The simple answer to the question, “What is the biggest horse breed?” is the Shire horse. The Shire breed is enormous and powerful, standing at more than 18 hands tall and weighing up to 1,100 kg. This breed is prepared to take on whatever difficult task you set in front of them, much like the Hulk of the horse world. But it’s not the only one!
I’ve worked as a lead riding instructor for over a decade. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with several other gentle giants. I found five other breeds that stand out for their exceptional size and strength. Let’s take a closer look at the top six biggest horse breeds:
1. Shire Horse
Shires are large horse breeds in terms of weight and stature. It’s the real giant of the horse world, standing 17 to 19 hands tall and weighing 850 to 1,100 kg.
Think of the Shire horse as the Adam Bishop of the horse breeds but on more steroids. Its large chest, sturdy legs, and potent hindquarters highlight its robust frame. This breed has a noble face, big expressive eyes, and a big, strong head. It represents elegance and beauty due to its long, flowing mane and tail, which give it a royal aspect.
With all its size and power, you would think the Shire horse would be difficult to handle. But it’s pretty mellow and easy to train. In fact, most of my students are often surprised by how gentle and responsive the Shire horse can be.
- Height: 170 to 195cm
- Weight: From 850kg to 1,100kg
- Coats: Black, bay, chestnut, and grey
- Draught work: The Shire horse has a robust build, making it an excellent choice for draught labour. It’s suitable for heavy tugging and agricultural tasks. This British breed can plough fields and pull big loads with ease.
- Riding: Although large, Shire horses are rideable and can carry an advanced rider. Their gentle stride makes it an ideal companion for rambles and beachside strolls.
- Horse shows: The Shire’s royal look and enormous size make it a favourite for showmanship. Its grace and elegance show off in sports-like activities. These include carriage driving and halter classes.
- Parades: With their majestic grandeur, Shire horses are a popular option for parades. Their immense size and stunning beauty make it a mesmerizing spectacle. They march down the street, attracting the attention of onlookers.
- Logging: The Shire’s strength and endurance make it an asset in forestry operations. The horse’s ability to haul big loads and stand firm lets it quickly move logs from forests to set locations.
- Therapy work: Being a gentle and kind breed, Shire horses are excellent for therapeutic work. Their peaceful and tolerant character creates a relaxing environment. These giants benefit people who need emotional support or physical rehabilitation.
2. The Suffolk Punch
The Suffolk Punch is one of the biggest horse breeds to originate in England. It’s notable for its tremendous size and strength. This “gentle giant” has a peaceful and submissive temperament. It can grow over 17 hands tall and weigh up to 1,000 kg, making it a magnificent sight.
Despite their large size, these beasts are as docile as a donkey – just with more horsepower! Suffolk Punch horses have a robust frame, a large chest, and strong legs. This allows them to bear their weight easily. Their heads are noble, with compassionate eyes and attentive ears. The tail of this breed is thick, with a flowing mane.
- Height: 165 to 178 cm
- Weight: From 900 kg to 1,000 kg
- Coats: Chesnut (note: the registry does not spell this colour “chestnut”)
- Workhorse: Suffolk Punch horses work in agriculture, hauling big loads and ploughing fields. Their significant height and powerful legs enable them to do the challenging tasks assigned to them.
- Show horse: This breed stands out in competitions because of their noble heads and distinctive muscular builds. They can show off their strength and beauty in various sports. These include carriage driving and dressage.
- Companion animal: Although Suffolk Punch horses are connected to labour and showmanship, they also make good friends. They’re peaceful and kind-hearted despite their massive and frightening size. They have a strong link with their owners and are renowned for their devotion.
The Percheron is more than a pretty face; it’s one of the largest horses. They can weigh up to 952 kg and stand between 16 and 17 hands tall. They’re excellent in ploughing, wagon pulling, and heavy lifting. This is because of their strong legs and robust physique. Their powerful bodies are ideal for moving large logs to their intended locations.
If you enjoy watching pulling events, you’ll often see Percherons showing their skills. They have the strength to haul big loads over great distances. These bad boys are a force to be reckoned with in the horse world (pun intended).
Percherons have a powerful, arched neck that accentuates their royal appearance. They have a gentle, perceptive expression in their eyes. Their coats can be grey, black, or bay. Some individuals have distinctive markings like a star on their forehead or white socks.
- Height: 168 to 180 cm
- Weight: From 861 to 952 kg
- Coats: Black, grey, chestnut, bay, roan, or sorrel
- Pulling heavy loads: Percherons are renowned for their power and prowess in towing big objects far. They often work in forestry and agriculture, hauling logs, carts, and ploughs.
- Carriage driving: The Percheron is an excellent horse breed for carriage driving because of its robust body and size. This breed can show off its strength and grace by pulling a carriage full of people.
- Riding: Percherons are capable of being ridden despite their stature. They sometimes compete in dressage, jumping contests, and leisure riding.
If the Shire horse is the Adam Bishop of the horse breeds, the Clydesdale breed is the Graham Hicks. It stands 16 to 18 hands tall and weighs around 820 to 910 kg.
It has long, elegant legs and a powerful build. One thing that makes it stand out is the feathering that covers its lower legs. It gives it a striking look.
As a riding instructor, I often rely on Clydesdale’s strength and size to provide safe and stable riding lessons. I’ve seen how many of my students are initially intimidated by the Clydesdale’s size. But, they quickly learn to appreciate its gentle and patient nature.
- Height: 162 to 183 cm
- Weight: From 820 to 910 kg
- Coats: Black, bay, grey, and roan
- Carriage horses: Clydesdales can pull large loads, making them ideal for pulling carriages. Farmers have used these horses for decades to help with field mowing and hauling heavy equipment. This breed is a significant asset on the farm.
- Riding: Despite their massive stature, Clydesdales are excellent riding horses. They offer a relaxed and pleasant ride for those with expertise. Their mild demeanour and easygoing disposition make them a good choice for riders.
- Breeding: Clydesdales are best for breeding because of their gentle temperament, size, and strength. These are all desirable qualities that they pass on to their offspring.
- Film and media: The film and television industries often use Clydesdale horses. This is because of their mild demeanour and magnificent good looks. They’ve added grandeur and elegance to films, commercials, and television series.
If you’ve ever seen a Belgian horse, you know they’re not ones to mess with. They have a height of 16 to 17 hands. Belgian horses are well-known for their enormous size and well-defined physique. They’re built like tanks and could pull a house if you asked nicely enough.
They’re often used in pulling competitions. Let’s face it: who doesn’t want to see these beasts show off their muscles?
Belgian horses have a gentle temperament. They might look intimidating. But they’re giant teddy bears underneath all that muscle.
Belgian horses have a robust back, a broad, muscular chest, and sturdy hooves. They can support large loads. Their enormous, elegantly arched, powerful necks only enhance their commanding appearance. Belgian equines also have a magnificent head, expressive eyes, and alert, attentive ears.
- Height: 163 to 173 cm
- Weight: From 820 to 1,000 kg
- Coats: Chestnut, roan, sorrel, and bay
- Farm work: Belgian horses are highly suited for labour-intensive tasks due to their strength and stamina.
- Logging: This biggest horse breed is excellent at logging because of their muscular body. It can move big logs from the forest to predetermined locations.
- Pulling competitions: Belgian horses participate in weight-pulling competitions. They have remarkable strength and can draw enormous loads over great distances.
6. Irish Draught Horse
The Irish Draught Horse is a multipurpose and athletic breed. It performs well in various events. These horses can weigh up to 700 kg and grow to a height of 15.2 to 16.3 hands. They were originally bred in Ireland for agricultural work.
This horse breed is well-known in the equine community for their remarkable leaping ability and graceful gait. The Irish Draught Horse has a large head and a strong neck that flows into well-defined shoulders. Their physique is athletic and compact, with powerful hindquarters and a deep chest. They also have straight, strong legs with distinct joints and tough hooves.
- Height: 158 to 170 cm
- Weight: From 600 kg to 700 kg
- Coats: Chestnut, grey, white, black, brown, dun, champagne, and roan
- Horse Riding: Irish Draught horses are often used for riding. They are adept in many different disciplines. These include dressage, eventing, and trail riding.
- Jumping: These draught horses have a remarkable capacity to leap. Their innate ability to jump over tall fences and obstacles has made them popular in jumping competitions.
- Hunting: Because of their endurance, agility, and surefootness, these horses make excellent hunters. They can follow the hunt’s rapid pace and manoeuvre over rugged terrain.
- Farm work: Historically, the Irish Draught Horses are versatile working horses. They’re perfect for pulling heavy loads and ploughing fields.
Which horse is the biggest horse breed in the world?
The Shire horse is regarded as the biggest horse breed in the world. These incredible giants can grow to over 18 hands or 182 cm at the shoulder.
What is the biggest horse ever recorded?
The largest and tallest horse ever recorded was a Shire named Sampson. He measured an incredible 21.2 hands, or 215 cm, tall at the shoulder. This shire horse was an exceptional example of its breed, measuring around 1,524 kg.
Is a Shire horse safe for riding?
Yes, riding a Shire horse is generally safe. Shire horses are renowned for having a calm, sensitive demeanour despite their size. But, it would be best to have the proper instruction and expertise when riding Shire horses. Due to their impressive size, you should use a mounting block or seek help while getting on and off this tallest horse.
Can a Shire horse jump?
Shire horses are not typically known for their jumping abilities. However, they are capable of jumping small obstacles. Despite this, they’re more suited for pulling carriages or ploughing fields. They’re too large and heavy to compete in jumping events.
How long do Shire horses live?
Shire horses have a 20- to 25-year lifespan on average. Some Shire horses live into their early 30s when they receive good care and live a healthy lifestyle.
Shire horses are the biggest horse breed in the world because of its remarkable size and strength. Its mix of power, size, and mild disposition makes it a highly sought-after breed. It’s popular in a variety of sectors.