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Horses: There were still one million horses at work on British farms in 1900.

Work horses being led up a country lane

As they had done for centuries, they pulled the implements that tilled the soil, and hauled the produce from field to farm and from farm to market. Latterly, especially from 1850 onwards, their power had also been used to help drive an increasing array of processing machines to be found on the farm. The different types of heavy horse were crystallised into separate distinct breeds during the course of the nineteenth century as breeding improvements took on a more organised form. The mutual respect between man and working horse on the farm was very real. As a result, the passing of the horse era in favour of tractors as the twentieth century progressed was regretted by many. A small number of heavy horses are to be found working on farms today and they are a popular feature at country fairs and shows.

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The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, UK.
Email: merl@reading.ac.uk Telephone: 0118 378 8660