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Preserving The Suffolk Punch

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Tags: Suffolk Punch Horse, Breeding

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Prior to the early 1940s and 1950s there was a huge demand for draft horses of all breeds and the excellent pulling power of the Suffolk Punch made it a good option for a working draft breed in England as well as in the United States. The Suffolk Punch, for a variety of reasons including the limited breeding and limited exporting of the breed remained much less known than some of the other draft breeds such as the Clydesdale, Belgian and Percheron. The clean legs or the lack of the heavy feathering on the legs made this an ideal breed for working in the clay soils, so in many ways this also limited the spread of the breed as they were in such high demand in their local areas of Suffolk and Norfolk in England.

In England there were several studs and farms that developed small herds of Suffolk Punches that became the breeding stock providers for most of the area. These farms included the Colonial College and Training Farms Limited where Professor Robert Johnson in 1886 began an agricultural training program and breeding program for the Suffolk Punch. This farm later became known as the Hollesley Bay Colony or often just "The Colony". The Colony became a working agricultural center for the homeless in 1903, and then later was sold to the Prison Commissioners in 1938. The original line of Suffolk Punch horses continued to be bred and used on the property, ensuring one of the purest lines of the breed. In 2002 the Prison Service sold the farm and the horses to a charity organization known as the Suffolk Punch Trust. There are typically approximately 30 Suffolk Punch horses on the property at all times and they are used to farm the 180 acres and allow visitors to see the traditional use of the Suffolk Punch in farming.

The few Suffolk Punches that were exported came to the United States and Canada, where they were used as both working horses for plowing the heavy clay soils and later as general farm horses. As in England, the demand for heavy draft horses such as the Suffolk Punch declined with the increase in tractors on small and large farms throughout the United States. Since the supply of the Suffolk Punch breed from England was small, there are not as many Suffolk Punch heavy horses in the United States or Canada as the other draft breeds. There is an American Suffolk Punch Horse Association that has about 1200 Suffolk Punch on registry, as well as lists various breeders and trainers. Both Canada and the United States list the Suffolk Punch as a rare breed, however the increase in demand for working horses has again brought attention to the breed. Through the importing of semen the Suffolk Punch in Canada and the United States have continued to increase their genetic base, even though there are not huge numbers of the breed in either country. Specific events featuring the Suffolk Punch are now seen at many draft horse competitions in North America and the number of these horses continues to slowly rise each year.

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Preserving The Suffolk Punch
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