The Irish Draught Horse: A History

Photo credit: Joan C.Griffith


Irish Draught Horse Resource Guide

Early works
Books and journal articles
Irish Draught Horse Society

Horse Sport Ireland

Irish Horse Board
Show and sale catalogues
Web and multimedia

About the Webliography

This webliography is based on the selected annotated bibliography within the book

The Irish Draught Horse: A History, in the chapter entitled The Irish Draught Horse in Publications.

published by Collins Press, c.2005. The web version includes new and additional materials as well as book cover images. While the scope of the bibliography in the book primarily covers materials published in Ireland and some from the UK we invite global participation in broadening the web version to include suitable publications from around the world. Help us build the Resource Guide. If you have additional Irish Draught horse information which should be included in the webliography, please send a short annotation of the work and a cover image/photo/jpeg via email to:

Newly published works and new items added to the Resource Guide will have theNEW! symbol added to the entry. Become a contributor to the Resource Guide and have your name listed in the Guide.

Latest additions to the Webliography: 

Economic Contribution of the Sport Horse Industry to the Irish Economy (UCD) December 2012


Please feel free to link to this page and share it with other Irish Draught Horse enthusiasts.


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© Joan C. Griffith

In order to fully understand the Irish Draught horse and its place in written texts, one must also understand its relationship to the present day Irish Sport Horse, formerly known as the Irish half-bred or Irish hunter. It is also important to consider the history of Ireland itself and especially Irish farming practices. Nearly every farm in Ireland had a horse and that horse was the Irish Draught. The search for materials on the Irish Draught Horse must go beyond the traditional research venues such as the library; one must also seek out more general and popular information from horse magazines, local farmers, auction catalogues, show programs, horse-dealers, old-time traditional Irish fairs, and photographic collections. Access to private records is also important for without it much of this resource guide would not have been possible to compile.

Terminology used to identify what we know today as the “Irish Draught horse” type has varied widely throughout the generations and for the various purposes it was used, the following terms must be considered: Working horse, Creamery cob, Tram horse, Farm horse and Farmer’s horse, Cart horse, Vanner, Omnibus horse, Trooper's Horse, Non-thoroughbred horse, Half-bred horse, Irish Sport horse, Pure-bred Irish Draught, Part-bred Irish Draught, Irish Hunter, Heavy Weight Hunter, Medium Weight Hunter, Light Weight Hunter, High-class Hunter, Registered Irish Draught Horse, Appendix Irish Draught Mare, and simply Draught horse.

Historically, there have been few books published exclusively covering the Irish Draught horse and these have all been recent publications. This bibliography endeavours to document whatever information is or was available about the Irish Draught horse. This bibliography started with one article from Horse and Hound magazine published in 1998 which piqued my interest in the breed but left many unanswered questions. The search was for information was on, which quickly lead me to, The Irish Draught Horse, by Alex Fell, published as part of the J.A. Allen Breed Series in 1991. At about the same time, Dr. Charlotte Moore published two works in the early 1990s, Irish Draught Mares 1918-1992 and Irish Draught Stallions 1911-1993. For almost a decade these were the only publications available. Though not readily available, Helen O’Toole has brought together a great deal of new information in her 2001 master’s thesis, The Characterisation of the Irish Draught Horse Population in Ireland. In early 2002, Nicholas O’Hare published a sort of trilogy with a revised edition of his 1978 publication, The King of Diamonds; and first editions of The Modern Irish Draught and The Irish Sport Horse. Two of these books deal primarily with the Draught the other with its half-bred relations. In 2003, both the Irish Draught Horse Society, Ireland (IDHS) and one of its branches, the Irish Draught Horse Society, Northern Ireland (IDHS.NI) published their 25th anniversary books, IDHS 25 Years and Solid Silver, respectively. Prior to these publications it appears only the IDHS Yearbooks and promotional flyers addressed the Irish Draught Horse directly. There are a number of author names that crop up again and again in the IDHS Yearbooks, including those of Sally Begg, Colin A. Lewis, Nicholas O’Hare, Charlotte and Nigel Moore, Norman Storey, Michael Slavin, to name but a few. A number of equine correspondents also published in provincial and national newspapers including Michael Slavin, Nicholas O’Hare, Grania Willis and others.

In many other Irish horse related publications, the Irish Draught horse is mentioned in a few paragraphs, and often times the Irish Draught is not recognized or inaccurately cited, especially in relation to identifying the breeding which is all too often stated as, “not recorded” or “unknown”, when in truth the dam or sire, granddam or grandsire was an Irish Draught. On the other hand, if one knows where to look, it is not impossible to find a wealth of information about the Irish Draught. Granted this may mean that the reader must possess a broad knowledge of pedigrees and breeders in order to ascertain the parentage of the animal in question, but to a large degree the Irish Horse Board (and its predecessor Bord na gCapall) publications, Irish Sport Horse Studbook Approved Stallions, Supplemental Stallions, Registered Irish Draught Mares, Irish Sport Horse Marebook, and Registered Foals, provide the needed data if one is willing to take the time to understand the arrangement of the information.  The scope of this annotated bibliography is intended to be inclusive rather than exclusive so as to bring together useful sources that tell the story of the Irish Draught horse in Ireland. It is hoped that this resource guide will allow future scholars to further study the Irish Draught Horse.  It does not however purport to include specific information on breeders or the pedigree of individual animals which can largely be found in various directories and websites.

As far as this author has been able to determine, there is no archive or library collection in Ireland, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, which collects the materials necessary to do scholarly research on the Irish Draught horse. Irish university libraries do not begin to have basic collections; the Irish Horse Board, and even the Irish Draught Horse Society itself, do not have complete records or complete archives of the activities of the horses that they are charged with fostering. This is in part due to the fact that the Irish Draught horse was, for such a long time, part of the fabric of life of the Irish farmer, it was what would be termed today, as part of “popular culture” and that meant much information, including photos of the day, were discarded or had little value. To some extent record keeping was rather poor, and incomplete. This is regrettable, as the historical materials about this breed will surely be lost if not collected and maintained properly. As the Irish Draught horse can now be classified as an endangered breed by the most standard definition, it is hoped that this book and this chapter in particular will stimulate interest in learning more about the Irish Draught and encourage those who care about the breed to collect and maintain the materials: the books, journal articles, the yearbooks, newspaper articles, show videos, and auction catalogs needed for further research.  A future goal might be to start an oral history project to record the living memory of the people who kept and bred these animals, and to amass a documented collection worthy of donating to the appropriate library or archive.

The following information is included for each item reviewed: author, title, and publisher, date of publication, followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the source cited. In some cases, due to the nature of the material, only a summary is provided. The coverage of this resource guide includes; selective primary and secondary materials, such as trade books, vanity presses, university publications, society publications, government publications, sale catalogues and show programs, articles from journals, magazines, and newspapers, chapters/pages in books, internet resources, websites, databases, and listservs.

The guide is arranged in sections: early works, books and journal articles, Irish Draught Horse Society publications, Irish Horse Board publications, show and sale catalogues, newspapers, electronic and multimedia publications. Within the sections items are listed alphabetically by author’s last name and otherwise by title. For authors with more than one publication their works have been listed together to show a more comprehensive arrangement on the scope of their work.

Additionally, we have included the name of the horse and or rider pictured on the book jacket, if known. This is an ongoing project and if readers have additional materials or other information that is either not included or may be inaccurate, the author would appreciate obtaining the missing or corrected information. The information that has been collected or examined is due to the generous assistance of Irish horse breeders, Irish libraries and museums, Irish societies, Irish government records as well as private collections in Ireland. With the exception of information available on the Internet, for websites related to the Irish Draught horse, this resource bibliography concentrates on publications of the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland(UK) where the vast majority of primary materials were originally produced.

It is hoped that by reading the bibliography one may learn a great deal about the nature of the published work on the Irish Draught horse as well as get a glimpse of the horse itself and the cultural environment that created it, spanning the generations, and the market driven forces that shaped its evolution from an ordinary working horse to modern day showjumping foundation breed.  We now invite the reader to consider the life and times of the Irish working horse.


In accordance with Irish Copyright and Related Acts, 2000 , Part II, Chapter 6 Acts Permitted in Relation to Works Protected by Copyright, point 51.1 Fair dealing: criticism or review. “ Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of criticism or review of that or another work or of a performance of a work shall not infringe any copyright in the work where the criticism or review is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.” and point 52.4.The copyright in a work which has been lawfully made available to the public is not infringed by the use of quotations or extracts from the work, where such use does not prejudice the interests of the owner of the copyright in that work and such use is accompanied by sufficent acknowledgement.

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**** Correction to the  Book: It has come to our attention that one of the photographs on page 89 was miscaptioned:


‘Below; County Kerry,1953; cutting corn with a reaper and binder; The corn was cut while still a little green and tied into stooks where it would ripen in about three days Photo: Bord Failte’ It is in fact 1993 on Muckross Traditional Farm in Killarney when I was farm manager there (I am on the left of the Bord Failte photo) with two of my horses shown above (also in Muckross) where I am using a harrow with a ‘three horse hitch’ to train in a young 16.3 hh. Irish Draught/ Clydesdale gelding by harnessing him in between the two horses in the Bord Failte photo in your book- Dolly- a16.3 hh. Irish Draught/Clydesdale mare on the left and Fagin a 17 hh. Shire stallion on the right. The young gelding Shalamar was out of the mare on the left (of both photos) by the Irish Draught stallion, Silver Granite." (correction contributed by Tom Nixon) 10 August 2008,  More about Tom Nixon, and working with heavy horses in Ireland, Trojan Heavy Horse (blogspot)



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