Complaints from the public have meant that tug of war tests of strength between players from the Cornish Pirates and a shire horse at the Royal Cornwall Show have been scrapped.

Show organisers at the Royal Cornwall Show said they had "considered comments some made regarding the Lizard Stallions", adding: "Their display will no longer include the tug of war challenge." 

However the owners of the horses have hit back, saying the horses have a 1,000 of breeding to pull large loads, and weighing over a tonne, if they didn't want to do it, they wouldn't.

Writing on Facebook, Lizard Stallions, based at Wendron said: "We'd just like to put things into perspective. There is 1,000 years of breeding in the Shire to pull loads and this is George's job five days a week during our busy period.

"He weighs just over a ton and believe me when I say, if he didn't want to do it he wouldn't.

"George has a fantastic work ethic and any shire man can tell you that ploughing a field, which is what they were bred to do in wet sticky conditions is what you call hard work.

"We care considerably for our horses and would never put them in any danger. We are surrounded by very experienced animal professionals and no concerns have been raised by them. This is an exercise to help raise the profile of the rare breed status of the Shire, and if the bigger picture is not considered, then we will have no shire's left.

The complaints came after even-year-old stallion George took on the rugby players on Thursday.

Among the comments was Marie Hart, who said: "Disgusting what you have allowed to happen to those beautiful animals at the RCS! You should be ashamed of yourselves."

While Liggy Warriner said:  "I watched this. I was absolutely disgusted with it. Brutal and cruel. Owners should be ashamed. As a horse owner myself, I could of cried. Absolutely should be stopped for the next two days."

Gem Turner said: "Pulling heavy loads, yes, but being forced to play tug of war with burly men is a different story all together. Ropes slack or not I personally think this is cruel. Pirates u just lost a fan."

However the Lizard Stallions say that, "at no point was George in distress".

Supporters have also since taken to Facebook to back up the company, with Christina Pugly Williams writing: "People have forgotten what these horses were bred for and in years gone by worked all day ploughing so I'm sure having a tug of war with a few meat heads wouldnt even bother them."

Mandy Bennie agreed: " It's so sad that there are ignorant people out there that don't understand the breed and that they are a work horse and can pull 5 ton plus. You and Pete do a great job promoting the breed and working them George and Ringo are beautiful, well looked after boys whose welfare you put above and behind [sic] Hope you can ignore the horrid people, keep smiling and see you soon, love to you all."