The Suffolk Draft Horse is also known as Suffolk Sorrel, Punch and English Draught horse. The history of this horse is lengthy and finds roots in the English agrarian community. The “Punch” part of its name is derived from its formidable and strong appearance.
The Suffolk Draft Horse can be traced to the 16th century in the English countryside, particularly the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk. The horse was first developed as an amicable draft horse with stamina for agricultural use.
Suffolk and Norfolk counties were located in isolation, with a majority of the land facing the North Sea. Farmers sought to continually develop and selectively breed the Suffolk Draft Horse in effort to create a powerful plow horse. The breeding continued in this isolated area which produced an unadulterated bloodline.
Although the Suffolk Draft Horse can be traced to the 16th century, it is in 1768 that the foundation stallion of the breed was born. All Suffolk Draft Horses in registry today trace back to this stallion, Crisp’s horse of Ufford. It wasn’t until 1877 that The Suffolk Horse Society was established. In 1880, Herman Bidell wrote and had published the first Suffolk studbook.
The Suffolk proved to be a wonderful workhorse and very efficient on the farm. Sometimes referred to as “puller(s) of dead weight,” they were also successfully used to pull artillery in earlier times of war. With the onset of World War II and the move toward mechanized farm machinery, the Suffolk was not in as great demand. These massive horses had been working on farms for decades but were suddenly becoming obsolete. After World War II, with a dearth in food availability, many Suffolk were slaughtered.
Today, the Suffolk Draft Horse is listed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as extremely rare. In 1966, there were only nine foals born. Since that time there has been a slight resurrection of the breed despite their nearing extinction. It is believed that only 150 of these horses remain in England while it is thought that 800 to 1200 are found in North America.
Now the horses are being bred mostly for competition and to save the breed. Some are also used in forestry operations where transportation into rugged areas is not possible by vehicles. Other than seeing them in a show ring now and then, they are seen in many advertisements. The Suffolk is also being bred with sport horses in an effort to breed a heavier sports horse for hunter jumper competition. Despite its size, it has a remarkably energetic gait.
This breed is actually one of the foundation breeds for the Jutland Horse of Denmark. It has also been exported to Pakistan for use in crossbreeding with their native horses and mules. Despite its origins in a cool climate, these latter crossbreeds have proved very effect in Pakistan.
The Suffolk Draft Horse is a very large horse standing 16.1 hands to 17 hands and weighing on average 1600 pounds. The Suffolk Horse is only found in seven varieties of chestnut colors, from dark liver to light golden sorrel. There is also an occasional white coloration, but this is not in abundance and usually found on the forehead or close to the ankles. The questions as to feed and water intake often arises with horses of this size. A Suffolk Draft Horse averages about 35 to 40 pounds of hay per day plus grain. They consume, on average, 15 to 25 gallons of water each day.
The Suffolk Draft Horse is the only horse breed to have one prominent color. According to the American Suffolk Horse Association, there was examination of 12,000 foals and all were chestnut in color. The skin is thin on the Suffolk and there is very little if any feathering on the hocks. The mane is abundant and with sheen.
The head of the Suffolk is robust, large and lengthy. The neck is strong and thick and proportionately stout, moving deep into the collar. The shoulders of the Suffolk are prominent and powerful. It has round ribs and body with a strong back. The loin and hindquarters have large girth with strength and definition. The physique of the stallion is that of a large and powerful horse with a curved and muscular physique. The legs are straight with wide knees. The hocks are extended and the cannon bones stout. The feet are large, sturdy, and round.
This breed has an even temperament and is eager to complete any task at hand.