The world’s biggest horse breeds

There are hundreds of horse breeds all around the world coming in all different shapes and sizes, but there are some that are certainly more substantial than others. Some of the biggest breeds of horses are draft types which are renowned for their pulling power and strength which makes them popular for haulage and farm work even today.

Six of the biggest horse breeds

From formerly great war steads to carriage horses that could trot for miles every day, the biggest breeds of horses were specifically bred for jobs that required plenty of strength and power. Here are some of the largest gentle giants to ever exist:

1.      Dutch Draft

Height: 15.2 – 16hh

Weight: 700 – 750kg

Country of Origin: The Netherlands

Although not necessarily the tallest when it comes to big horse breeds, the Dutch Draft is certainly a stocky and large type. Boasting an impressive build, this breed has heavily muscled hindquarters, a broad chest, and thick, feathered legs. Once one of the most popular breeds in the Netherland’s they were powerful enough for daily tasks on the farm and pulling carts, yet have a quiet disposition making them a pleasure to handle. Today the Dutch Draft can still be seen performing tasks such as driving and farm work, but their kind nature has also made them popular with leisure riders.

2.      Percheron

Height: 15.1 – 18.1hh

Weight: 500 – 1200kg

Country of Origin: France

The Percheron is a big horse breed that oozes power with its large muscles, deep, wide chest, and noticeably stocky legs. Originally bred for use as war horses, they worked extensively in Europe during the war and then went on to pull stagecoaches and undertake farm work. Their stamina is one of the true highlights of the breed and it’s been said that in the 19th century, they would regularly trot for nearly 40 miles every day. Despite their formidable size, the Percheron is impressively agile and intelligent and today are often crossed with lighter breeds to produce sportier types that make excellent jumpers and pleasure horses.

3.      Belgian Draft

Height: 16 – 17hh

Weight: 800 – 1100kg

Country of Origin: Belgium

The Belgian Draft is one of the strongest horse breeds in the entire world. Possessing a thick build and shorter, stocky legs, this breed is used primarily for pulling tasks including carriages, sleighs, and even farm work such as ploughing. Perhaps one of their most interesting jobs which they still perform today is as fishermen’s hands on the Belgian coast. The tradition which is over 500 years old involves horses dragging nets behind them to capture crabs and shrimp at low tide. Their big strides make light work of wading through the water and their calm and brave natures make them particularly well-suited for this job.

4.      Clydesdale

Height: 16 – 18hh

Weight: 700 – 1000kg

Country of Origin: Scotland

Hailing from the valley of the River Clyde in Scotland, the Clydesdale dates all the way back to the 18th century. This big horse breed was initially created when imported Flemish stallions were mated with local mares and then was further refined in the 19th century when Shire horses were added to make the breed even larger and more powerful. Known for their impressive size, it may surprise you to learn that the modern-day Clydesdale is said to be smaller than they were historically.

Popularly used for haulage, farm work, forestry, and even drum horses in the household cavalry, you may also recognise them more as the face of the Budweiser brand. The lager company have done so much more than giving the breed worldwide fame, they even set up a breeding program with strict colour and conformation standards which has shaped the breed you see today.

5.      Shire

Height: 16 – 18hh

Weight: 800 – 1100kg

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

The Shire is probably the first that springs to mind when you think of the biggest horse breed in the world. Typically standing at over 17hh, they currently hold the world records for the largest and tallest horse in the world.

It is said that Shire’s are ancestors of the great horse, a war horse from the middle-ages that courageously carried knights into battle. Aside from bravely heading onto the battlefield, this big horse breed was popular as farm horses and their impressive pulling power made them great for towing barges and carts. Despite their incredible size, they are truly gentle and are known for being calm and patient which makes them great therapy horses and for pleasure riding.

6.      Suffolk Punch

Height: 16 – 17.2hh

Weight: 900 – 1000kg

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

The Suffolk Punch is one of the oldest breeds of heavy horses in the UK and can be traced back as far as the 16th century. Possessing a short, yet stocky build, these powerful horses were great farm workers as not only were they strong enough for a variety of tasks, but they also had fantastic stamina, were easy to keep and docile. The breed is usually chestnut in colour which is why you may sometimes hear them referred to as the Suffolk Sorrel. The name Suffolk Punch comes from Punch being the old English word for a short, stout person which refers to their stocky legs.

Interestingly, all Suffolk Punch horses alive today can be traced back to a single stallion known as “Crisp’s Horse”.

What’s the biggest horse breed in the world?

Now you’ve learned about the top six biggest horse breeds, you probably want to know which one is the largest of them all. Typically standing at over 17hh, the Shire horse is the biggest horse breed in the world today.

Who was the biggest ever horse?

The biggest horse to ever exist was a Shire gelding called Sampson. Born in 1846, he measured an incredible 21.2 ½ hh and weighed a whopping 1,524kg.

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