The biggest horse breed in recorded history was a Shire horse whose name was Sampson. Sampson, famously known later as Mammoth, was born at Bedfordshire in 1846. He was 21.25 hands tall (86.5 inches) and weighed a massive 3,360 lb (1,524 kg).
Horses have been bred by humans for centuries, and today, we have more than 350 horse breeds in the world. Whether for farming, pulling carriages, sports, or entertainment, horses are extremely versatile and useful animals thanks to their strength and speed.
Below, we take a look at the largest horse breeds in the world.
Shire horses are some of the biggest breeds we have seen over the years. As mentioned above, the largest horse in history was Sampson, a Shire horse. Shire horses originate from England, and because of their huge size, were used mainly for pulling carts and heavy farm and industrial loads. They were also war horses, used for carrying full armored-military men.
These massive horses usually measure about 17 to 19 hands, and their weight ranges from 1,800 to 2,300 pounds. After World War II and the rapid spread of industrialization, the number of Shire horses bred started decreasing. Today, there are very few of them in the world.
Check out our guide on how horses are measured to gain a better understanding of how hands are used.
Clydesdale is a horse breed that has its origins from Scotland and is among the most popular draft horse breeds in the world. Usually, horses under this breed are about 16 to 18 hands tall and weigh about 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. Most Clydesdale horses are on the larger side of these measurements, and many are even taller than 18 hands.
In fact, one of the largest horses in the world was King LeGear, a Clydesdale. He stood 20.5 hands tall and weighed a massive 2,950 pounds. Clydesdales are among the tallest horse breeds in the world.
Clydesdale horses are widely used in forestry and agriculture and often used as parade horses pulling carriages because of their white, feathered fee and overall majestic appearance.
Click here to read our ultimate breed guide on the Clydesdale.
On our list of largest breeds is the Percheron. Percherons are French draft breeds that originate from the Huisne River valley, initially known as Perche. Most horses of this breed are 15.1 to 19 hands, and their height may differ depending on which country they are from.
Today, most Percheron horses are used as show horses and parade horses and also used for driving, while a good number also work in fields and farms. In the earlier ages, they were used mostly as war horses.
Click here to read our ultimate breed guide on the Percheron.
4. Belgian Draft Horse
The Belgian Draft Horse was first bred only after World War II, and as the name suggests, it originates from Belgium. These horses are mostly 16.1 to 17 hands tall and weigh about 2,000 pounds. They are one of the strongest horse breeds today, and as such, are commonly used in forestry and farm work. They are also used heavily for pleasure riding and under saddle riding.
The United States has a considerable number of Belgian Draft horses, and as per the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America, the U.S has more Belgians than any other draft breeds combined.
The tallest living horse today, according to the Guinness World Records, is a Belgian horse known as Big Jake. Big Jake is huge and measures 20 hands. He currently lives at Smokey Hollow Farm, Wisconsin.
Find out more about this breed!
5. Dutch Draft Horse
Among the list of largest breeds is the Dutch Draft Horse. Originating from the Netherlands, the Dutch Draft Horse is known for its heavy, chunky body, its wide neck, and short legs. Their size usually ranges from 15 hands to 17 hands.
They appeared only after World War I as a result of cross-breeding between Belgian Draft horses and Ardennes. These horses are very strong and were often used for farming, forestry, and other heavy-pulling jobs. However, they are very rare today.
6. Suffolk Punch
Another rare horse breed that is one of the biggest horse breeds in the world is the Suffolk Punch horse. These are highly endangered horse breeds and are among the tallest and oldest horse breeds in Great Britain. Suffolk Punches are always chestnut in color and stand 16.1 to17.2 hands tall.
They are often used in ads because of their majestic and striking appearance. They are also popular for farm work and forestry.
Click here to find out more information on the Suffolk Punch.
7. Australian Draught Breed
On our list of largest breeds in the world is the Australian Draught Breed. These horses are a result of cross-breeding between Shires, Clydesdales, Percherons, and Suffolk Punches – some of the biggest horse breeds in the world.
First bred in 1976, they are a fairly new breed, and as the name suggests, they were bred to thrive in the Australian environment.
Australian Draught Breed horses are commonly used in plowing and harness competitions where they tend to perform extremely well thanks to their incredible strength. On average, their height ranges from 16.2 to 17.2 hands, and they weigh between 1,300 to 1,900 pounds.
Thoroughbred horses make it to our list of tallest horse breeds in the world. With origins in England, thoroughbred horses were first bred as racehorses and today have become one of the most popular animal athletes worldwide.
They are commonly used in timed show jumping events as well as cross-country races, thanks to their long strides and incredibly tall height. Most thoroughbreds are as tall as 17 hands. However, unlike draft breeds who are normally calm and gentle, thoroughbreds generally have a hot temperament.
Find out more information on the thoroughbred horse by reading our ultimate breed profile here.
9. American Cream
Originating from the United States, the American Cream is a very rare draft breed. There are very few horses under this breed today, and those existing are mostly used for pulling carriages and for impressing tourists.
On average, these horses are as tall as 16 hands and weigh about 1,800 pounds. After the industrialization and mechanization of farming, the number of American Cream horses started to reduce, and they nearly became extinct. However, an interest in this breed was restored in the 1980s.
What Horse Is Bigger Than A Clydesdale?
Clydesdale horses are among the largest horse breeds in the world, and a popular question that horse enthusiasts often have is if it is the biggest horse breed or whether there are other horse breeds that are bigger.
While a Clydesdale is definitely very tall and big, there have been several horses which are bigger according to world records. For instance, the largest horse in the world, Sampson, was a Shire horse and was as tall as 21.25 hands.
Clydesdale horses are usually about 18 hands tall and weigh 2,000 pounds. Shire horses, on the other hand, may be about the same height on average, but they are generally larger in size and heavier, weighing about 2,600 pounds.
Another horse breed that could be bigger than a Clydesdale is a Percheron, whose average weight is 2,600 pounds and is usually about 18 hands tall. In fact, in 2005, the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the tallest living horse was Goliath, a Percheron. This title now goes to Big Jake, a Belgian draft horse from Wisconsin.
What Is The Largest Horse In The World?
The largest horse in the world is a title that many horse breeders vie for. Horses are truly strong and majestic animals that have many uses for humans, and throughout the years, many horses have stood out for their incredible strength and appearance.
The biggest or tallest horse in the world is Big Jake, a Belgian Draft horse who now resides in Smokey Hollow Farm in Wisconsin. Without any shoes, he stands at a majestic 20 hands and 2.75 inches (82.75 inches). He was measured on 19 January 2010, and since then, has held the title of the tallest living horse in the world according to the Guinness World Records.
Ever since he was awarded this title, hundreds of people from everywhere have flocked to the farm to see Big Jake in person. According to Jerry Gilbert, the horse’s owner, and farm manager, people are often shocked when they see how big and tall Big Jake really is in person.
Big Jake used to participate in draft horse showing competitions, but he is now retired. At almost 20 years old, he loves to spend his days simply relaxing at the farm or greeting many of his fans at numerous events.
The largest horse in the world may appear daunting because of his size, but he is known to be very kind, gentle, and caring. Jerry says that he eats twice as much as normal-sized horses and that he is very careful about his diet and health so his horse won’t become too heavy. Gaining weight would only put more stress on his joints, which is a huge health concern among big horses.
What Is A Big Horse Called?
A common question that horse lovers and enthusiasts often have is what to call big horses. Are big horses called by a separate name? Which horse breed is the largest?
When people use the term “big horse”, they are usually talking about draft horses. These are horses that were bred for pulling heavy loads. Hence, their huge size. Popular draft horse breeds include Shires, Clydesdales, Percherons, and more. These are what you would refer to commonly as heavy horses.
Horses come in different shapes and sizes, and one the largest horse breeds is the Shire. The Shire is a draught horse with its origins in Britain, and it is usually black, grey or bay in color. Shires are usually so huge that they have, at various times, held the world records for the tallest horse and the largest horse in the world.
What Are The Best Large Breeds For Horse Riding?
One of the main uses of horses today is for riding. Whether for competing in races or for pleasure riding, it is important that you choose the best horses which were bred specifically for riding.
Many experts consider thoroughbred horses to be among the best large horse breeds for horse riding. These horses are usually very tall and very athletic. In fact, these horses were bred purely as racehorses in England so you can be confident in their athleticism, strength, speed, and gait quality.
However, for first time owners, thoroughbreds may be a lot to handle since they can be quite hot-headed, and most of them were trained for competitive racing. You can also find steadier and gentler thoroughbreds, although this may be quite the challenge.
Another option when it comes to horse breeds for rising is the Hanoverian. The Hanoverian is a warmblood horse breed with origins from Germany. In early years, they were used as farm horses for pulling carriages and also as war horses. Later, they became very popular as racing horse breeds.
Usually, Hanoverians are about 16 hands tall, making them among the largest horses in the world.
Horses are among the most loved animals today. Their commanding and majestic appearance and presence often make them very easy to adore, while their speed and strength make them extremely versatile and useful animals for domestication. Moreover, cold-blooded horse breeds such as draft horses are also very friendly and docile and make great companions for humans.
With so many horse breeds in the world, many horses have claimed the title of the biggest horse throughout history. However, taken on average, the size of a Shire horse is usually bigger than that of any other horse breeds. For this reason, they are often referred to as the largest horse breed in the world.
Other draft horse breeds that were bred for pulling heavy load and forestry and farm work are also among the largest breeds. Some of these include Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgian Draft Horses, Dutch Draft Horses, and more.
Since heavy horses were bred mainly for farm work, many of these horse breeds have reduced numbers today because of industrialization. Some, unfortunately, even have dangerously low numbers that they are almost extinct.
Whether for forestry, agriculture, sports, and entertainment or for pleasure-riding, horses have always been great companions for humans.