The Suffolk punch horse is an English draft horse breed. The horse has been called the Suffolk Punch or the Suffolk Sorrel. The name of this horse comes from the county Suffolk in East Anglia in England from where it is believed to have originated. It is called a punch horse because of its strength and its solid appearance.
This horse was bred exclusively for use on the farm. The objective was to create a solid and sturdy horse that was capable of doing heavy work. Apart from agricultural work, these heavy horses have also been used to pull artillery and other vehicles like vans.
Other than in farming, these horses are preferred for use in advertising. It is also used for work in forests. This is one of the rare horse breeds due to its low numbers.
The history of this horse can be traced back to the 16th century. The Suffolk punch is first mentioned in 1586 in Camden’s ‘Britannia’. The description of the working horse he mentions is clearly that of the Suffolk punch.
The horses were developed by local farmers of Norfolk and Suffolk who wanted a strong horse with good stamina and was docile and lived long. The horse’s bloodlines remained pure for the simple reason that the farmers used the horses for their own needs and did not sell them.
The society that governs this breed is the Suffolk horse society. They are the oldest horse breeding society in England. The modern Suffolk punch is believed to have originated from a sire owned by Thomas Crisp in 1768. The horse known as Crisp’s horse is considered the first horse to belong to this breed.
Prior to this, the horse was referred to as the Suffolk Sorrel. All other male horses had died by this time, making this horse the first of this new lineage. As the horse developed further, it was influenced by the Trotter horse of Norfolk, the Cob, and also the Thoroughbred.
The first studbook for this horse was published in 1880 by the Suffolk horse society. The horse was exported to the United States and Canada during the 19th century. The American Suffolk horse association was subsequently formed and published in 1907. The horse continued to remain popularly used for farm work until the second world war.
Mechanization in farms led to a decline in the use of this horse for agriculture work. As a result, many horses were slaughtered. In 1966, there were only nine foals registered with the society. Even though the number of these horses picked up, they still remained low in number. In 1998, there were only eighty of these mares in the UK.
In the United Kingdom, this breed is considered rare because of its low numbers. It is estimated that as of 2011, there were only 150 of these horses in England. The Rare Breeds survival trust has termed this horse as being critical in terms of survival status. The American livestock breeds conservancy has listed this horse under the critical list.
There has been a steady increase since then and there are now 300 horses in England, with around 30 to 40 horses new horses being born each year.
One of the key characteristics of this horse is its chestnut color. It also has no feathers on its legs resulting in an appearance where it seems a very large horse.
Even though it is a heavy horse, it is considered an easy keeper posing no problems to its owners.
The Suffolk punch is an easy keeper. This ensures it does not require any special care for feeding. Fresh grass is the main constituent of this horse’s diet. It can be put for grazing where it gets to feed on fresh grass. Apart from fresh grass, hay is the other major part of the horse’s diet.
Hard food like cereals that include oats, barley, and maize can be added to the horse’s diet. This will help provide the nutrition the horse needs for its work. Since this horse is mostly used as a draught horse, it needs the energy to be able to work hard.
Being a heavy horse, this horse needs its fill of water to keep it hydrated. Fresh and clean water must be available at all times for the horse. It may need up to 54 liters of water in a day, particularly during the summer months.
Breeding And Uses
The breeding of the horse is regulated by the society/association in each country. The Suffolk horse society regulates breeding in the UK, while the American association regulated it in the USA.
The British society does not register horses with American bloodlines and prefers only pure bloodlines. The reducing numbers have led to an increase in breeding programs over the years. Between 2001 and 2021, the numbers of this horse have doubled.
A part of the draft breeds, this horse has been extensively used for work on the farm. During wartime, the horse was used to pull artillery to the battlefield. It has also been used to pull other heavy machinery, including automobiles and non-motorized vans. The horses are even today used in farms. They are extensively used in forests for draught work.
As show horses, they are used in advertising thanks to their striking color and appearance. They have been used also for events like show jumping.
In Pakistan, this horse breed was crossed with donkeys to produce mules. These mules are commonly used for heavy work. A heavy Russian draught horse known as the Vladimir heavy draft has been influenced by the Suffolk punch.
The height of the Suffolk punch is usually between 16.1 hands (65 inches or 165 cm) to 17.2 hands (70 inches or 178 cm).
The average weight of an adult horse is around 2090 pounds and varies between 1,980 pounds (900 kg) to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg). Since it weighs around a ton, it is considered a heavy horse.
What Breeds Make Up The Suffolk Punch?
The early Suffolk horses developed by the farmers in Suffolk had their origins traced to the Fell and Dales ponies. It is also genetically similar to the Haflinger horses of Europe. The early horses were known as the Sorrel. The Crisp’s horse of the late 18th century is the foundation horse for the modern Suffolk punch.
Subsequently, the horse has been developed by including bloodline from many other horses. These include the Thoroughbred, Maremmano, Salemitano, Anglo Arabo, Purosangue, and the Persano.
One of the most unique features of the Suffolk punch is that it is always chestnut in color. Most horses have one predominant color but also have coats of different colors. In the case of the Suffolk, all horses are chestnut colored.
Within the chestnut color, the horses can have colors of different shades. There are seven different shades of chestnut recognized. The shades range from light to reddish and to dark.
What Do They Look Like?
The Suffolk punch is a heavy horse that weighs almost a ton. The well-built horse is compact in overall appearance. The powerful horse has a rotund appearance.
It has a broad head with an arching neck. The shoulder is slightly sloping but is very muscular giving it the strength needed for pulling heavy objects. The back is short but is wide. The horse’s croup is broad and is muscular.
Their legs are short since they are not intended to be a racing horse but they are surprisingly strong. Their legs do not have any feathers on them. The joints in the leg are broad. The hooves of the horse are quite well-developed.
Previously this horse has been criticized for having hooves that are small compared to its overall body weight. Subsequently, various shows introduced classes for hoof confirmation. As a result, this horse is now considered to be one that has excellent foot conformation.
What Is A Suffolk Punch Used For?
The Suffolk horse originated as a farmer’s horse intended for draught work. This was the main use of this horse until the arrival of farm mechanization after which the horse is not being used much in farms. It is now used extensively in forestry.
The heavy horse is known for being strong and has excellent stamina. This makes it suitable to pull heavy objects, which is why it is used in forestry and also to pull artillery and vehicles.
Even today there are many small farms, where this horse is used by farmers for draught work. It is a good carriage horse thanks to its strength and also its docile nature. The horse can be trained and has been used for many show events. It is used for crossbreeding to produce horses for showjumping and hunter events.
It is used in advertising. The team crest of Ipswich Town Football Club has the Suffolk punch in it.
Where Do They Live?
The Suffolk punch originated in the UK but is today thriving more in North America. This happened mainly because the horse was exported to Canada and the USA during the latter part of the 20th century.
Today there are hardly 300 of these horses in the UK making them a species that are at the risk of becoming extinct. In the USA, it is estimated that at present there are around 600 of these horses.
Since these horses were exported early on, they can be found in other countries too, though in very small numbers. They can be seen in Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Austria, Russia, Argentina, and other countries.
How Long Do They Live?
The Suffolk punch is a heavy horse. Like most horses of its type, it can live for a fairly long time. The horse can live for up to 30 years. The horse is thus an asset for its owner and lives for a long time serving well in doing heavy work.
The horse is an easy keeper and is known for being in good health. It does not face any major health problems.
How Fast Are They?
The Suffolk punch is not a horse meant to be used for racing. It is a heavy horse meant for draught work.
How Much Do They Cost?
The Suffolk punch is expensive since there are very few of these horses available. You can buy this horse from registered breeders listed with the American Suffolk Horse Association. The price charged would depend on the age of the horse, its sex, and how the horse has been trained.
On average, you should expect to pay $5,000 for a Suffolk punch. Younger and well-trained horses can cost more.
Is The Suffolk Punch Good For Beginners?
Being a draft horse, it has a lot of stamina and is used for difficult work. The horse is strong and yet docile. It has a very pleasant temperament, making it perfect for all types of uses.
It must be noted that the Suffolk punch is not a riding horse. It is meant for heavy work. It can be used as a carriage horse.
Conclusion / Summary
The Suffolk punch originated in Suffolk in England bred to be a draft horse meant for use in farms. The horse is a compact horse and yet heavy. It is a powerful horse with a lot of stamina. These traits have come from the other horses with which it has been bred.
The horse can be used for various heavy-duty work like drawing trailers, vehicles, and forestry. It has a distinctive chestnut coat that enhances its appearance. This has made the horse been used for advertising work.
The horse initially bred in the UK was exported to the US and other countries. The horse suffered a major decline in its number after farms stopped using these horses due to mechanization. This has led to a situation where the horse is considered to be critical in terms of numbers.
The horse is known for its docile behavior. It is an easy keeper living for a fairly long time. This makes the horse good for use in carriage work, forestry, and even for show events.