Suffering dramatic drops in numbers of registered animals, several European draft horse breed societies are coming up with targeted promotional campaigns in order to keep their breeds alive.

In England, the critically endangered Suffolk is an ideal horse for riders who require a sturdy mount, according to Amanda Hillier, spokesperson for the Suffolk Society of England. Strong, yet agile, “it has a superb temperament and is just a really good all-around horse,” she said.

Meanwhile, promotion of the Shire is geared particularly towards the younger generation, as the vast majority of current breeders approach retirement, according to John Ward, field officer of the Shire Horse Society. “We’re trying to find more things for the youngsters to get interested in,” he said. “We’ve got to. In another 20 years the older generation (of breeders) won’t be here anymore.”

 Boulonnais horses on display

Boulonnais horses.

In Germany, the Society of Schleswiger Horse Breeders educates its members on stallion selection to prevent inbreeding, said Bernd Lühr, spokesperson for the society. With as few as 180 mares and 25 stallions registered to breed, there are only 50 Schleswigers with sufficient distance in their pedigrees to be bred. To attract new breeders, the society participates in national horse shows, hosts booths at equestrian events, and distributes flyers, jackets, and baseball caps.

New horse-powered urban transport programs and mounted draft horse competitions are offering endangered French draft breeds an opportunity to survive, said Sophie Bougel, spokesperson for the French Draft Federation. Bougel says she hopes the revival of work horses in the country and a greater appre