We all know horses are powerful animals, capable of pulling heavy loads. For thousands of years, man has relied on horses to pull carriages, covered wagons, trees, military supplies, and farming equipment.
With the ability to pull large loads, horses have helped shape the world as we know it. However, you may be shocked by how much weight a horse can pull.
On average, a horse can pull 10% of it’s body weight in ‘dead weight’ items such as logs. However, on a cart, three times its bodyweight when driving. However, if you add wheels to the load, a horse can pull three times its bodyweight.
Some strong horse draft breeds can pull an impressive 10-15 times their body weight over short distances. The world record for the heaviest weight pulled by a single horse was a Shire horse that pulled 58,000 pounds.
Keep reading to find out which horse breeds are the strongest, world record weights pulled by a horse, and what factors determine how much a horse can pull.
Horse Weight Pulling World Records
Draft Horses have set some very impressive pulling world records over the years. These records have awed people and shown the amazing capabilities horses have.
In 1924, a pair of Shire horses pulled an impressive 100,000 pounds. To put that in perspective, that is about the weight of 30 pick-up trucks! That same year, a single Shire pulled 58,000 pounds, a feat that is truly astounding.
Heavy horse pull competitions have become a popular event to show off real horsepower.
In 2012, a pair of Belgian draft horses broke the world-famous Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull record by pulling a deadweight of 13,400 pounds. Just two years later, another pair of Belgians at the National Western Stock Show hauled a staggering 17,000 pounds.
Here is a video of a strong horse pulling a car out of a ditch:
Strongest Horse Breeds
Draft horses such as the Belgian, Percheron, and the Shire are considered the strongest breeds. Capable of pulling up to 15 times their body weight, draft horses range from 16 to 19 hands (163 to 193 cm) in height and from 1,400 to 2,000 lb (640 to 910 kg) in weight.
Draft horse breeds have a stocky build with well-muscled bodies and legs. They often have broad shoulders, large hindquarters, and short backs, making them capable of pulling very heavy loads.
Here is more detail about the three strongest horse breeds:
Powerful and beautiful, the Belgian has become one of the most loved breeds of draft horse. Known for their stunning chestnut and roan coats, these giants are descended from medieval war horses.
With stocky bodies, short legs, and thick muscles, they are one of the strongest breeds of horses. They can range anywhere between 16-18 hands and weigh between 1,800-2,400 pounds. As the most popular draft breed in America, Belgians are loved for their calm dispositions and ability to haul heavy loads.
Originally from France, the Percheron breed is known for their beauty and incredible power. With a well-muscled body and graceful carriage, they are believed to be descended from sturdy medieval workhorses with some Arabian heritage mixed in.
As we mention in our biggest horse breeds guide, their versatility has made them popular work and carriage horses. They typically range in height from 16-19 hands and weigh between 1,700-2,600 pounds.
With their sturdy build, deep-set chest, and hardy legs, they are known to haul impressive loads.
Starting off as fierce war horses leading knights into battle, the Shire has developed into one of the most powerful breeds of horses. Originally from England, they are big and strong, while also being athletic and beautiful.
Read more about the most common war horse breeds and their history here.
These mammoth horses can vary in height anywhere from 16-20 hands and weigh between 1,800-2,400 pounds. They are known for their arched necks, powerful hindquarters, sturdy builds, and well-muscled body.
These docile horses are renowned for their strength, as they have broken many pulling records.
Here is another awesome video of a strong horse called Petra!
Fun fact: An average horse has 14.9 horsepower.
What Factors Affect How Much a Horse Can Pull?
A horse that gets regular exercise will have a much easier time hauling a heavy load than one you take out of pasture once a month to work. In addition to fitness level, a horse’s body type will contribute to its pulling capabilities.
A large horse, such as a Belgian, that has broad shoulders and strong legs is bred for pulling heavy loads. Whereas a small horse with a refined build, such as an Arabian, won’t have the same strength as a much larger, stockier horse. However, many breeds, including Arabians, can make wonderful pleasure driving horses.
Type of Load Being Pulled
The type of load plays a large factor in how much weight a horse can pull. Loads can be classified as dead-weight or wheeled vehicles.
When it comes to a dead weight, such as a plow or log, a horse can pull 10% of its body weight over an eight-hour workday. However, over a short span of time, horses can pull significantly more dead weight.
Pulling competitions have become a popular event to test horses’ strength, with pairs often pulling dead weights upwards of 12,000 pounds.
When it comes to weight on wheels, such as carriages, wagons and carts, horses are able to haul more weight over time. A horse can generally pull up to 2-3 times its weight when out for a pleasure drive.
The type of terrain a horse is on will impact their workload. Over a smooth surface, such as a road, arena, or flat pasture, is where a horse is capable of pulling up to three times its weight with a wheeled vehicle.
When it comes to uneven terrains, such as hills or rocky surfaces, a horse can safely pull 1-2 times its weight.
Just as professional athletes wear special shoes to help them perform, so do horses. For some horses, shoes with slip protection and studs help them with traction while hauling large loads. This makes it easier on the horse when they haul heavy objects.
What Kind of Horse Pulls a Carriage?
Though draft breeds make great carriage horses, many other breeds also excel at carriage driving.
Morgans, Hackneys, Arabians, Dutch Harness Horses, Welsh Ponies and even Miniature Horses are among the many breeds that make wonderful carriage driving horses.
How Much Weight Can Two Horses Pull?
When it comes to pulling a large amount of weight, it is better done together. You would assume if one horse is capable of pulling 6,000 pounds, then an equal pair is able to pull 12,000 pounds.
However, they would actually be able to pull upwards of 18,000 pounds, as horses are able to pull more together than apart individually. Pairing horses actually improves their load capability.