What are the largest breeds of horses?
Horses have been domesticated for thousands of years and there are countless breeds and variations across the species. Historically they have been man’s greatest help when it comes to transportation, war, and brunt work on the farm. Have you ever wondered what the largest breed of horses is? There are many giants in the horse world, most of them classed as draft horses that were bred to pull heavy things and not necessarily ride for pleasure or sport.
Many breeds of horses are known for their large stature and incredible heights, but there are sometimes individual horses that stand out as particularly massive.
The tallest horse in history was known as Sampson, although he was later renamed Mammoth. Foaled in 1846, the Mammoth measured over 21.25 hands tall in 1850 — over 7 feet. Mammoth was also the heaviest documented horse, weighing in at a massive 3,359 lbs.
Until his death in 2021, the largest living horse was Big Jake. This huge Belgian Draft horse was also the second tallest horse in history, standing at 20.27 hands tall and weighing around 2,500 lbs. He was purchased by a relative of his owner, Jerry Gilbert, who heard about the large foal and speculated how large the horse could grow. Big Jake was known to have two full buckets of grain a day in addition to a full bale of hay.
Let’s explore some of these huge beasts in this article.
The Shire horse is the largest horse breed in the world. They make other horses look like dwarfs. They range from 17 to 19 hands tall and can weigh up to 2,400 pounds. They were selectively bred to be large for farm and industrial work. This led to the enormous size they are today.
In the past, this breed towed barges, pulled carts, and handled heavy plows. They’re used for both farm and industrial work.
However, because most farms are mechanized these days, these horses are nearing extinction. Their numbers continue to lower, as many don’t want to keep large horses unless they have a practical need for them.
Multiple groups are looking to revive this breed, though. Their numbers have slowly recovered, though they are still considered endangered today.
The Clydesdale horse is a handsome, strong horse breed popularized by the iconic Budweiser commercials. They are characterized by their distinct brown coat and white markings and can range from 16.2 to 18 hands tall.
Clydesdales are known for their gentle and excitable temperaments. They have been used for their strength for a long time but are now hailed for their beauty. Their white, feathered hooves and magnificent size make them extremely popular for shows and parades.
This ancient horse breed has no record of when they were first bred. Records of Clydesdale horses imported to Scotland go back as early as the 18th century.
While Clydesdale horses are popular, they still face risks of extinction in certain countries due to their large stature and difficulty to keep.
Belgian Draft Horse
The Belgian Draft horse, ranging from 16.2 to 17 hands tall, is a docile and hardworking breed. There are two subcategories of the breed, the taller European Brabant and the short and stocky American Brabant.
In the United States, the Belgian Draft horse is the most popular breed of draft horse. This hardy breed is popular for carriages and shows and is also known for making an excellent pet.
Their coats are usually chestnut and sorrel, accompanied by a white mane and tail. They have small heads and a wide range with sloping shoulders.
The powerful Suffolk Punch horse breed, originating from England and named after their Suffolk county, is used across the world in militaries and for work like plowing.
This breed can range from 15 to 17 hands tall, with short legs and thickly muscled frames. Their coats are always chestnut, and they usually sport distinct white manes, tails, and leg feathering.
These horses are believed to descend from a lineage over 400 years old, but little documentation of their history exists.
Dutch Draft Horse
The Dutch Draft horse is a friendly and calm horse breed that ranges from 15.2 to 16 hands tall. It is a relatively new breed, and after a brief period of decline, was brought back by enthusiasts.
This breed has a solid and large frame and can have beautiful coat colors like gray, chestnut, and bay. Their legs are heavily feathered, and their gait is slow and precise.
Aside from their utility in agriculture, Dutch Draft horses are popular for recreation and dressage. Their easy-going personality and characteristic high stamina make them a popular choice.
The hardy Russian Heavy Draft horse, also known as the Ardennes horse, is descended from several hardy horse breeds in a lineage started in 1860s Imperial Russia.
This hardworking breed can come in many beautiful coat colors, such as bay, chestnut, and even strawberry roan. These horses are popular to this day in Russia and surrounding regions, where the mares are famed for their plentiful and healthy milk.
These horses have a short-legged and stocky build and are divided into three types (Massive, Ural, and Novo Aleksandrov) based on their appearance. They are known for their tolerance of harsh conditions and their calm nature.
Vladimir Draft Horse
The Vladimir Draft horse is a medium-sized heavy draft breed originating from the former Soviet Union. These horses can range from 15.1 to 16.1 hands tall and are popular for riding and dressage.
This horse breed, which is most often bay with a black mane, has a stout and muscular build with pronounced, handsome features. These horses, despite their size, are spirited and agile. They descend from other heavy draft breeds, such as Clydesdales and Ardennes.
The Vladimir Draft horse breed is known for its characteristic intelligence and good temperament.
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