New Suffolk Punch foal born at zoo

GALLERY The future of Britain's oldest breed of heavy horse has received a welcome boost with the birth of a new foal at Banham Zoo.

THE future of Britain's oldest breed of heavy horse has received a welcome boost with the birth of a new foal at Banham Zoo.

Cute colt Ufford is blissfully unaware of the concerns that have surrounded the dramatic decline of the Suffolk Punch following the switch to mechanisation, hastened by the Second World War and the drive to increase food production on arable farms.

The ancient breed dates from the sixteenth century and at the height of its popularity there were thousands across the region where it was a common sight.

But the threat of extinction had become a real possibility by the early 1990s when the Suffolk Punch had become rarer than China's endangered giant panda.

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Fortunately, zoo director Martin Goymour and fellow enthusiasts are helping redress the balance and numbers have slowly risen from the 214 registered in 1991 to the present total of 460.

“They are really symbolic of the East Anglian countryside, so in Norfolk and Suffolk in particular they are living heritages,” explained Mr Goymour, the current president of the Suffolk Horse Society which is working to safeguard the breed.

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“There are more and more people keeping Suffolks now and the demand is there which is good because it's quite expensive to produce a foal. There's a chap in the Midlands who has caught the bug and he's got about 30. It is an absolutely fantastic thing to have a foal as there can't be anything better than to see a mare and foal in the paddock,” he said.

Mr Goymour is absolutely delighted with the latest arrival, named 'Bazoo Ufford' after the village of Ufford in Suffolk which in 1768 produced a stallion known as the 'Crisp's Horse' to which all modern Suffolks are related.

Born on Saturday, the youngster will go on public view from the middle of July with his mother, Blush who has produced two previous foals - Queenie who was transferred to Westwood Park in Essex, and Riley, a stallion born in April 2005 who is helping perpetuate the breed as Banham Zoo's stud horse.

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