Top 7 Tallest Horse Breeds. All You Need to Know About Them

Last Updated on November 25, 2021 by Urska

All about the Top 7 Tallest Horse Breeds! Get up ON your high horse!  I’m a tall girl who has been riding her whole life. The search for a horse with enough hands to take up my long legs has been an ongoing one.  I’ve ridden everything from Welsh ponies to Clydesdales. And I have to say my best rides are on the horses with enough body and height to put my leg at that perfect spot with the most contact.  

Not to mention that most of the tallest horse breeds are the ones embody the spirit of a gentle giant. One common misconception is that the largest breeds aren’t versatile outside plowing or driving. However, this is definitely not the case. Are you are looking for a horse to take up some leg and take you everywhere? From the dressage ring to the combined driving? Take a look below at all the top seven tallest horse breeds have to offer!

#1 Thoroughbred: Size and Speed 

While when seeing big, we don’t necessarily think fast, the thoroughbred often shatters this misconception.  While they range from 15 hands to 17 and most popularly fall in the 16 hand range, thoroughbreds have been known to exceed even these heights.  Some of the most successful racehorses have been at the top of the breed’s height range.

Notably, Man O’ War and Secretariat were in the upper 16 hands and had stride lengths of over 20 feet.  Australian racehorse, “Holy Roller”, stood over 18 hands and won 12 of 25 of his career starts. Thoroughbreds are an extremely popular breed today and can be seen everywhere from dressage to eventing to the hunter/jumper ring.

#2 Belgian Warmblood: Big and Bold

The various warmblood registries (the Dutch Warmblood, Trakehner, Hanoverian) are among the most popular modern sport horses today.  Many range between 16 and 17 Hands, making them extraordinarily popular in the jumping rings.

The Belgian Warmblood is no different, horses are generally sized between 16 and 17.2 hands.  However, one particular Belgian Warmblood gained the breed a spot on this list for his height that was exceeded only by his talent, Big Ben. Big Ben was a 17.3 hand show jumping superstar that was brought to multiple Olympics by Canadian rider Ian Millar.

Over the length of their partnership, Ian and Big Ben won over 1.5 million in prize money in the jumper ring.  Today, Belgian Warmbloods can be seen in dressage, hunter/jumper, and eventing rings using the stature and athleticism that has made warmblood horses the most popular sport horses of this era.

#3 Oldenburg: Sizably Sporty

Another modern warmblood that is characterized by athleticism and stature, the Oldenburg stands between 16 and 17.2 hands.  Oldenburgs can be most commonly found in the Jumper and Dressage rings, possessing floaty gates and powerful hind ends that allow them to excel in both disciplines.  

Making them unique from most other warmbloods, the Oldenburg has a tobiano paint coloring that is allowed in their breed registry. These horses feature black and white spotting, as opposed to the mostly solid colored counterparts in other warmblood breeds.

Oldenburg: Sizably Sporty

#4 Percheron: Tall Teammates

Often characterized by dappled grey or black coats and seen in teams of 2, 4, and 6 pulling a carriage in perfect sync with their teammates, the Percheron is one of the biggest modern horse breeds.  Most well known for their driving abilities, these horses are easily trained under saddle (I experienced my first gallop on a Percheron!).

They have historically been used for farm work, driving carriages, and in mounted military units.  First bred in France, the Percheron is a common draft breed throughout the world today and makes up a large percentage of the Draft Horse population in the US.

Team of Percheron Horses Running. Biggest horse breed

#5 Belgian: Gentle Giants

“Tall Jake” is the tallest living horse today according to the Guiness Book of World Records. He also happens to be a Belgian Draft.  “Tall Jake” stands at 20.2 (nearly 20.3!) hands and lives with his family on a ranch in Wisconsin. Belgian Drafts are primarily used for driving and farm work. Their gentle demeanor has caused them to become popular pleasure horses and even show horses.  

Like other draft breeds on this list, the Belgian can pull extraordinary amounts of weight. But it shows versatility in other disciplines. In the above video, a Belgian Draft can be seen completing a training level dressage test. Showing that this tall breed has both strength and finesse.

#6 Cyldesdale: Very Big and Very Versatile

You are probably very familiar with this breed already for their work with the Budweiser brand, Clydesdales are one of the most recognizable breeds worldwide and also one of the tallest.  Big and beautiful, these horses can grow to over 18 hands.

You may think that this means they won’t be versatile. There are working Clydesdales today in every discipline from Driving to Eventing to Western Pleasure.  They characterized by feathering above the hooves and ranging in color from bay to black. The Clydesdale is one of the tallest and most versatile breeds today.

Cyldesdale: Very Big and Very Versatile

#7 Shire: Big and Brave

You may recognize this breed in Angus from the Pixar movie Brave! Commonly thought of as the tallest horse breed in the world, the Shire is a draft breed originating out of the UK. The breed boasts the tallest horse ever recorded, “Mammoth.”  Mammoth was a 21.2 hand Shire gelding that was born in 1846 in England.

His legacy lives on today in England, with the second tallest living horse “Sovereign,” also belonging to the Shire breed.  Shires are most well known for their driving and pulling abilities.  Most modern Shires are used today in Carriage Driving and Forestry however, they have also been historically trained under saddle.

The statuesque breed was used in combat in the UK historically. Today one can see them reenacting their past at the Kentucky Horse Park, where donated Shires participate in the daily Parade of Breeds introducing park-goers to the impressive size and history of this breed.

As you can see, the tallest horse breeds offer much more than just an impressive height! From the thoroughbred to the Shire, these gargantuan equines can do everything. From pulling a carriage to lead change in the dressage ring to flying through a cross country course.  Horse lovers of any age, height, or riding in any discipline can find something to enjoy in the seven tallest horse breeds.

Equine enthusiasts, did you enjoy this list?  Please let us know or feel free to add your favorite tallest horse breed below in the comments!


What is the tallest riding horse breed?

The answer to that is: The Belgian, with its average height of 17 hands and sometimes exceeding 18 hands (584 cm) and weigh about 650 kg. It outperforms other horse breeds in terms of size even when compared to the Irish Draught (17/2 hands). The Belgian is taller than the Clydesdale, Shire and Percheron.
The breed of the Belgian dates back to the 1840s when it was developed from Flemish horses. The farmers used them as war horses and for heavy draft work. Since then, the Belgians have evolved into a riding horse that is known for its good character and willingness to work.

What is the tallest height for a horse ever recorded?

The tallest horse ever recorded was a Shire named Sampson (aka Mammoth). In 1850 Sampson already stood 21.2 hands tall (7 feet 3 inches or 2.21 m) and weighed stunning 3,359 pounds .
He was born on November 28, 1846 in the U.K., which is where he also died on February 25, 1910. He was owned by William Coke of Norfolk who treated him well even though his size was a burden at times.
Coke owned Sampson for 34 years and said that he was a gentle giant who loved to be groomed and would warn them of intruders by neighing loudly.
When taking him out in public, Coke took special measures so that people didn't think the horse was an elephant from afar. He would shave part of his legs to make them appear shorter.
Sampson was buried in the grounds of Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire, where he had lived out his final days. A life-sized bronze statue by British sculptor David Wynne was erected over his grave to commemorate him.
In the year 2005, another tallest horse of Clydesdale breed named Carolus Rex which stands at 8ft 10in was also included in the Guinness Book of World Records. Carolus Rex was born in 1971 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 33. He was also known as The King due to his powerful and majestic look.
There are many other horse breeds that are very tall, but the Guinness Book of World Records only recognized Carolus Rex and Sampson as the tallest horse ever recorded for their breed.

Who is the tallest horse in the world today?

The horse with the tallest height currently is Big Jake. Big Jake is of Clydesdale breed and stands at 19 hands and 8 inches (2.03 m), beating the previous record set by Carolus Rex.
Big Jake was born on May 5, 1989 in Groveland, Florida to an average sized horse named Little Jake. Little Jake was actually too small to be used for horse breeding, but he was still bred anyway. Little Jake died when Big Jake was just a baby and his breeder decided to keep him as a pet instead of selling him as horse meat.
When Big Jake grew up, he was able to do anything other Clydesdales could do. He was even enlisted in horse shows. Eventually, his owner started getting calls about Big Jake's size and it had to be acknowledged that he was indeed taller than any horse ever recorded before by Guinness Book of World Records.
Big Jake is currently retired and lives on the ranch of Jerry Gilbert in Coulterville, Illinois.