Draft breeds are the largest type of horse, and also some of the most gentle, but amongst these what is the biggest draft horse in the world? Almost all draft horses grow to intimidating heights, but the Shire is the largest breed. Let’s take a look at this beautiful gentle giant.
Shire Horse History
The Shire horse originates in England and descends from the Great Horse. The Great Horse is at least as old as the Norman Invasion of 1066 when it first arrived in England. A Great Horse is a heavy cold blood horse that carried heavily armored knights and is originally a warhorse.
After its arrival in 1066, this warhorse developed into the English Great Horse. These were big, strong horses, and by the reign of Henry VIII in the first half of the 1500s, laws forbid the breeding of horses under 15 hands tall. The laws also did not allow any of these horses to leave England.
As the battle gear of the mounted soldiers changed, so did the type of horse. Heavy horses were no longer desired, and the English Great Horse shifted into work on farms and pulling heavy loads across the countryside. At this time, in the late 1600s, Friesan and Flanders horses arrived in England.
The Great Horse was bred with the Friesan and Flanders horses to help refine it, and here we have that start of the Shire horse. In the mid-1700s, the progeny of these breedings reached the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Staffordshire. This is where the name Shire comes from.
The Shire was an essential cog in English life during this period. They literally kept the country running, and there was a huge population of Shires.
In the mid, to late 1700s, pedigrees of the Shire took shape with Ashby de la Zouch considered as the foundation stallion. After playing a large role in the World Wars, the Shire almost went extinct due to new farming machinery. But with hard work from breeders and breweries, the breed managed to survive.
Biggest Draft Horse In The World
The tallest horse on records is the Shire by the name of Sampson. Born in 1846, in Toddington Mills, England, Sampson was an amazing 21.2 ½ hands tall. Sampson weighed 3,359 pounds.
More recently, a Belgian draft horse took that tallest horse in the world record. In 2010, a horse named Big Jake measured 20.2 ¾ hands tall taking the record. Big Jake was living at Smokey Hollow Farm in Poynette, Wisconsin.
Big Jake’s parents were average-sized Belgian draft horses. He weighed 240 pounds when he was born. As an adult, Big Jake weighs 2,599 pounds.
Prior to Big Jake, a horse named Remington held the record for the world’s tallest in 2009. Remington is a Clydesdale who stands at 20 hands tall and weighs 2,905 pounds.
In 2000, the biggest horse in the UK was the Shire named Goliath. Goliath stood 19.5 hands tall. This stunning black horse sadly died in 2001. He worked on a team for Young and Co. brewery.
Shire Horse Characteristics
The Shire horse weighs between 1,800 and 2,400 pounds. They range in height from 16 to 18 hands but tend to the taller side of this. It is one of the strongest horse breeds.
A report from the 1920s states that a pair of Shire horses pulled a 42-ton load; pretty incredible! The Shire horse has a calm temperament and is incredibly strong. The majority are black, bay or grey in color.
Like the Clydesdale, the Shire has thick leg feathering and enormous hooves. Its body is compact and heavily muscled.
Other Large Draft Horse Breeds
Close to the Shire in size come several other draft horse breeds. The Percheron, which hails from France, ranges in height from 15 to 18 hands. The majority of Percherons are grey.
The Clydesdale is the most famous draft breed due to its use by Budweiser. A Clydesdale stands as tall as 18 hands and originates in Scotland. They have the heaviest leg feathering of all the draft breeds.
The Belgian draft horse, like the Shire, is a descendant of the Great Horse. On average, they stand 17 hands tall, but as you can see, Big Jake far surpassed this.
Draught Horse Conclusion
On average, the Shire is the biggest draft horse in the world. However, compared to all horses, drafts horses are always bigger. Even if the draft is the same height as another breed, such as a Thoroughbred, it has much more body size, muscle, and bone.