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Suffolk Punch stars destined for pastures new

Ruby, an endangered British Native breed of heavy horse, has resided at Nottingham Trent University’s Brackenhurst campus since 2016.

Hope Suffolk Punch at Easton
Hope, the Suffolk Punch filly (photo credits to Easton Farm)

Following the difficult decision made last year by the equine team at NTU Brackenhurst, Ruby, the Suffolk Punch mare and her foal, Hope, will soon move to not only their new home but Ruby’s birthplace, at Easton Farm in their native Suffolk. The hope is that they will continue to be bred to help support the continuation of the rare breed.

Ruby came to NTU in September 2016 on loan from Barnsley College and was eventually purchased to be a full-time member of the Equestrian Centre. Suffolk Punches are classified as a critically endangered breed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, with less than 75 female horses left in the UK and fewer than 300 left in the world, so with this information, discussions between the equine academic and technical teams soon led to the decision to breed from Ruby.

Breeding from Ruby provided the opportunity to combine sperm sexing technology and genetic parent matching to increase the chance of producing a filly foal from a match that would limit damage to the genetic diversity of the breed.

Ruby and Hope Suffolk punch horses
Ruby and Hope, the Suffolk Punch horses
From left to right: Hope; Ruby and Hope; Ruby.

The semen of one of the best-matched stallions, Holbeach Iggy, was collected and sex-sorted by Stallion AI Services and Cogent, and Ruby was inseminated at Twemlows Stud in 2019.

In July 2020 Hope was born, the first foal born using this combined technology, increasing genetically appropriate females to support future breeding for breed conservation purposes.

Both Ruby and Hope are of most value to the breed as breeding females, and Anna Gregory, NTU’s Equine Technical Team Leader, has been seeking a suitable home for the pair.

The team at Easton Farm, which has made headlines in recent years for facilitating the breeding of a variety of rare breeds, came to visit NTU recently to reunite with Ruby – whom they originally bred eight years ago – and meet Hope for the first time.

Steve Swan, who will be looking after Ruby and Hope at Easton Farm Park, was present when Ruby was born and is delighted that she is returning to the breed’s namesake region with her daughter.

  • Notes for editors

    Stallion AI services (Project Coordinator & Stallion Facility) -

    Stallion AI Services is a global centre of excellence for equine reproduction.  Over three decades, the specialist team have pioneered techniques which have been utilised in the preservation of many rare species.

    Nottingham Trent University -

    NTU was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students. NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience. The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    Easton Farm Park (Mare and Foal Owner) -

    Easton Farm Park was built in the late 1800s and has been a Farm Park since 1974, the second farm park to be opened in the UK. The farm has made headlines in recent years for successfully facilitating the breeding of rare breeds, including the Suffolk Punch horse.

    Mike and Alison Clark, Holbeache Suffolk Punches (Stallion Owner) -

    Holbeache Farm is a working farm run by Mike Clarke and his daughter Alison. Their passion is heavy horses and in addition to the daily farm duties they breed Suffolk Punches, an endangered species.

    Twemlows Stud Farm (Mare insemination centre) -

    The stud is a family business run by Edward Matson. It is one of the UK’s leading Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer centres.

    Cogent & Sexing Technologies (Sexing Laboratory)

    Cogent operates the UK's largest bull stud, offering the strongest, most diversified portfolio of bovine genetics available on the UK's genetics market today. Cogent was the pioneer of sexed semen technology and continues its work today to improve the process, research and development of new technologies.

    Rare Breed Survival Trust (Funder)–

    The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) is the sole national charity which focuses on, conserves and promotes our native livestock and equines. It was founded in 1973; since then, no UK-native breed has become extinct.

    Suffolk Punch Horse Society (Funder) –

    The Suffolk Horse Society, founded in 1877, is the breed society for the Suffolk Horse, popularly known as the Suffolk Punch.  A registered charity and registered company, the society defines the breed standard and maintains the pedigrees of the population.  Their key activities include publication of the stud book, licensing stallions and providing grants and premiums as breeding incentives.

Published on 10 February 2022
  • Subject area: Animal, equine and wildlife
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences