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For thousands of years, horses have been selectively bred into over 600 breeds for various purposes.
Some of the world’s biggest horse breeds have gained the admiration of humans due to their majestic appearance and phenomenal strength.
These large horse breeds were originally developed to work on farms, pull carts, and mobilize heavy loads. Their exceptional work ethic and docile temperament made these animals indispensable assets to society.
While draft horse breeds were already an impressive size back in the day, it was only around the 19th century that these horses began to reach very big sizes.
Unfortunately, many large horse breeds diminished in numbers during the 20th century due to a declining need for their use. However, conservation efforts are ongoing to preserve and protect these gentle giants.
What is the Biggest Horse in History?
The biggest horse in history was a Shire horse named Sampson, who stood at a towering 21.25 hands (7 ft 2.5 in) and weighed 3,360 lb (1,524 kg). With his impressive measurements, Sampson was both the tallest and heaviest horse in history.
Foaled in 1846 in Bedfordshire, England, Sampson was renamed Mammoth at the age of four when he already stood 7ft 2 in.
Had he not been gelded at one and a half years old, this famous giant could’ve reached even more extraordinary heights.
There’s a good chance that Sampson’s name might forever remain in the Guinness World Records as the biggest horse that ever lived. However, some equines have since come close to his impressive size.
Biggest Horses in History
Besides Sampson, several horses made it into the history books for being far beyond the usual measurements for their breed.
|Sampson||Shire||21.25 hh||3,360 lbs (1,524 kg)|
|Goliath||Percheron||19.1 hh||2,500 lbs (1,134 kg)|
|Big Jake||Belgian Draft||20 hh||2,600 lbs (1,179 kg)|
|Dr. LeGear||Percheron||21 hh||2,995 lbs (1359 kg)|
|Brooklyn Supreme||Belgian Draft||19.2 hh||3,200 lbs (1,450 kg)|
Meet the famous horses who awed crowds with their sheer size and thundering steps!
Big Jake was a Belgian Draft who held the title of the world’s tallest living horse until his recent death in 2021. The chestnut gelding stood at a monumental 20 hands 2.75 inches and weighed 2,600 pounds (1,179 kg).
Foaled in 2001, Big Jake was already 240 pounds (109 kg) at birth. He acquired his Guinness World Records title in 2010 and held it proudly for the next ten years.
However, Jake wasn’t just an ornament at his Nebraska home. The gelding competed regularly in draft horse competitions, drawing carriages as part of a four to six-horse team. He also appeared frequently at Wisconsin State Farm where he performed for large crowds before retiring in 2013.
At his home, Jake had an entire 20×20 feet stall to himself, which is nearly double the size of an average stall. One can only imagine how much a horse of this size must eat!
Considered the tallest horse ever, the Percheron gelding Dr. LeGear stood at a whopping 21 hands and weighed 2,995 pounds (1359 kg).
The horse’s owner was Dr. L. D. LeGear, who ran a veterinary pharmaceutical company in the early 20th century. According to records, the Percheron gelding was a beautiful dapple seal brown with perfect proportions. He was valued at $25,000.00 in 1913 (Source: ipernity).
With a staggering weight of 3,200 pounds (1,450 kg), Brooklyn Supreme was no doubt the largest horse of his time. The Belgian Draft stood 19.2 hands tall and had a heart girth of 10 ft 2 in (3.10 m), the largest on the record.
Weighing nearly a ton and a half, Brooklyn Supreme far outgrew his breed’s standards. An average Belgian Draft typically weighs 2,000 pounds (907 kg), with males slightly heavier than females.
Alongside his impressive size, Brooklyn Supreme also walked on giant’s feet. Each of his horseshoes were made from a bar of iron 30 inches long, which is unheard of in today’s horse world.
Naturally, the grand stallion quickly became a nationwide sensation. His owner exhibited Brooklyn Supreme across the United States, charging people 10 cents to view the celebrity horse.
Read our article about Brooklyn Supreme to learn more.
Standing at 19.1 hands, Goliath was the Guinness record holder for the tallest living horse in 2005. According to records, the black Percheron gelding also weighed a notable 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg).
Goliath’s home was at the Priefert Ranch in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. Together with five other Percherons, he toured the United States all year round, appearing at fairs, rodeos, parades, and other events.
Following his sad passing in 2014, Goliath’s family organized a special memorial to honor his life. One of his carers, Jeff Rash, told Horse and Hound:
“He was more than a gentle giant, more than a world record holder, and certainly more than just a horse. His heart was kind, humble, and pure.”
10 Biggest Horse Breeds in the World
The biggest horse breeds in the world are the Shire, Clydesdale, Belgian Draft, and Percheron. These horse breeds can reach 18 to 19 hands in height and weigh between 1,800-2,200 pounds (800-1,000 kg) on average.
The world’s largest horse breeds are not only famous for their jaw-dropping size, but also their immeasurable strength.
In 1924, a single Shire horse made history by pulling 58,000 pounds (over 26 tons), a feat unrepeated ever since!
10. American Cream Draft (Height: 15.1-16.3 hands)
The American Cream Draft is the only official draft horse breed created in the United States. Standing at 15.1 to 16.3 hands and weighing 1,600 to 1,800 pounds (725 to 816 kg), it’s a draft breed of medium height and weight.
As its name suggests, the American Cream Draft is most famous for its cream coat color. Officially known as gold champagne, it gives the breed its unique appearance alongside amber eyes and pink skin.
Despite its beauty and popularity in the United States, the American Cream Draft is a rare horse breed. Both the Equus Survival trust and Livestock Conservancy consider the breed’s status to be critical.
9. Boulonnais (Height: 15.1-17 hands)
The Boulonnais is a French draft horse breed with a typical height of 15.1 to 17 hands and a weight of 1,250 to 1,650 pounds (567 to 748 kg). While most Boulonnais horses are gray in color, black and chestnut individuals are becoming more frequent in the breed.
Certain historians claim that the Boulonnais originated from the cavalry horses of Julius Caesar. In the 17th century, the breed received infusions of Barb, Arabian, and Spanish blood which created its modern appearance.
Several types of Boulonnais horses exist today, defined mainly by size and purpose. The smallest type was used to pull carts from Boulogne to Paris, while larger versions carried out heavy draft work in the country and cities.
8. Friesian (Height: 15.3-17 hands)
Native to the Netherlands, Friesians stand on average 15.3 to 17 hands tall. These majestic black horses were popular war mounts in the Middle Ages and are still used for jousting and reenactment today.
Although they classify as a warmblood, Friesians are taller and stockier than the average riding horse. This is due to their draft horse origins, which gives this breed its strong bone and pulling power. They are also heavier than most riding horses, weighing 1,200 to 1,400 pounds (545 to 635 kg) on average.
At the same time, Friesians are also elegant and graceful for their size. Their flashy appearance and high knee action make these horses a popular choice for driving and dressage.
Although most Friesians are black by default, they can also be chestnut on rare occasions. Besides riding and driving, the breed is also used for showing, parades, and even movies!
7. Dutch Draft (Height: 15-17 hands)
The Dutch Draft is a fairly new horse breed created after World War I from crosses of Ardennes and Belgian Draft horses. Originally, it was a popular breed around Zeeland and Groningen regions for agricultural and heavy draft work.
However, World War II caused a sharp decline in numbers, making the Dutch Draft a rare horse breed.
Undeniably one of the strongest horse breeds, Dutch Drafts are often seen at pulling contests or competing in horse-drawn plowing events. Despite its strength, the Dutch Draft is shorter than other draft breeds, ranging from 15 to 17 hands at the withers.
Despite its strength, the Dutch Draft is shorter than other draft breeds, ranging from 15 to 17 hands at the withers. Meanwhile, they weigh in the range of 1,550 to 1,650 pounds (700 to 750 kg).
6. Suffolk Punch (Height: 16.1-17.2 hands)
The Suffolk Punch is one of the oldest and tallest horse breeds in Great Britain. These historic horses are always chestnut in color and stand between 16.1 and 17.2 hands, weighing around 1,600 to 2,000 lbs (725 to 900 kg).
Since its inception, the Suffolk Punch has changed very little throughout history. The breed has close ties to many of Britain’s mountain and moorland pony breeds, and the Haflinger horse.
Today, Suffolk Punch horses are popular for forestry, farm work, and advertising, largely due to their striking appearance.
Unfortunately, the Suffolk Punch is also among the world’s rarest horse breeds. Few Suffolk Punch breeding operations remain in Britain, partly due to the genetic bottlenecks and losses during the World Wars.
5. Australian Draft (Height: 16.2-17.2 hands)
Like the Dutch Draft, the Australian Draft is a relatively recent creation. Developed from other large horse breeds such as the Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Suffolk Punch, it was only recognized as an official breed in 1976.
The Australian Draft comes in all solid colors and stands on average 16.2 to 17.2 hands tall. While these horses typically weigh between 1,300 and 1,900 pounds (600 and 900 kg), the registry accepts larger horses.
Popular in plowing and harness competitions, the Australian Draught quickly became the dominant draft horse breed of its native country. Although many are not officially registered, they still show the typical characteristics of the breed.
4. Belgian Draft (Height: 16.1-18 hands)
Initially the same breed as the Brabant, the Belgian Draft became its own breed after World War II. Typically chestnut in color with flaxen manes and tails, these horses are as eye-catching as they are powerful.
An average Belgian Draft stands between 16.1 and 18 hands and weighs around 2,200 lbs (1,000 kgs). Due to its sheer size and dense bones, the breed has considerable muscle power. Two Belgian Draft horses were once recorded pulling in excess of 7,700 kg (17,000 pounds).
While Belgian Drafts are still popular in heavy farm work and forestry, they’re also used for pleasure riding. Unlike other draft horses, this breed is fortunately not at risk of extinction.
3. Percheron (Height: 15.1-19 hands)
The Percheron is a French draft breed with origins in the Huisne river valley. This large horse breed varies greatly in size and can be anywhere from 15.1 hands to 19 hands tall. Most Percherons weigh on average 1,900 pounds (860 kg), but can be as heavy as 2,600 pounds (1,200 kg).
Unlike other draft breeds, Percherons show a heavy influence from Arabian horses. This resulted from Arabian bloodlines being introduced to the breed in the 19th century. The oriental influence is clear from the Percheron’s fine head, slender neck, and athletic build.
Derived from the war horses of the Middle Ages, Percherons are a popular choice for showing, parades, and driving. Moreover, their large size and docile temperament make them great horses for heavy riders.
2. Clydesdale (Height: 16-18 hands)
The Clydesdale is one of the most famous draft breeds in the world today, partly due to its role in Budweiser commercials. Native to Scotland, the breed has changed considerably in size and shape during the 20th century.
The current breed standard requires Clydesdales to be in the range of 16 to 18 hands and 800 to 2,000 pounds (820 to 910 kg). However, many horses outgrow these measurements.
For example, a Clydesdale named King LeGear stood at a whopping 20.5 hands and weighed 2,950 pounds (1338 kg). His massive size qualified him as one of the biggest horses in history.
Energetic, flashy, and gentle, Clydesdales are still used for agriculture, forestry, and other draft work. They also make superb parade, carriage, and show horses due to their beautiful appearance and feathered hooves.
1. Shire (Height: 17-19 hands)
Shires are the biggest horse breed in the world. Ranging from 17 to 19 hands tall and weighing 1,800 to 2,400 pounds (820 to 1,100 kg), these horses are truly impressive in size.
Originating in medieval England, Shire horses were selectively bred for industrial and farm work. Traditionally, they towed barges along canal systems, pulled carts and brewer’s drays, and mobilized heavy plows and other equipment.
Unfortunately, due to World War II and the mechanization of agriculture, Shire horse numbers have plummeted to near extinction levels. However, thanks to organizations such as the American Shire Horse Association, the breed has slowly started to recover in recent years.
Today, Shire horses are mainly used for forestry, driving, and showing. They also make great family and leisure riding horses and are considered among the best horse breeds for bigger riders.
|Shire||17 – 19 hh||1,800 – 2,400 lbs|
|Clydesdale||16 – 18 hh||1,800 – 2,000 lbs|
|Percheron||15.1 – 19 hh||1,900 – 2300 lbs|
|Belgian Draft||16.1 – 18 hh||2,200 lbs|
|Australian Draft||16.2 – 17.2 hh||1,300 – 1,900 lbs|
|Suffolk Punch||16.1 – 17.2 hh||1,600 – 2,000 bs|
|Dutch Draft||15 – 17 hh||1,550 – 1,650 lbs|
|Friesian||15.3 – 17 hh||1,200 – 1,400 lbs|
|Boulonnais||15.1 – 17 hh||1,430 – 1,650 lbs|
|American Cream Draft||15.1 – 16.3 hh||1,600 – 1,800 lbs|