Queens of the Snow: Mares Take Maternal Run in Hokkaidō

Travel

Snow whirled in the air at the National Livestock Breeding Center in the town of Otofuke in Hokkaidō in mid-January. The flurries were not the result of a winter storm, but pregnant mares of the Breton and Percheron variety, sturdy breeds of draft horses that typically weigh in at one ton each, galloping through freshly fallen snow. The facility drove 84 of its 180-head herd of the two breeds for exercise to help control their weight ahead of the foaling season, which lasts from mid-February to late April.

The center divided the animals, which included 52 pregnant mares and 32 other horses, into three groups, with each running three laps each around an 800-meter exercise track. A fresh covering of snow had fallen on the field, and the powerful horses kicked up a shimmering cloud of white dust as they galloped around the course.

Around 70 journalists and other spectators had gathered at the center for the event. Kinoshita Rumi, a company employee in nearby Obihiro, came with her two young daughters and her mother Iizuka Midori. She described the scene as “powerful,” calling the horses “gorgeous.” Her six-year-old daughter said with a smile that “I loved when the horses ran by us.”

The hour-long exercise is held on weekdays at 9:30 am and is open to the public until February 22.

(Originally published in Japanese on Kyōdoshi.com on January 15, 2024. Translated and edited by Nippon.com. Banner photo: Horses run through the fresh snow at the National Livestock Breeding Center in Otofuke, Hokkaidō. © Tokachi Mainichi Shimbun.)

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Hokkaidō animal horse Kyōdoshi Tokachi