The World’s Top 8 Awesome Biggest Horse Breeds

Are you wondering which the biggest horse breeds in the world are and if they’re a smart choice for a first horse?

Then we’ve got you covered with our list of the largest horse breeds in the world!

But beware because our cute enormous horses are so charming they can steal your heart. 

8 Biggest Horse Breeds at a Glance

  1. Shire
  2. Clydesdale
  3. Percheron
  4. Belgian Draft Horse
  5. Suffolk Punch
  6. Dutch Draft Horse
  7. American Cream Draft
  8. Thoroughbreds

8 Awesome Largest and Biggest Horse Breeds in the World

Do you know that there are more than 300 different types of horses in the world?

Compared to humans, all these 300  breeds seem massive in size, striking awe with their muscular bodies and sleek coats. 

Still, some breeds are larger and heavier than others. Often, you see these giant animals performing at parades and can’t help but admire them.

As you’ll discover, draft breeds take the prize spots. That’s because you need lots of strength, power, and endurance to pull heavy carts/carriages for miles on end. 

But enough chit-chat. Let’s see the biggest horses ever, the gentle giants of the horse world. 

1. Shire

big shire horse with white feet

When people think about the largest horse breed, they usually think about Clydesdale, a well-known breed.

However, there are horses bigger than the Clydesdale. We’re talking about the mighty Shires. 

It’s easy to recognize Shires, thanks to their distinctive feathering around the legs, thick coats, and black, brown, grey, chestnut, or bay colors.

The stunning Shire is also the tallest horse breed with a height of at least 17 hands (173 cm).

Some Shire horses can be up to 19 hands tall and weigh between 1800 to 2400 pounds.

In fact, the heaviest horse in history was a Shire stallion born in the 19th century, reaching 3 360 pounds.

Fitting called Sampson or Mammoth, it also holds the world record for the tallest horse ever with 2.13 meters.

That’s not surprising because Shires are related to the Great British horse.

English noblemen and knights used these massive animals to ride into battle or compete in jousting tournaments.

When warriors no longer need strong horses, the Shire’s ancestors became draft work horses, suited for agricultural work.

During the next centuries, this biggest horse breed remained a popular draught and heavy labor animal. It’s easy to understand why. 

Despite their impressive size, a Shire is a gentle giant with a calm temperament, making them a great choice for a beginner rider.

They’re also highly trainable and willing to work until they drop. 

But Shires eat a lot and need plenty of room to accommodate their massive bodies. 

Unfortunately, this fantastic breed almost extinct in the 20th century when machines replaced horsepower. 

According to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the Shire is at risk, while a study states, “the American Shire horse breed is currently listed in critical condition.”

2. Clydesdale 

clydesdale with white spots

Clydesdales are another draft breed with impressive height, weight, and stature. Most are bay with white markings, but all colors are accepted.  

Like Shires, this heavy horse is also one of the horses with hair on the feet, giving them a distinctive appearance. 

The white featuring makes these famous horses look dashing when parading or marching. But it also makes the task of grooming this horse a little bit tricky.

As for size, Clydesdales reach 18 hands and weighs around 2,000 pounds, with stallions bigger than mares.

Their hooves are the size of a frying pan with five pounds of weight. But that’s not all! 

The Clydesdale King LeGear was among the tallest and heaviest horses recorded with an impressive height of 20 hands and almost 3,000 pounds of weight!

In the past, Clydesdales were draft animals, pulling logs, wagons, and carts or helping with other hauling tasks around the farm.

Imagine an individual horse pulling more than 2000 tons! 

Being one the strongest horse breeds, Clydesdales were also war animals, carrying heavily armed soldiers into battle. 

Nowadays, you can often see Clydesdales at parades, events, and shows, where they pull carriages or act as drum horses.

They are very popular, thanks to their participation in the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company’s promotions

Since they don’t spook easily and have a gentle giant temperament, these draft horses are also perfect for pleasure riding.

Clydesdales are also easy to train and make excellent trail horses due to their sturdy constitution. 

Unfortunately, this biggest horse breed is vulnerable and threatened, even though its population has increased recently. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PXbCtE2IZI

3. Percheron

a tall brown horse

France boasts as the birthplace of another draft horse breed with majestic appearance, astonishing size, and legendary stamina.

We’re talking about Percherons, of course.

This biggest horse breed is almost as tall as Clydesdales, with a height between 15 to 19 hands.

They also weigh up to 2,600 pounds and have incredible stamina, allowing them to trot for miles without much rest. 

That’s not a surprise since Percherons are a mix between Barb horses, Flemish draft animals, and Arabian horses. 

In the past, the Percheron was used in the cavalry due to its endurance and large size.

But these animals also make excellent farm and harness horses due to their adaptability and willingness to work. 

And despite their staggering size, a Percheron is an excellent choice for a heavy rider or an inexperienced horse owner.

That’s because sweet, smart, docile, and easy-going. They’ll sit patiently while you climb atop them and follow your directions when it’s time for work. 

Unlike other draft horses, Percherons don’t have the same heavy feathering around the feet.

Still, you will notice that their legs are very muscular, while their mane and tails are thick and wavy. 

This popular draft breed eats more than an average horse and needs regular grooming and brushing to keep the coat and skin bacteria-free.

Nowadays, Percherons are often bred with thoroughbred to produce sport horses that excel at various equine activities. 

4. Belgian Draft Horse

Belgian draft horse eating grasses on the field

Next in our list of the biggest horses ever is the Belgian horse with its well-muscled body, powerful hindquarters, and broad chest. 

Likely related to the enormous medieval horses used in battles, the Belgian draft developed in the 17 century in the region of Brabant.

Standing at 15 to 18 hands tall and weighing up to 2,200 pounds, the Belgian draft holds several records for the biggest horses in history. 

For example, Brooklyn Supreme, a read roan Belgian bred in the 1930s, was over 19 hands tall and weighed over 3 000 pounds.

Imagine how big its hooves were!

And a Belgian holds the Guinness World record for the tallest living horse in the world.

Big Jake is over 20 hands tall (210 cm or 6 ft 10-3/4 in ) and weighs 2,600 pounds. He was born 240 pounds in 2001.

Besides their enormous size, Belgian are also famous for their strength and stamina. A team of Belgian horses can pull 17,000 pounds of weight! 

Fortunately, like other draft breeds, the Belgian has a calm demeanor and gentle temperament.

That makes this breed an excellent choice for pleasure riding, farm work, and eventing.

In fact, people loved the Belgian drafts so much that they save the breed from extinction in the late 20th century.

That’s why the Belgian horse is one of the draft breeds not at risk at the moment. 

Unfortunately, this biggest horse breed is prone to progressive lymphedema and junctional epidermolysis bullosa.

And they can put on weight if you don’t work them hard. 

On the bright side, this intelligent horse breed is easy to train and adapts well to cold climates, thanks to its double coat. 

5. Suffolk Punch

suffolk punch brown horse eating grasses

Do you know that the Suffolk Punch is one of the oldest native horse breeds in Britain?

Always chestnut in color with no white markings, the Suffolk Punch goes back to the 16th century and a founding sire, known as Crips’ horse.

Like other draft breeds, Suffolk Punch was bred to be an agricultural horse.

Their use around the farm kept the bloodline pure, explaining why the Suffolk Punch hasn’t changed much during the years.

While the Suffolk Punch isn’t the tallest horse breed, it’s not a miniature horse at all, standing between 16 and 17 hands tall with an approximate weight of 2000 pounds.

And what the Suffolk Punch lacks in stature, it makes in muscles, strength, and endurance.

Just look at that powerful neck, sloping shoulders, short legs, and a wide back.

People often describe these amazing draft animals as hard-working and eager to please.

You can expect them to pull a cart or plow a field until they drop from exhaustion. 

Compared to similar breeds of horses, the Suffolk Punch matures early and has relatively few health concerns.

But it’s an energetic animal that needs plenty of work to thrive and remain fit. 

Unfortunately, Suffolk Punch is among the rarest draft horse breeds since the population decreased after World War I and II.

According to specialists, there are only about 400 Suffolk Punch horses in the UK, with 30 to 40 foals born each year.

6. Dutch Draft Horse

white Dutch draft horse

The Dutch Draft is another breed that makes the list of the biggest horse breeds in the world, thanks to its massive body and majestic appearance. 

Breeders created the Dutch Draft at the beginning of the 20th century by crossing heavy-draft animals with Ardennes and Belgian Drafts.

That makes it a relatively young breed, compared to other draft animals whose history goes back to the Middle Ages and Ancient Rome.

In general, Dutch Draft is approximately 16 hands tall with a weight of 1600 pounds.

They’re as muscular as other drafts and have a willing nature and calm temperament. 

While it’s not as tall or heavy as other draft breeds, the Dutch Draft has impressive strength and stamina, allowing it to work endlessly on the farm.

And look at those heavily feathered legs! 

Unfortunately, Dutch Drafts are quite rare because their population dwindled after the wars.

That’s a shame because these animals are hard-working, highly trainable, and cute! 

7. American Cream Draft 

white American cream draft horse

The American Cream Draft is a relatively new breed, compared to Shires, Clydesdales, and other horses in history.

They were created at the beginning of the 20th century in Iowa. 

Nevertheless, the American Creat Draft is a remarkable draft breed, the only one originating from the United States.

In general, the American Cream Draft has muscular hindquarters, wide chests, and powerful shoulders.

But it’s the lovely cream coat color and the piercing amber eyes you notice first. 

These stunning animals are among the tallest horses, with an average height of 16 hands. They’re also quite heavy, with a weight of up to 1800 pounds.

They’re great for any agricultural work, and their docile temperament makes them perfect carriage horses.

Since the American Cream is a heavy horse breed, they’re also suitable for large riders. 

Unfortunately, the American Cream Draft is also one of the rarest breeds.

After World War II, the population decreased so much that these amazing horses became almost extinct.

Fortunately, breeders manage to reactivate the population and restore a small portion of its numbers. Still, the breed is in critical condition.

8. Thoroughbreds

two brown Thoroughbreds walking on the grassfield

Thoroughbreds might not be a draft breed, but they’re still so impressive that we can’t miss them when talking about the biggest horse breed. 

In general, Thoroughbreds are between 15 to 17 hands tall, averaging 16 hands. As such, they’re similar in height to Dutch Draft and Suffolk Punch.

However, unlike draft breeds, Thoroughbreds are much lighter, with an average weight of 1 100 pounds.

That’s because they were created to be fast, not haul cargo or plow fields. 

These majestic animals were bred in England in the 17th and 18th centuries by crossing native mares with Oriental stallions. 

Not surprisingly, Thoroughbred quickly gained popularity and spread throughout the world.

Nowadays, they remain one of the most popular breeds, with over 100 000 registered yearly.  

Thoroughbreds excel at show jumping, dressage, hunting, and eventing. However, they have a high accident rate and aren’t as docile as draft breeds.

A Thoroughbred requires a confident owner who knows how to handle hot-blooded breeds. 

Frequently asked questions

What Breed of Horse is Best for Heavy Riders?

Horses can carry roughly 20% of their body weight, so the best breed for larger riders depends on the rider’s weight. If you’re over 250 pounds, you’ll need a heavy animal, such as Belgian Draft, Clydesdales, Percherons, or Shires.

Some of these big breeds can also carry riders over 300 – 350 pounds. However, you should always consult with your vet to ensure your stallion/mare can support your weight. 

Any increase over the 20% body weight ratio might be dangerous and damage the stallion/mare’s back. And don’t forget that you have to add your riding equipment to the equation.

Which Breed of Horse is the Largest? 

Draft horses are the largest breeds with a height between 15 to 19 hands and a weight between 1800 to 2600 pounds. The biggest three are Shires, Clydesdales, and Percherons. 

In comparison, Thoroughbreds and other warmblood breeds are around 15-17 hands tall with an average weight of 1,100 pounds. There’s such a big difference in weight because draft breeds were created to haul and plow, not race through fields. And you can’t do heavy farm work with a light animal. 

How is Horse Height Measured?

When people talk about horse height, they don’t use inches or centimeters. Instead, they say “hand,” which can be confusing for novice owners. But there’s nothing complicated. One hand equals four inches, so an animal measuring 16 hands tall would equal 64 inches.

If there are any numbers after the decimal, you add them to the inches. 17.2 hands equal 70 inches (17×4 plus 2).
To get an accurate measurement of your stallion/mare’s height, you should measure from the ground to the withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades). 

What Horse is Larger Than a Clydesdale?

Shire horses are bigger than Clydesdales, although not by much. Both breeds reach up to 17-18 hands tall and are over 2000 pounds in weight.

However, Shires hold the record for the heaviest recorded horse. Samsom, with its impressive height of 21.25 hands tall, was over 3360 pounds in weight.

In comparison, the biggest Clydesdale ever was King LeGear. By the age of seven, this stallion was 20.5 hands tall and weighed slightly over 2,900 pounds! The Belgian Big Jake is also bigger than typical Clydesdales with a height of 20 hands.

Is Big Jake still alive?

Yes, Big Jake is still alive. Currently, the tallest living horse is 20 years old and lives in Nebraska at the Smokey Hollow Farm after retiring in 2013. 

Conclusion

Aren’t these eight biggest horse breeds fascinating? At first, you might be scared of their height and powerful bodies, but these gentle giants are nothing to fear.

On the contrary, draft horses are great horse breeds for first-time owners because of their willing nature, calm disposition, and great patience. 

Draft breeds also tend to have a sturdy constitution and adapt well to changes and harsh weather conditions.

But they eat more than racehorses and are prone to several inherited diseases. And most of these biggest horse breeds are so rare that they’re almost extinct.

Let’s hope we’ll manage to preserve these stunning and beautiful horses for future generations. 

References:

  • “Guidelines for Weight-Carrying Capacity of Horses.” n.d. Extension.umn.edu. https://extension.umn.edu/horse-care-and-management/guidelines-weight-carrying-capacity-horses.
  • Sandalls, Katy. 2020. “Suffolk Punch Numbers Increasing but Future Faces New Threat from Coron…” East Anglian Daily Times. April 9, 2020. https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/coronavirus-threatens-futures-of-suffolk-punch-2661708.
  • Stephens, T.D., and R.K. Splan. 2013. “Population History and Genetic Variability of the American Shire Horse.” Animal Genetic Resources/Ressources Génétiques Animales/Recursos Genéticos Animales 52 (April): 31–38. https://doi.org/10.1017/s2078633613000052.
brown tall horse standing gracefully

What do you think about these 8 biggest horse breeds? Which one is your favorite, and have you ever ridden a large horse? Tell us in the comments. 

Grigorina S
Grigorina S

Grigorina grew up surrounded by animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, and horses and that has shaped her into what I am today – a crazy cat lady who always has a place for one more cat (or a dog). She has two female cats – Kitty and Roni, and two tomcats – Blacky and Shaggy, but she also feeds her neighbors’ cats when they come for a visit. I just can’t say no to them. Follow her on FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM

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