The origin of this breed is obscure. Some have supposed that his color indicates that the foundation stock was produced by crossing stallions from France, supposedly gray, and Suffolkshire mares, supposedly bay, which, it is assumed, would produce sorrels. Neither the form nor the color of this breed gives any clear evidence of the breed having been formed by such admixture. All over Great Britain, stout sorrel horses have been common from time immemorial. The crude material was at hand; all it wanted was some one with the instincts of a Bakewell to produce a breed of sorrel, bay, black, or piebald color. This breed should be none the less prized because little or nothing is certainly known of its early history, which began before the middle of the eighteenth century.
Fig. 36. Suffolk Punch stallion. Property of Alex. Galbraith, Esq., Janesville, Wis.
The Suffolks, like all other breeds of horses, have been greatly improved during the last third of the century just closed. The feet are now, as a rule, good. The breed has more of the short, rotund build than the two breeds previously mentioned, or the Percherons. The number in the United States is relatively small as compared with the Clydes and Percherons, although the breed as a whole, as seen in America, strikes one as having the ideal, harmonious proportion of parts, and conformation which should indicate endurance and power. A more extended test of them and their grade offspring will fully reveal how much they have of courage, with patience and endurance under severe usage, - both of which should be prominent characteristics in any draft breed. The Clydesdales and Percherons were first in the field, and, both being good, it is not easy to supplant them.
The color of the Suffolk is more uniform than that of most other breeds, being almost invariably sorrel of some shade, - not infrequently so dark as to take on the semi-dappled, darkish, rich chestnut hue. Not quite so tall or heavy as the Clydes or Shires, but ranging in height from fifteen and one-half to sixteen and one-half hands, and in weight from 1,400 to 1,800 pounds. The shoulders are of true draft form, not being too oblique; shortish neck and legs, clean head and limbs.
Fig. 37. Suffolk Punch mare, "The Lady," and foal.
One cannot help getting the impression that they have not so much spirit nor so long a stride as the Clydesdale. Be that as it may, they are a valuable addition to our draft breeds, and time alone can reveal whether or not they can win their way to equally popular favor with the two leading breeds.
No breed or animal is perfect; every breed is likely to have some characteristic defects. There are few, if any, animals so perfect but that we would like to make some slight changes. But if a writer points out a slight defect in a breed, as shown when large numbers of animals are inspected, somebody gets hot "under the collar." Then, too, honest differences of opinion too often are not given respectful treatment. Some horsemen have yet to learn the philosophy of agreeing to disagree. A conservative horseman of high standing says, "I have yet to find a writer on the horse who dared to call attention even to slight defects of any one of the modern breeds except the bronco." On this little fellow he vents all his spite; and, what with writers and riders, it is no wonder that he occasionally strikes back or "bucks" in sheer self-defence of his long-acquired right to freedom and self-protection.