Honest Tom, Derbyshire Hero and Merryman - who or what were they ? Similarly, what do we know of Sweet William, Wax-work and King Tom; not forgetting Dumpling and Mr. Harrison's Old Bumper ? Others had names such as Ploughboy, Drayman and Waggoner - and here we have our clue; all of them were horses More specifically, they were all heavy horses - of the type which became known as Shires. The long breeding history of the Shire horse goes back more the 250 years - by some accounts to the time of the somewhat mysterious Mr. Hood of Leicestershire and his Packington Blind Horse, but there is much more to this. Some facts can never be known, including how much the Great War Horse of the medieval period, or horses imported at various times from present-day Belgium and the Netherlands, may have contributed to the ancestry of what is presumed to be a very English horse breed. 'Men of the Shires' is a unique resource, providing an insight into the mid-eighteenth century world of the owners and breeders of heavy horses who shaped what became the Shire horse breed. Research by the author has revealed new information about the earliest-known of these named horses, and the men of the English Midland shire counties who were their owners and breeders. Robert Bakewell, the agriculturalist is celebrated as a pioneer who used selective breeding methods to improve the quality of sheep, but also of cattle and horses. He had a significant role to play as a breeder and owner of the evolving Shire horse. There were however, many other 'Shire men' who made an important early contribution to the development of the Shire horse breed. 'Men of the Shires' give a detailed account of their work which is little known or unrecognised. The previously unknown role of Samuel Gallimore is also described. This book (produced with a foreword by the Shire Horse Society) is complementary to 'The Shire Horse', the definitive work on the Shire horse, commissioned by the Shire Horse Society, and written by Keith Chivers in 1976. 'Men of the Shires' covers the earliest period of Shire horse history using material not easily accessible to Keith Chivers, therefore providing information not included either in his book, or in the first stud-book of the Shire Horse Society (then called the English Cart-Horse Society), published in 1880. This first stud-book, containing the pedigrees of stallions foaled prior to 1877, was in effect written more than 100 years too late. It inevitably has gaps and errors, as those who produced it will have been fully aware. The author of 'Men of the Shires' uses information provided by newspapers which were published during the lifetime of the horses, and of the men who bred, owned and advertised them. These sources may also contain errors such as miss-spellings and exaggerated statements by stallion owners, but go some way towards corroborating information given in the first stud-book, as well as filling in gaps and providing corrections. 'Cover' advertisements i.e. notifications by owners of heavy horses of the Shire type that their stallions were available at stud, first began to appear in about 1750, providing the earliest written evidence in the breeding history of the Shire horse. 'Men of the Shires', meticulously researched, uses this material to document the development of the Shire horse from this early period.
Men of the Shires
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