9 Biggest Horse Breeds in the World

Horses are the noblest creatures, serving human beings in innumerable ways. The bond between the Horses and Human beings stood the test of time. From fighting warfares together to riding, the bond between horses and humans stood the test of time.

As the Spanish proverb goes“A horse is worth more than riches.”

A horse symbolizes wisdom, power and appetency for freedom. Horses were domesticated some 5000 years ago. Domestication happened for food, agricultural purpose and transportation to assist the human race.

What are horses used for?

In former times, Horses were used in warfare. Horses were used to pull heavy loads, ambulances and supply wagons. Horses were taken on to transport troops, ammunition and field guns.

Transportation was one of many reasons domestication of horses happened. In the absence of vehicles, people needed a faster alternative to reaching places.

Horses are used for riding, racing in equestrian competitions. Some people ride horses for therapeutic purposes.

How many breeds of horses are there in number?

Horses and ponies have been successfully bred into 350 breeds. Different breeds are used for different purposes. Some used for casual riding or racing while others in competitions and warfare. 

Each horse breed has a distinctive appearance, colour and size. Surviving in different habitats, these gentle giants are versatile, harmless and aesthetically pleasing.

Biggest Horse Breeds

Horses vary in size and weight. Each carrying out a job as per its size and ability. Many horses look scary because of their large size but they are calmest creatures. Few of the largest horse breeds are listed below.

Shire

shire-horse

Specifications

Height16 hands – 18 hands
Weight1800 – 2400 pounds
Stallion’s ColoursBlack, Grey, Bay
Mare’s ColoursBlack, Grey, Bay, Roan
Life Expectancy25 to 30 years
Country of OriginEngland

The Shire is a British draught horse holding multiple records in its arsenal. He held the record for the tallest and the largest horse breed.

Sampson aka Mammoth Shire born in 1846 was the biggest horse ever. He was 21.25 hands tall and weighed 3360 lbs. 

The Shire was a heavy warhorse in the 15th century. Carrying knights in armors going fearlessly in the war field.

The Shire with large hooves and furred feet is famed for weight-pulling. They can support weight up to 45 tons.

Shire horses are being used as farm horses because of their docile nature and work ethics. They are used for ploughing, drawing heavy loads and farm labour.

The Shire was first registered for sale in 1145 for farm labor.

Fast Fact Shire horse was named after the rural shires of England, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

Clydesdale

clydesadle horse

Specifications

Height16 hands – 18 hands (16.2 on average)
Weight1800 – 2000 pounds
Colour Black, Bay, Brown, Roan, Chestnut
Country of OriginScotland
Life Expectancy 20 to 25 years

Clydesdale is a Scottish draft horse known for its beautiful appearance, feathered feet and sheer strength. The majestic Clydesdale cuts a dash with a large stature, long arched neck and a white blaze on the face.

Clydesdale hails from Lanarkshire, Scotland. Clydesdale got his name from River Cyle which flows through the Lanarkshire district.

King LeGear, the biggest Clydesdale horse was 20.5 hands tall and weighed 2950 pounds.

Clydesdale is an endangered horse breed becoming almost extinct in 1950. There were only 80 Clydesdales left all around the world in 1975.

Originally bred for heavy farming and industrial work, Clydesdale horses are also used in circuses, children shows and experiential programming. Clydesdale horses were bred to haul heavy farm machinery and work in the coalfields of Lanarkshire. 

As the machinery took over, these horses are now used for riding, driving and training. They are also used as drum horses in the parades.

They make a great therapy horse because of their gentle nature. Clydesdales are trained for showjumping and dressage because of their high-stepping gait.

Clydesdale horses are responsible for the development of the Gypsy and Venner breed.

Fast Fact Clydesdales feature in Budweiser commercial where they are seen drawing a beer wagon to different states to market the products.

Belgian Draft

Belgian Draft
Height16.1 hands – 17 hands
Weight1800 – 2000 pounds
ColourBlack, Bay, Chestnut, Bay Roan, Blue Roan, Red Roan
Life Expectancy20 – 25 years
Country of OriginBelgium

Originating from tiny village Vollezele of Belgium, Belgian horse holds the record for the tallest horse. Big Jake, born in 2000, stands at 20.2 ¾  hands. Big Jake is owned by Jerry Gilbert of Smokey Hollow Farm in Nebraska took the title of the tallest living horse in 2013.

The largest Belgian draft, Brooklyn Supreme was 19.2 hands tall and weighed 3200 pounds.

Believed to be the descendent of “The Great Horse”, a medieval horse known for heroic exploits during the war.

Brabant related Belgian breed has a strong back, muscular built, large hooves and short legs. Muscular necks, limited feathering, these horses are USA’s favourite breed.

Bred to be used in farming and war alike, these horses were doing everything from ploughing to pulling cargo. Apart from farm labour and forestry work, they are also used as pleasure riding horses and carriage horses.

Despite their massive size, they are easy keepers and posses docile temperament.

Fast Fact Belgian Draft sold for a whopping $112,500 bagged the record for the Most Expensive Horse Ever Purchased. 

Percheron

Percheron horse

Specifications

Height16 – 17 hands
Weight1900 – 2000 pounds
ColourBrown, Gray, Black, Roan, Bay
Life Expectancy25 – 30 years
Country of OriginFrance

Percheron hails from the Huisne river valley located in former province Perche near Paris. Percheron’s name was the reflection of its place of origin.

Originally bred to be a warhorse later used for pulling stagecoaches and heavy farming equipment. Often referred to as ” diligence” horse because they were used for transportation and carrying supplies. 

Now used for riding, racing and pulling carriages at Disney. They perform well in dressage and show jumping. Percheron is used in the Annual Tournament of Roses Parade in California.

Originating from western France, Percheron is the 4th largest horse breed. Another Famous Percheron Horse, Dr Le Gear was 21 hands tall and weighed 2995 pounds. When alive Dr Le Gear was the largest horse. The record of the world’s tallest living horse was held by a Percheron in 2005.

This majestic horse breed is a combination of beauty, intelligence, agility and strength. Well muscled, light feathering, small head, long neck with a refined face makes for a pleasing sight.

There were only 80 Percheron horses recorded in the registry in 1954. Now there are nearly 300,000 horses in the US registry.

Percheron is quite affordable with price ranging from $1000 to $10000 or more.

Fast Fact Percherons are heavy eaters as they eat up to 30 pounds of hay. Their diet also includes grain and other supplements.

Dutch Draft

Dutch draft

Specifications

HeightAbout 16 hands
Weight1600 – 1800 pounds
ColourBay, Chestnut, Gray with a black screen
Life ExpectancyAround 18 years
Country of OriginNetherlands 

Hailing from the Netherlands also referred to as “Nederlands Trekpaard” is a heavy draft breed. Bred in the province of Zeeland in the early 20th century, these horses share a resemblance with Belgian Draft and Ardennes horses.

Dutch Draft is a cold-blooded, agile, energetic and calm natured horse. Tall built, straight head profile, small ears, short legs, muscular body, wide neck gives the horse a majestic appearance.

Some might mistake the breed for a rhinoceros from a distance because of the mighty appearance. 

These horses were used by farmers and labourers before the machines were introduced. Their strength and agility make them suitable for heavy-duty work for longer hours.

Dutch horses, magnificent yet kind are quite rare to find. Renowned for quiet disposition and precise movements, these horses are obedient and undemanding.

Fast Fact The Royal Society of Dutch Draft Horse was established in 1914 to save the breed from extinction.

Suffolk Horse

Suffolk Horse

Specifications

Height16.1 – 17.2 hands
Weight1980 – 2200 pounds
ColorChestnut 
Life Expectancy20 – 25 years
Country of OriginEngland

Suffolk Horse also known as Suffolk Punch and Suffolk Sorrel is the oldest and rarest draught breed. It is the oldest and native breed of Britain. These breeds were used in farming and agricultural purposes. Now the present population is in stake.

Suffolk horse Suffolk Punch is now a rare breed by American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

They got their name from their place of origin, county of Suffolk in East Anglia. And the title “Punch” was given because of their solid appearance. There is no exact documentation about this breed but a rough idea from paper shown it before 16AD.

In the start of industrialization, these horses were used in ploughing fields, cutting and carry wheat and corn to mills. Local Farmers used them ploughing wet clay due to their stamina. Descendants of “Crisp’s Horse”, these horses have thick neck and backs hooves. Known for pulling carriages and artillery in wartime are now used by farmers for agricultural purposes.

In 1877 Suffolk Punch Society founded to document this breed. This breed was popular not only in European countries as well as outside like in Pakistan for Army purpose.

Fast Fact Suffolk Horses can consume up to 25 gallons of water.

Australian Draught Horse

Australian-Draught-Horse

Specifications

Height16-17.2 hands
Weight1320-1980 pounds
Coat ColorsBlack, White, Brown, Gray, Roan
Blood TypeColdblooded
Country of OriginAustralia

Australian Draught Horse is a domesticated horse breed. It evolved in Australia by the cross of some drought horse breeds. Like other draught horses this breed is famous for strength, hardiness and temperament.

As trends changed and draught purpose is no more popular now this breed is used for competitions.Before 1850 Bullocks were responsible for drought work. That was the time for faster draught horses as compared to Bullocks.

Australia promoted the use of Clydesdale horses for agricultural purposes. Later it used as breeding stock for Australian draught horse.

That was the time when Australian draught horse developed by the combination of Suffolk Punch, Shire, Percheron and Clydesdale horses.

The primary purpose of these horses was farming and pulling carriages. However, the introduction of machines and modern technology replaced equine. Australian Draught Horse Stud Book Society established in 1979 whose mission is to document this breed.

Fast Fact In 1900 Australian draught horses team made a record of carrying 150 wool bales at a time.

Dole Gudbrandsdal

Dole Gudbrandsdal

Specifications

Coat ColorsBay, Brown, chestnut, black, grey and dun
Height14.1 – 16.0 hands
Weight1,290 pounds
TypeSports horse, Show horse
Blood TypeCold

Dole Gudbrandsdal is a famous breed of Norway. It is mainly used for the draft. This breed originated from Gudbrandsdal Valley of Norway. There is no documented proof about the origin but equine experts tell that it evolved from Dutch Friesian Horse.

There are two types of Dole horses when organized breeding of Dole horses started in the 19th Century lighter Dole horse evolved this time. By Begining of 20th Century, trotting horse race got hype and became popular among Norwegians till today.

Both Horse types have minor differences which are now becoming obscure due to continuous breeding. The National Dølehorse Association originated in 1967 to document and preserve Dole horses.

Fun Fact There are some other names Dølahest, Norwegian Trotter, Dole Trotter for this breed.

Fjord horse

fjord horse

Specifications

Weight900 to 1,000 pounds
Height13.2 to 14.2 hands
UseEndurance, Trail riding
ColourDun,Brown
Life span30 years

Fjord horse or Norwegian Fjord Horse is the oldest and purest horse breed.It is very strong,compact and strong enough to carry weight.They appear like Przewalski horse or Asiatic wild horse.Fjord has 64 chromosomes while Przewalski horse has 66.

Fjord horse has a rich history and originated over 4000 years ago. Archaeological evidence prove its existence over 2000 years. Fjords are known for their great stamina and strong temperament. They are very cooperative to work. The fjord is best for learning and children because it is well mannered. They are used for dressage and competition.

biggest horse

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FAQs

What breed of horse is the largest?

The Shire holds the honor of holding multiple records for being the world’s tallest and largest horse breed.

What kind of horse can carry a heavy rider?

Percheron is recommended for carrying heavy riders. Muscular build with supreme agility and strength, a Percheron will give a rider a ride of a lifetime.

Who is the biggest horse ever recorded?

Big Jake is the largest horse as per the Guinness Book of World Records.

Conclusion

Horses are gigantic creatures giving the onlooker a pause for a moment for its majestic appearance. You might need a step-ladder to mount some of the mighty Equines. From the Shire to Dutch Draft all excel in the work attributed to them.

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