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Old English scir "administrative office, jurisdiction, stewardship, authority," also in particular use "district, province, country," from Proto-Germanic *skizo (cf. Old High German scira "care, official charge"). Ousted since 14c. by Anglo-French county. The gentrified sense is from The Shires (1796), used by people in other parts of England of those counties that end in -shire; sense transferred to "hunting country of the Midlands" (1860).
draft horse breed native to the middle section of England. The breed descended from the English "great horse," which carried men in full battle armour that often weighed as much as 400 pounds. Shires were improved as draft and farm animals in the latter part of the 18th century by breeding mares from Holland to English stallions. In 1853 the first Shire was imported to the United States, but the breed never became popular there and was primarily bred to upgrade smaller farm horses
in Great Britain, a county. The Anglo-Saxon shire (Old English scir) was an administrative division next above the hundred and seems to have existed in the south in the time of Alfred the Great (871-899) and to have been fully established by the reign of Edgar (959-975). It was administered by an ealdorman (alderman) and by a sheriff (i.e., shire-reeve), who presided over the shire court. After the Norman Conquest the French term county was introduced and generally supplanted shire in preferred official use, though shire continued in popular use and frequently even in official records and lasted in many county names such as Cheshire, Hampshire, and Warwickshire. The root shire is still also adjoined to the names of smaller communities such as the parish of Hexhamshire.