What is a pedigree? A pedigree is a certificate of registration that identifies the breeder, owner, date of birth, colour, markings and registration number of a purebred animal of a given livestock breed. It lists the names and registration numbers of the registered animal’s immediate antecedents. However, for the successful draft horse breeder, a pedigree is much more.
Registered Belgian horses are direct descendants of the massive horses bred in Flanders for over 2,000 years. Percherons have been bred as a type in France for 1,200 years. The Tudor monarchs in England established the rigid requirements that gave birth to the Shire. Societies that champion the Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire and Suffolk draft horse breeds, closed their Stud Books well over a century ago. In reality the horses found in each of these draft horse breeds came from a genetic pool that has been closed for centuries.
The horrific slaughter of the heavy horse world-wide, a consequence of mechanization which followed World War II, reduced the population of each draft horse breed to a small fraction of its previous number. Only the select, the irreplaceable and the endearing members of each draft horse breed survived, to breed on. While this was tragic for all draft horse breeds, this tragedy did leave a legacy which is increasingly important. The pedigrees issued for the draft horses bred today provide a blueprint, increasingly predictable, for breeding the coming generations. This predictability is without equal in today’s livestock industry.
Informed draft horse breeders associate the names of horses, which are found in a registered draft horse’s pedigree, with both dominant and recessive traits, i.e. colour, soundness, action, markings, disposition, fertility, twinning, longevity, etc. Armed with this growing bank of information and an eye for a good horse, horsemen can progress as breeders of work horses, pulling horses, hitch horses and superior breeding stock. We know many traits sought in a stallion differ from many traits sought in a brood mare. Likewise, we know many traits sought in pulling horses differ from many traits sought in hitch horses.
While novice horsemen will question this logic, those with a light horse background in particular, successful draft horse breeders, like successful Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeders, would rather buy a poor horse with a gilt edged pedigree; than buy a top horse with a common pedigree for their breeding program. The results are far more predictable.
At least this is how I see it!