FEW people today have heard of the Yorkshire Coach Horse, yet in the 1880s foreign leaders, colonial settlers, the English royal family, American millionaires and someone as unlikely as Buffalo Bill sought the prestige of owning one.

A new book, The Dash of Blood - A History of the Yorkshire Coach Horse, aims to reveal not only an equine history, but also a very human one of the breed, which became the Rolls Royce of its day.

Author Anne Britton is a farmer’s daughter with an interest in local and social history.

She said: “My starting point for writing the book was the discovery in 2009 of a few tatty copies of some stud books in a drawer of my father’s desk from the Yorkshire Coach Horse Society, the earliest dating back to 1887.

“I was amazed to see the detail they contained, and even more surprised to see various family members listed as breeders.

“It was also fascinating to read that many horses from the local area were exported to the far corners of the world, including such places as Argentina, the Caribbean and Australia.

“So few people know of the existence of these horses, and how important the breed was, not only to North Yorkshire but also to the wider world.

“I then started looking into the history of the Yorkshire Coach Horse, with the help of staff from the County Record Office, where the Cleveland Bay Horse Society archive is held.

“The Cleveland Bay was the main component of the Yorkshire Coach Horse, and is now critically-endangered as a breed.

“I spent many happy hours helping to catalogue the contents of this archive and gathering information for what I then realised was going to become a book about the Yorkshire Coach Horse.”

Anne’s research put her in touch with descendants of some of the breeders named in the stud books and brought much interest from modern-day breeders of Cleveland Bays, particularly in North America, to where so many horses were exported.

“My great-grandfather, Robert Britton, was a farmer in Haxby, who bred and exported Yorkshire Coach Horses, which contained varying degrees of Cleveland Bay Thoroughbred racehorse blood,” she said.

“Some of his horses were sent to America by a Pickering dealer called Frank Stericker, whose brothers Arthur and Richard set up reception stables in Illinois and Colorado.

“Other notable breeders of Yorkshire Coach Horses in Ryedale included John Lett at Scampston and George Scoby at Beadlam.”

The Yorkshire Coach Horse Society was established in 1886, as a result of a rift with the Cleveland Bay Horse Society over breeding policy, and the book follows the fortunes of the new Society, its members and their horses.

It also shows how horses, once so much a part of everyday life, were affected by the inventions of the bicycle, electricity and the petrol engine.

Anne said: “No specialist knowledge is required to enjoy this book. The story of the Yorkshire Coach Horse takes us on a remarkable journey, from a small farm near York, to the world of liveried luxury in London, and onwards to the plains of Colorado, the dusty streets of Rome and the bushland of Australia.

“It reveals the extent to which horses were once a vital part of everyone’s life, and follows the dealings and struggles of the Yorkshire Coach Horse Society as it fought to keep this beautiful animal at the centre of world attention.”

Copies of the book are available from Hoppers in Malton, online at ypdbooks.com or by phoning 01904 431213.