We, as a generation, are custodians of our rare breed heavy horses,” they told Independent. “We should not let down our grandchildren’s children and allow the breeds to become extinct. We are responsible.”
These breeds have a long history in the U.K.: they have historically been used for farm work and towing barges, omnibuses and trams after the Industrial Revolution. During World War I, they carried gun carriages and other supplies.
Despite their dropping numbers, these breeds are still loved by many. Clydesdales are “the pride of Scotland” and the Suffolk Punch are an essential part of the country’s history.
The RBST is fighting to save the breeds for these historic reasons, and says that they can still be used practically for policing, commercial logging and equine therapy.
“These breeds of horse reflect human developments and accomplishments across centuries,” they say. “Our use of horses throughout history alone dictates that they are just as worthy of conservation as any other breed, landscape, stately home or historic monument.”
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