Although Shire horses and Clydesdales have many similarities, the two are distinctly different breeds. Read the comparison of Shire Horse vs Clydesdale. However, both are draft horses native to Europe. Draft horses, or draught horses, are large horses typically well-suited for intensive pulling labor. Less used terms to describe drafts include carthorses or workhorses due to their great pulling or hauling abilities for farm labor. The largest draft breed is actually the Shire horse!
Although Clydesdales are frequently referred to as the “Budweiser horses“, this amazing working breed does much more. Despite being used in conjunction with flashy patriotism in American parades, Clydesdales originate from Scotland in the 18th century.
Although most modern horses date back to a specific or set of foundation stallions, the Clydesdale dates back to a single mare! Clydesdales are now more popular in the United States than any other country. Although originally used for hauling coal and heavy pulling, modern Clydesdales are used for pleasure in addition to heavy agricultural work.
Like other animals, selective breeding has changed the Clydesdale over many years. They now stand between 16 and 18 hands tall, with heavy broad bodies. Clydesdales tend to have straighter facial structures with wide muzzles. The sabino gene often creates large white markings in addition to their signature feathered legs.
The Shire Horse
The Shire horse is a British breed, and typically a dark color (bay or black), or grey. These are the largest breed of horse, and several Shires have held records for the world’s largest and tallest horse. Although similar-looking to the Clydesdale, the Shire horse is far less common. They too have large hooves, significant feathering, and typically run between 16 and 18 hands tall.
The breed was given the name for the British shires (or “countryside) where the breed was first developed. In 1878, the first Shires breed registry was created as the “English Cart Horse Society”. However, the breed made its way to the US in the mid-1800s. Although the breed was not very desirable in terms of farm labor, they were used to add size to current working-horses. Interesting fact: When Shires breed numbers fell in the 1950s, Clydesdales were crossbred to help increase the breed numbers.
Shire Horse vs Clydesdale- Similarities
- Both draft breeds
- *Typically* around 16 to 18 hands
- Feathered legs
- Up to 2,400 lbs
- Strong and muscular builds
- Strength for pulling
- Kind disposition and used for pleasure
Shire Horse vs Clydesdale- Differences
- Shires have more of a Roman nose
- Excessive white is not desirable in Shires
- Different countries of origin
- Clydesdales are slightly smaller and more refined
- Shires will be broader and have a heavier average weight
- Usually a color differentiation
To this day, draft breeds are still used in place of modern machinery or tractors. Both breeds are used for pulling, tourist sightseeing, and many owners love drafts for pleasure use! These horses are cold-blooded with very easy-going temperaments, making them great family horses. Whether being utilized on a farm, trail riding, or pleasure driving, each of these breeds is still working and loved today.
Do you think you can see the difference between a Shire Horse vs Clydesdale? Although they share many similarities, these two distinct breeds have several differentiating features.
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