The world’s largest horses are unique breeds in a class of their own. They are popular horses due to their massive size and strength. Historically, large horses were bred as workhorses, but today they’re popular for parades, harness competitions, and horse-drawn plowing events. The Shire breed is considered to be the largest horse breed.
Horses that are considered to be part of the large breed categories have similar characteristics that set them apart from other horses.
What is a Big Horse?
For a horse to be considered big or large, it usually has to fall within a certain height (hands) and weight.
How Many Hands is a Big Horse?
Large riding horses can range from 15.2 hands to 17 hands tall or more.
How Much Does a Large Horse Weigh?
Large horses can weigh anywhere from 1,100 to 1320 pounds or more.
How Big are Draft Horses?
Draft horses are even bigger than your average large horse. Draft horses usually stand 16 to 19 hands tall and weigh anywhere from 1400 to 2000 pounds.
These amazing creatures have fascinated people for years and today it’s no different.
The largest horse breeds all have one thing in common, everyone loves watching these majestic animals!
Characteristics of Large Horses
Large horses tend to be the strongest horse breeds but also have docile temperaments. They’re often called, gentle giants because of their easy-going, calm demeanor.
Most draft horse breeds originated from cold weather climates in Europe. Large horses usually have feathered hooves to keep their legs warm.
Draft breeds have been around for centuries performing agriculture work, pulling carriages, or just pleasure riding.
Here is a list of some of the biggest horse breeds.
Biggest Horse Breeds
American Cream Draft Horse
This large horse is the only draft horse native to the United States. Historically, it dates back to the 1900s.
American Cream horses have three unique traits.
- Cream-colored coat
- Reddish eyes
- Pink skin
American Cream horses are on the endangered horse breed list. At one point their numbers dropped to only 500 in the world.
Efforts are being made to create registered breeds and their numbers have increased, but not at a substantial level yet.
American Cream horses have a calm temperament, willing demeanor and make great riding horses. They often get confused with a palomino because of their color.
The American Cream horse has what’s called the “Champagne” gene which gives them pink skin and reddish-colored eyes.
Some of them have white markings on their head or legs. They have a wide chest, a short back, and muscular hindquarters.
Those American Creams that are still around are used for shows, riding, or farm work.
- Height: 15 to 16.3 hands tall
- Weight: 1500 to 2200 pounds
- Originally from: United States
- American Cream Horse Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
Australian Draft Horse
The Australian Draft horse was first developed from crossbreeding the Shire, Percheron, Suffolk Punch, and Clydesdale in 1976. They are also called the Australian Draught Horse.
These large horses possess many of their parentage breeds characteristics in size and strength.
Australian draft horses were the dominant draft horse breed popular in plow and harness competitions.
A gentle-tempered horse, they have a calm, placid nature which makes them great for showing or riding.
They’re also popular for draft competitions, and as working horses on small farms in rural areas of Australia.
- Height: 16.2 to 17.3 hands tall
- Weight: 1300 to 1900 pounds
- Originally from: Australia
- Australian Draft Horse Lifespan: 20 to 30 years
Belgian Draft Horse
The Belgian draft horse was considered the same breed as a Brabant horse, but after World War II, it became its own breed.
Belgian draft horses are huge and famous for their strength and stamina. They’re used in heavy farm work, cart pulling, or for showing.
They’re also good for riding due to their gentle nature.
They have feathered hooves similar to the Shire or Clydesdales, but they lack the long elegant neck of these breeds.
These Belgian horses are more muscular with shorter necks. They are usually roan or bay.
- Height: 15 to 18 hands tall
- Weight: 1800 to 2200 pounds
- Originally from: Belgium
- Belgian Draft Horse Lifespan: 18 to 24 years
Called White Marble or Boulonnais, this large horse is one of the most elegant of the draft horses.
Some historians suggest they can trace this horse breed all the way back to Julius Caesar’s calvary. Was the Boulonnais used as a war horse?
Over the years, they crossed the breed with other breeds such as Andalusian, Spanish Barbs, and Arabians to create the current day breed known as a Boulonnais.
They are usually gray, but today they are sometimes black or chestnut. They have a wide forehead with small ears that stick up.
Their neck is thick and muscular with an elegant arch. They have strong, solid legs. This breed is easy to train, social and energetic. They make great companion horses.
- Height: 15.1 to 17 hands tall
- Weight: 1250 to 1650 pounds
- Originally from: France
- Boulonnais Horse Lifespan: 20 to 25 years
This well-known horse originates from Scotland. Because of the famous Budweiser beer commercials, many people can easily identify a Clydesdale horse.
They have large feathered hooves with elegant arched necks. To be considered for a position as a “Budweiser Clydesdale” a Clydesdale must be 18 hands tall and weigh at least 1800 to 2300.
One of the largest Clydesdales to ever live was a whopping 20.5 hands tall and weighed 2950 pounds. That’s a massive horse!
Clydesdale horses are sweet-natured, easy-going, and strong. Their noticeable characteristics include:
- Silky-like feathered hooves
- Broad forehead
- Long arched neck
- High lift of their legs as they walk
Because of their beautiful appearance, Clydesdales are considered flashy and are often used in parades, as show horses, or for pulling carriages.
Sadly, today they are at risk of extinction in some countries.
- Height: 16 to 18 hands tall
- Weight: 1800 to 2000 pounds
- Originally from: Scotland
- Clydesdale Horse Lifespan: 20-25 years
Dutch Draft Horse
This large breed of horse resulted when an Ardennes and a Belgian draft horse were crossbred together. The Dutch draft horse is considered a rare breed.
Because of their strength, they’re a popular breed for pulling heavy loads and farm work.
They first appeared after World War I, but by World War II, their numbers declined. Although Dutch Draft Horses are shorter than other draft horses, they’re very strong.
They have a calm demeanor and good temperament which makes them excellent for horse-drawn plowing events and riding.
Dutch draft horses have a noticeably slow walk which makes them perfect for beginning riders. The Dutch draft horse colors can be sorrel, chestnut, gray, or bay.
- Height: 15 to 17 hands tall
- Weight: 1500 to 1700 pounds
- Originally from: Netherlands
- Dutch Draft Horse Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
This horse breed received its name from the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. It’s thought that they came from an ancient breed of horse that was bred to produce the Suffolk Punch.
The Jutland horse is a very popular horse breed, often seen in movies, festivals, or parades. They’re calm, easy-going, and easy to train, which makes them great as pleasure riding horses.
Jutland horses have a curved face with a short, slightly arched neck, straight shoulders, and a muscular back.
They are chestnut-colored, but they can also be bay, black, or roan. Some have white markings on their face or legs.
- Height: 15 to 16.1 hands
- Weight: 1430-1760 pounds
- Originally from: Denmark
- Jutland Horse Lifespan: 25-30 years
Elegant in appearance, the Percheron horse is known for its tough strength and ability to work.
This French draft horse comes from the Huisne river valley region known as Perche which is how the horse got its name.
Some historians suggest they may go back as far as 496 AD. Percherons can withstand harsh climates because of their hardiness.
Percheron horses come in black or gray colors. They have a light neck, but a powerful body. These gentle horses are docile with a good temperament similar to large horses.
- Height: 15 to 19 hands tall
- Weight: 1900 to 2000 pounds
- Originally from: France
- Percheron Horse Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
Russian Heavy Draft Horse
This large horse was bred in Russian in the mid-1800s. The Russian Draft has short legs compared to its longer body.
They’re powerful horses without the typical feathering around their feet that you normally see in other draft horses.
They have a straight, flat-looking profile with a short neck, a muscular body, and a broad back.
Their coloring can be chestnut or strawberry roan, or bay. They’re fast runners with a docile disposition.
Russian Heavy draft horses grow quickly and have a long life.
Foals (young horses of either sex) can weigh as much as 550 pounds when they’re weaned and then reach up to 95% of their full adult weight when they’re only 18 months old.
They originally bred this draft horse to work on farms. The mares produce a lot of milk during lactation, so much so, that their milk is used to make a fermented dairy drink called Kumis.
Another unusual use for the Russian Heavy draft horse is to supply meat. Eating horse meat is common in many countries, especially in Asia and Europe.
- Height: 15 to 16.1 hands
- Weight: 1400 to 1500 pounds
- Originally from: Russia
- Russian Heavy Draft Horse Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
These massive horses are said to be the largest in the world. They tower over other horses with their tall back and heavyweight.
This British draft horse can be grey, bay, or black. These strong horses were bred in the mid-1700s as farm horses, to pull barges along canals or trolleys and carriages.
Today, Shire horses are sometimes used to deliver ale to breweries. Shire horses are good horses for beginning riders due to their gentle nature.
It’s rare for them to rear up or buck their riders because they’re aren’t easily spooked. Today this breed is considered at risk due to its low numbers.
In recent years, the American Shire Horse Association has been working to increase numbers to help this breed make a comeback.
- Height: 17 to 19 hands tall
- Weight: 1800 to 2400
- Originally from Britain
- Shire Horse Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
Suffolk Punch Horse
The Suffolk Punch horse is a tall, ancient breed of horse. They are mentioned in ancient writings as far back as 1586.
They are popular horses on the farm or for advertising because of their majestic appearance. Suffolk Punches are always chestnut.
Some of them have white markings on their legs and face, but this is rare. They’re muscular and short with large bones.
They have a characteristic rounded appearance. Suffolk Punch horses are laid back but are still good working horses.
They’re smart and easy to train and they don’t eat much, which is rare for draft horses.
Today, there aren’t many Suffolk Punches in Great Britain, but in the United States, you can find quite a few. These are registered in the United States, but not Great Britain.
- Height: 16 to 18 hands tall
- Weight: 1900 to 2200
- Originally from: England
- Suffolk Punch Horse Lifespan: 25 to 30 years
What is the Tallest Horse Ever Recorded?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest horse ever was a horse named Sampson. He was born in 1846 and grew to be over 21 hands tall! That is over seven feet!
Sampson is also recorded as being the heaviest horse ever weighing over 3300 pounds!
What is the Tallest Living Horse?
Guinness World Records show Big Jake, a Belgian Gelding horse, to be the world’s tallest living horse standing over 20 hands tall!
Big Jake lives at Smokey Hollow Farm in Poynette, Wisconsin, which is open for visitors to come marvel at his huge size!
Large horses are fascinating. These gentle giants are strong and hard-working. They were historically bred to haul and pull heavy loads.
Today, they’re seen in parades, horse-drawn plowing events, or harness races. If you love large horses, you’re not alone.
They’re in a class all their own with their beautiful features and massive size. These heavy breeds even make good riding horses.