How Tall are Horses

How Tall are Horses? [11 tallest horse breeds]

A horse’s height varies depending on the breed and sex of the animal. While the exact number is disputed there are over 300 different horse breeds. The average horse stands at around 16 hands tall which is 64 inches or a little over five feet tall. Horses are large mammals.

is a clydesdale the biggest horse
Is a Clydesdale the Biggest Horse?

Average Horse Height 

  • Male horses are generally between 16 and 18 hands tall (64-72 inches or 1.6 metres, or five feet four inches). 
  • Female horses are usually around 15 hands tall (60 inches or 1.5 metres).

Horses can grow to be taller than 18 hands but this isn’t considered normal.

How are Horses Measured?

To measure how tall a horse is you use a unit of measurement called a ‘hand.’

The horse’s height is measured in ‘hands’ from ground level to the horse’s withers where their back meets their neck at the point of the shoulder.

What are Horse Withers?

The horses’ withers are the highest point on their back. They are located between the horse’s shoulder blades straight above their front legs.

What are Horse Withers
What are Horse Withers?

The height of your horse is to the highest point of the withers.

How Big is a Hand in Measuring Horses?

A hand is a unit of measurement used to measure the height of horses. It is equal to 4 inches or 10.16 cm. 

how big is a hand in measuring horses
How Big is a Hand in Measuring Horses?

It is common among horse enthusiasts to say that the measure of a hand is basically how tall your hand is if it is turned sideways horizontally.

For most adults, a hand width is about four inches tall.

Why are Horses Measured in Hands?

Since ancient times the equine world has used the term ‘hands’ to state how tall a horse is. To this day it is common to hear someone say that their horse is a certain number of hands tall.

Horse Height Measurement Devices

The most accurate method to measure a horse’s height is using a measuring stick, a measuring tape, or a horse height tape. 

Regular tape measures are generally not used during a horse measurement as they are not the best tool for an accurate measurement.

Horse Height Measuring Stick
Horse Height Measuring Stick

Horse Height Measuring Stick

A horse measuring stick is likely to be the most accurate method to determine how tall your horse is.

This device is very similar to what you have probably seen in your doctor’s office when they measure how tall you are.

How to Measure a Horse’s Weight with Tape?

A horse height tape is simply a flexible tape with markings on each side to make it easy to measure the height of your horse.

And you can also use this same horse tape to determine your horse’s weight! How about that! The horse tape will have markings for hands and weight calculations.

Simply wrap the horse tape around the girth of the horse and read the estimated weight off the tape.

Tallest Horse Breeds

There are many different breeds of horses that are tall. Here is a list of some of the tallest and biggest.

The largest horses tend to be draft horses.

American Cream Draft

The only American draft horse still in existence.

American Cream draft
American Cream Draft

Australian Draught Horse

This draft horse is super strong but still has a great temperament.

Australian Draught Horse
Australian Draught Horse

Belgian Draft Horse

Belgian horses are known for being big and tall! These are working draft horses.

Clydesdale Horse

Everyone knows about how big the Famous Budweiser Clydesdales are!

Dutch Draft Horse

This horse is bred to excel at all types of farm work.

Dole Draft Horse

The Dole draft horse is from Norway and is also a harness racehorse!

Hanoverian Horse

This tall horse comes from Germany and is a great show horse.

Hanoverian Horse
Hanoverian Horse

Percheron Horse

Originally bred as a warhorse the Percheron is often used to pull carriages.

Shire Horse

Shire horses are probably the tallest horse on this list and come from England.

Suffolk Punch Horse

This horse dates back to the 1500s and pulled heavy artillery during wars.

Thoroughbred Horse

Thoroughbred horses are famous for being the fastest and great racehorses.

Horse Breed Height Chart

Below is the average hieght and weight of some popular horse breeds.

BreedHands TallInchesWeight (lbs)
American Cream Draft15-1660-641500-1800
American Quarter Horse14.5-1658-64900-1200
Belgian Draft15-1760-681800-2200
Suffolk Punch16-1764-681700-2100
Horse Breed Height Chart

Related Tallest Horse Questions

World’s Tallest Horse

The tallest horse ever recorded was a Shire horse named Mammoth (originally named Sampson) who lived in the mid-1800s and reached over 21 hands tall! That is over seven feet!

Then there was a Belgian Draft named Big Jake, who measured almost seven feet tall. That is over 20 hands tall! Big Jake lived in Wisconsin and died at the age of 20 in 2021.

Big Jake weighed 2600 pounds, was world-renowned, and made many show appearances throughout his life.

He was recognized in the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest horse alive at one point.

How Much Does an Average Horse Weigh?

An average horse weighs about 900 to 1200 pounds. This varies greatly by the breed of horse.

How Big Are Draft Horses?

Draft breeds are very large animals in height and weight. The average height for most draft horses is around 16 hands.

That is about five feet and four inches tall. Some draft horses can grow as tall as 18 hands, or about six feet.

How Much Does a Draft Horse Weigh?

The weight of a draft horse is also impressive. They can weigh anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds.

In fact, the heaviest draft horse ever recorded was a shire named Sampson that weighed in at 2,400 pounds!

How Much Can a Draft Horse Pull? 

All of this size and weight is also great for pulling heavy loads. Some say a draft horse can pull more than three times their own weight!

Therefore, a single horse could therefore pull something like 6,000 to 8000 pounds!

Draft horses are also well known to be able to endure cold weather so they make excellent farm animals in the northern climates.

How Tall are American Quarter Horses?

American quarter horses are average-sized horses coming in between 14.5 to 16 hands tall. Quarter horses are known for being the fastest horse in a quarter of a mile race.

How Big is a Horse’s Head?

A horse’s head will be about two feet long.

How Tall Are Ponies?

To be classified as a pony they need to be less than 14.2 hands tall. 14.3 hands tall and up is considered a horse.

How Tall Are Miniature Horses?

The American Miniature Horse Association defines a miniature horse as having a height of 34 inches or less.

Is a Taller Horse Better?

Of course, there are different opinions on the right size of a horse but if you are looking for a riding horse consider that the larger the horse is the greater the distance you have to fall!

Sorry, just a little humor…

Do Tall Riders Need a Tall Horse?

The short answer is not really although a tall horse may be a better fit for a tall rider. If your horse is too short for your height you may be uncomfortable with how you look on the horse.

But the true measure is how much you weigh and if the size of the horse you chose is capable of carrying your weight without causing it physical harm. 

Finding the right size horse for you is not hard but it is best to consult with an experienced horse person before buying one.

Is a Clydesdale the Biggest Horse?

While the Clydesdale is a huge horse it is not the biggest or tallest. Most horse experts agree that the Belgian Draft horse and the Shire horse are slightly bigger than a Clydesdale.

What is the Tallest Clydesdale Ever?

King LeGear is generally thought to be the biggest and tallest Clydesdale ever weighing in at over 2900 pounds and standing 20 plus hands tall!

Why Isn’t a Horse Measured to the Top of Its Head?

Since a horse has a long neck and they can move its head a great distance it would not be a consistent accurate way to measure how tall a horse is.

Think about how a horse can literally touch the ground with its head (grazing) while ‘standing up’ to get an idea of what I am talking about.


Horses grow to a variety of heights and are mostly determined by what breed they are. The average height of a horse is generally between 15 and 16 hands tall.

All horses are strong animals no matter what their size so always take that into consideration and always treat a horse with great respect!

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