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A sand paddock
A saddling paddock at a racetrack
The saddling paddock at Belmont Park
A Black sheep on a New Zealand paddock with Lake Rotorua in the background.

A paddock has two primary meanings in different parts of the English-speaking world: a small enclosure for horses, and a grassland field used for grazing, often in a rotational system. Also, a central location enclosed on a race track.

Horse enclosure[edit]

In Canada and the United States of America, a paddock is a small enclosure used to keep horses. In the United Kingdom, this term has a similar meaning, and also applies to a field for a general automobile racing competition, particularly Formula 1. The most common design provides an area for exercise and is often situated near the stables. Larger paddocks may have grass maintained in them, but many are dirt or a similar natural surface. In those cases drainage and a top layer of sand are often used to keep a suitable surface in the paddock.[1]

In the American West, such an enclosure is often called a corral, and may be used to contain cattle or horses, occasionally other livestock. The word paddock is also used to describe other small, fenced areas that hold horses, such as a saddling paddock at a racetrack, the area where race horses are saddled before a horse race.

Grassland field[edit]

In New Zealand and Australia, however, a paddock is a field of grassland of any size, especially for keeping sheep or cattle. It is normally fenced, usually by wire, and often defined by its natural boundaries, or is otherwise considered distinct. In that part of the world, a "Back Paddock" is a smaller field that is situated away from the farm house; possibly land of lesser quality.[2] The equivalent concept in North America and the UK is a pasture.

In Australia the word seems to have had its current meaning since at least 1807[3] and in New Zealand since at least 1842.[4] However, the English meaning of field was used earlier in Australia[5] and is still occasionally used.[6] Similarly, meadow was in early use[7] and has appeared later, for example, in 2004.[8] Field remains in regular use in Australasia in expressions such as football field, Field Day and field trip.

Rotational grazing[edit]

In a new style of ranching developed in North America, featured in the Peter Byck short film Carbon Soil Cowboys, a paddock is a small (perhaps 1 acre) temporary subdivision of a pasture made with electric fencing, which is intensely grazed for a day and then left to rest for perhaps 80 days or more.[9]