Last Updated on December 28, 2021
Whether you’re completely mad about horses or just like to learn about them, you won’t fail to be impressed by the size and power of the draft horse breeds. These magnificent horses are the largest and strongest breeds of the equine world. But when it comes to draft horse height, which is the biggest?
Let’s find out all about these amazing horses with our draft horse breed comparison!
What Is A Draft Horse?
A draft horse is a name given to a particular type of horse. These are large horses that were originally bred as working animals. There are over twenty different breeds of draft horses, all with different characteristics.
Draft horses may also be known by several other names:
- Draught horse
- Dray horse
- Cart horse
- Work horse
- Heavy horse
In the past, draft horses had many jobs, including:
- Hauling timber
- Pulling heavy wagons
- Turning mill wheels
Nowadays, most of these jobs have been mechanized, and draft horses are not commonly used for working purposes. In some places, they are still used for hauling logs and farming, and draft horse show is a popular equestrian sport.
There are many different draft horse breeds, but they all have one thing in common – they are very tall! Draft horses are normally also very docile and patient, making them ideal for slow, steady work.
Draft Horse Height – Breed Comparison
So, now we know what a draft horse is, let’s take a look at three of the most famous draft horse breeds and their height!
The Shire Horse is a tall and strong breed of draft horse, originating from Britain. The incredible strength of this breed means that they have held a great number of records for weight-pulling. Shire horses were also famously used for pulling brewery drays, and some breweries still keep a team of Shires for display purposes.
Bred to thrive in cold conditions, the Shire horse has a thick, dense coat to keep it warm through the winter. Shire horses have a thick-set body and strong limbs and can carry out a full day’s work with ease. They are nearly always black, brown, or bay in color.
At one time, the Shire also held world records for the tallest horse and the largest horse. The average height of a Shire horse stallion is a massive 17.2 hands high. Geldings are slightly smaller at 16.2 hands high, and mares are 16 hands high.
The Percheron is a French draft horse breed that is slightly lighter in stature than the Shire. During the long history of this breed, it has been influenced by other bloodlines, including the delicate and refined Arabian.
Unlike other draft breeds, Percheron horses do not have heavily feathered legs, and they have a light and proud movement.
However, this does not mean that these horses are lightweights! The Percheron is a tall breed with very muscular legs. They have a thick and floating mane and tail, with a wavy texture.
Due to the Arabian bloodlines, the Percheron is more lively and quick-thinking than other draft breeds. They are also very intelligent, but in the right hands, they are easy to train.
So, does this mean that Percheron horses are not as tall as other draft breeds?
No, not at all! The Percheron horse averages an impressive 16.2 to 17.3 hands high, definitely one of the giants of the equine world.
The Clydesdale is a wonderful breed of horse with a very tall, muscular body. They have beautiful feathered legs and a stunning strutting movement. They are renowned for being easy to handle, despite their enormous size.
This magnificent breed originates from Scotland, and it is a tough and rugged breed of horse. The Clydesdale is bred to thrive in cold weather and will have no problem negotiating rough terrain.
Clydesdale horses can be anywhere between 16 and 20 hands high. Male Clydesdale horses tend to be at the taller end of this range, at 17 to 19 hands high. Female Clydesdale horses measure between 16 and 18 hands high!
However, you may come across Clydesdale horses that are taller than 19 hands. One of the tallest horses ever recorded was Clydesdale which measured 20 hands and 2 inches tall!
What Is The Largest Draft Horse Ever?
The title of the world’s tallest horse is a matter of dispute, but there is no doubt that the prize is held by a draft horse! These giants dwarf all other breeds of horse and have consistently been top of the height charts for many years.
There are two main contenders for the title of the biggest draft horse ever:
- Samson (Mammoth)
Samson was a Shire horse gelding from the UK born in 1846. Later renamed Mammoth, Sampson was 21.2½ hands high – that is an enormous 2.19 meters! In the Guinness Book Of Records, Samson is documented as the tallest horse on record. However, as this record was set so long ago, some people argue that it may not be accurate.
- Big Jake
Big Jake was a Belgian draft horse gelding, measured at 20.2¾ hands high. This enormous horse was officially measured in 2010 as the tallest living horse by the Guinness Book Of Records, but unfortunately, he has since passed away. He is now regarded as the second-tallest horse on record, behind Samson.
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What Is The Heaviest Horse Weight?
Sampson is not only the tallest horse on record, but he is also the heaviest! Weighing in at a massive 3,359 pounds (1,524 kg), this enormous horse weighed as much as over eight Shetland ponies!
So, as we have learned, draft horses are very powerful and beautiful breeds of horses. Traditionally, draft horses were used for hauling heavy loads and for farm work, but many of them are now considered to be rare breeds. Draft horses are normally very placid and gentle, making them easy to handle and train.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about our draft horse height breed comparison. Have you ever met one of these beautiful giants of the horse world? Or maybe you have been lucky enough to train with a draft horse? Please add a comment below!
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Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then wenton to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE