The Suffolk punch is a breed of draught horse that was developed in England to be used for farm work. The breed was first mentioned in writing in William Camden’s Britannia, which was published in 1586, and was noted as having a highly similar appearance to the modern Suffolk punch. Studies have shown that the breed is related to Fell and Dales ponies, as well as the Haflinger and it has remained relatively pure throughout its history due to the lack of need to change it. Throughout its history the breed has been called the Suffolk Sorrel, the Suffolk Horse, and today, the Suffolk punch or simply the Suffolk.
The Suffolk punch was influenced by many breeds including the Norfolk cob, Norfolk trotter, and the Thoroughbred. The first registry for the breed, known as the Suffolk Horse Society, was established in 1877 and their first studbook was published in 1880. It had become a popular breed throughout the world by 1908 and had been exported to many countries including America, Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Russia. It remained a popular breed throughout World War I, but during and after World War II, the need for work horses diminished and the need for food increased, so many horses were sold for slaughter. The American Suffolk Horse Association closed for fifteen years due to the inactivity of breed registrations and in the 1970’s and 1980’s, this registry allowed some of their horses to be bred with Belgians. In 2001, the British registry barred American horses from entering into their registry. Today, the breed is so rare that both the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust of the UK list it as Critical.
The Suffolk punch reaches a height between 16.1 and 17.2 hands and has compact and muscular conformation. The breed is shorter but more muscular than other British draft horses due to its heritage as a farm horse. It is chestnut in color, but can range from light chestnut to dark red chestnut, and it has no feathering on the legs. Because the Suffolk punch is a hard worker with a willing temperament, it has long been used as an efficient work horse in farming and driving. Today, it is most often used in forestry work and other draft work, as well as the improvement of other draft breed like the Jutland and Vladimir Heavy Draft and the development of heavy sport horses.
Image Caption: Suffolk Punch horses. Credit: Montanabw/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)