The mission to save NZ's last remaining rare Suffolk Punch horses

Suffolk punch horses Jackson and Calendula are the two remaining purebred Suffolks in New Zealand.
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Suffolk punch horses Jackson and Calendula are the two remaining purebred Suffolks in New Zealand.

Time is running out for conservationists trying to keep a rare horse breed alive.

The two remaining purebred Suffolk Punch horses in New Zealand are getting old, and their chances of being successfully bred are dwindling.

The stallion, Capleach Jackson is a 14-year-old red chestnut bred in Australia.

Michael Willis, the owner of Willowbank, at his West Melton property.
Iain McGregor

Michael Willis, the owner of Willowbank, at his West Melton property.

The mare, Calcott Calendula, is around 24-years-old, and joins Jackson at their farm in Pukekohe.

The Canterbury Rare Breeds Conservation Society branch is on a mission to collect semen and embryos from the small, English draught horses for surrogate breeding.

Michael Willis, a Rare Breeds Conservation Society member and the owner of Willowbank, said this would be the "last chance" to keep the lineage alive.

"Both animals are getting older. We've only got a small window of opportunity to keep these genetics going so we desperately need to get some funding," he said.

Shaun Horan, the head keeper at Willowbank and a fellow Rare Breeds Conservation Society committee member, started the Givealittle page to "save the suffolks".

"It's disappointing to see the last in New Zealand and the world go to the ground and never hear about them again.

"We could potentially get two or three foals from this," he said.

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Semen will be collected from Jackson and then frozen for shipping internationally. Initial tests showed his semen to be of good quality.

Embryos will be taken from Calendula and placed in recipient mares to carry the foals, meaning multiple foals could be produced from the mare each year.

Mares to carry the embryos and transportation are still being sought.

Due to Calendula's age, pregnancy would be too tough on her.

"She's the one we're having trouble with," said Horan.

However, the team hoped for viable embryos from the old mare.

"The vets doing the reproductive work are fairly confident if we have more time there's a good chance we could get some embryos from the mare," Willis said.

He said the whole procedure will cost thousands of dollars, and hoped the community would come together to preserve the lineage.

"We won't get another chance with these particular genetics, it's sad but true," Willis said.

 - Stuff

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