The Shire Horse Size Comparison Chart [Comprehensive Guide]

When it comes to shire horse comparisons, these gentle giants always steal the show!

As an equestrian enthusiast, I’ve enjoyed working with many breeds, but there’s just something magical about these draught horses.

With their towering stature and amiable temperament, they quickly become the apple of everyone’s eye.

So, get ready – I’m about to dive into the fascinating world of shire horse comparisons. You’re in for a treat!

Key Takeaways

  • Shire horses are among the giant breed, often standing out in size comparisons. Despite their enormous size, Shire horses are known for their gentle, friendly temperament. 
  • Historically, Shire horses have served various roles, including war horses and agricultural workhorses, showcasing their versatile nature.
  • Regular care, including proper diet, grooming, and exercise, are all essential for a Shire horse’s health and well—being. 

Shire Horse Size Comparison: A Glimpse into the World of Giants

A Size Difference from Other Horse Breeds

Feast your eyes on this comprehensive table comparing the heights and weights of the majestic shire horse with other popular large horse breeds!

To no one’s surprise, the Shire horse reigns supreme.

Horse BreedHeight Range (hands)Average Weight (pounds)
Shire Horse17 – 191,800 – 2,400
Clydesdale16.2 – 181,600 – 2,200
Belgian Draft16.2 – 171,800 – 2,200
Percheron15 – 18.11,900 – 2,600
Suffolk Punch16.1 – 17.21,800 – 2,200
American Cream Draft15 – 16.31,600 – 1,800
Dutch Draft15.3 – 16.21,600 – 2,000
Friesian15.3 – 171,300 – 1,600
Gypsy Vanner13 – 15.21,100 – 1,700
Irish Draught15.1 – 16.31,300 – 1,500

Regarding size, the shire horse is both the tallest horse and the heaviest. Here’s a comparison with some other popular large horse breeds:

  1. Clydesdale Horses: The shire horse’s closest cousin in size, the Clydesdale stands at 16.2 to 18 hands tall, while the shire horse typically measures 17 to 19 indicators.
  2. Belgian Draft: This massive draft horse usually stands between 16.2 and 17 hands tall, slightly smaller than the shire horse.
  3. Percheron: A popular French draft horse, the Percheron ranges from 15 to 18.1 hands tall, with one of the largest ranges between smaller and larger steeds

The Origins of the Shire Horse

Before we dive into the size comparison, let’s briefly examine the origins of the largest horse breed on the planet.

shire horse

This horse breed can trace its roots back to 18th century England, where it was used as a warhorse for knights riding to battle and for agricultural purposes, such as pulling heavy loads. [1]

Over the centuries, the shire horse has evolved into the gentle giant we know and love today.

The Shire Horse: Towering Over Other Horse Breeds

As you can see, even among the largest breeds of horses, the shire stands tall (no pun intended).

Their height can reach up to 19 hands (6 feet, 4 inches at the withers), partly due to their arched neck and bigger heads, and they can weigh over 2,000 pounds. [2]

That’s a whole lot of horses!

The Many Facets of the Shire Horse

The Shire Horse’s Gentle Personality

Despite their massive size and incredible strength, this British breed is known for its gentle nature, calm disposition, and steady temperament.

They are affectionate and good-natured, making them excellent companions for humans of all ages.

The Versatility of the Shire Horse

Historically, shire horses have been used for various purposes, from plowing fields to pulling carriages and even as warhorses.

Their strength, stamina, and calm demeanor make them perfect for these tasks.

Caring for Your Shire Horse: 3 Great Tips

Tip 1: Feeding the Gentle Giant

Due to their size, shire horses require significant food to maintain their weight and health.

They typically eat the same diet as other horses but require 20-30% more in quantity.

Tip 2: Grooming Your Shire Horse

Shire horses require regular grooming to keep their coats clean and healthy like all horses.

Their distinctive feathering around the legs also needs special attention to prevent dirt buildup and infections.

Tip 3: Exercise and Training

Shire horses benefit from regular exercise and training to maintain their physical health.

They are intelligent and eager to learn, making them excellent candidates for various equestrian disciplines, including dressage, jumping, and driving.

Special Considerations for Shire Horses

Now that we’ve established the shire horse’s impressive size let’s explore some other fascinating aspects of this gentle giant. 

shire horse on the ground

Tackling the Tack: Special Considerations for Shire Horses

Tack refers to the equipment used with horses, including saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, martingales, and breastplates.

When dealing with a breed as large and strong as the shire horse, special considerations must be taken into account:

Saddle Size and Fit:

Shire horses require specially-sized, possibly custom-made saddles to accommodate their large size and the rider’s comfort.

Bridle and Bit:

Larger bridles and bits are necessary for Shire horses due to their bigger heads and mouths, ensuring effective communication and control without causing discomfort.

Harnesses and Carriage Equipment:

As shire horses are often used for driving and carriage work, they require more substantial harnesses and equipment to match their size and strength.

Hoof Care and Shoeing:

Shire horses have larger, heavier feet requiring larger horseshoes and specialized farrier skills, with regular hoof care being crucial to prevent issues due to their size.

Considerations for Rider:

As a rider, you may face unique challenges, such as needing assistance for mounting and dismounting, and must effectively communicate and control the horse despite its large size.

As you can see, there are quite a few considerations to consider when dealing with a breed as large as a Shire horse.

Record-Holding Shire Horses

Some shire horses have made their way into the record books for their incredible size.

The tallest shire horse on record was Sampson, who stood at 21.2 hands (7 feet, 2 inches at the withers) and weighed over 3,300 pounds.

Colors and Markings

While shire horses are commonly seen in black, bay, and brown, they can also come in grey, roan, and chestnut colors.

They often have distinctive white markings on their faces and legs, which adds to their unique charm.

FAQs about Shire Horse Size Comparison

What’s the average lifespan of a shire horse?

Shire horses typically live for 25-30 years, with proper care and attention.

Are shire horses good for beginners?

While their size may be intimidating, shire horses are known for their gentle, calm nature, making them suitable for beginners with proper guidance and training.

How much does a shire horse cost?

The price can vary widely based on age, pedigree, and training. They can range from $2,500 to $15,000 or more.

Are shire horses suitable for riding?

Despite their size, shire horses can be ridden by experienced riders. However, they are not typically used for fast-paced sports like racing or polo.

Do shire horses require special tack and equipment?

Due to their size, shire horses may require larger or custom-made saddles, bridles, and other equipment to ensure a comfortable fit.

What is the weight-carrying capacity of a shire horse?

Shire horses are incredibly strong and can carry up to 20% of their body weight, making them suitable for carrying heavier riders.

What’s the difference between a Shire and a Clydesdale? 

clydesdale horse eating

Apart from the size, the main difference is their origin. Shire horses come from England, while Clydesdale horses originate from Scotland.

What is the largest horse ever?

The tallest horse on record was a shire steed named Sampson, who was 21.2 hands/ 7.2 inches tall and weighed over 3,300 pounds.

How big is a full grown shire horse?

The average height of an adult shire horse is 17.2 hands, and the average weight is 1870 to 2430 lb for stallions and geldings.

Conclusion: Celebrating the Shire Horse’s Unique Size and Character

In the world of horses, the shire horse size comparison reveals the exceptional stature of these gentle giants.

From their fascinating history to their versatile uses and striking appearance, shire horses have captured the hearts of equine enthusiasts worldwide.

Whether you’re considering owning one of these magnificent creatures or simply admiring them from afar, there’s no denying the allure of the mighty shire horse.



1. How to access research remotely [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 1]. Available from:

2. Angelique. Shire Horse [Internet]. The Livestock Conservancy. Available from:

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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