Shire Horse: Overview and Origin of a Distinctive Breed

Published April 7, 2021
Shire Horses

The shire horse is the supreme draft horse and known to be extremely kind. Shire horses are easy to handle and useful for a wide range of jobs. This coldblood horse breed originated in the shires or counties of Lincon, Leicester, Stafford, and Derby in England. This horse is the largest and tallest breed in the world and may weigh up to 2,600 pounds.

Shire Horse Breed Overview

At an exhibition in England in 1924, a pair of shires pulled 55 tons! This powerful draft horse was bred in 1884 in the Midland "shires" in England. The shire horse was put to work at farms when no longer required for warfare and evolved into a superior draft horse.

Origin and History

Over the years, the shire horse improved with various outcrosses, including the heavy Flemish or Flanders horse. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Dutch contractors draining the English fenlands imported horses, which later bred with the local shire horses.

Shire Horse

Shire Horse Size and Weight

A horse's size is measured in hands or "hh." The shire is the tallest and largest horse in the world!

  • Height at the withers: The shire horse is more than 17hh or 173 centimeters.
  • Weight: This heavy horse weighs between 1,800 and 2,600 pounds.

Shire Horse Colors

This horse is known for his feathered feet, legs, and large hooves. Grooming your shire horse is essential to maintain a healthy and glossy coat.

  • Mostly black
  • Bay
  • Brown
  • Gray
Shire horse trotting in field

Shire Horse Facts

In England, the shire is a draught horse and performs in skills tests, obstacle driving, and agricultural shows. This horse no longer plays a significant role in agriculture but participates in plowing matches.

Racing Shires

The first recorded shire race in the United Kingdom took place in 2013 and was won by Joey, ridden by Mark Grant. The race is now an annual event, and the Clydesdale horse also takes part. These events are showcases for both draft horses.

Guinness World Records

The tallest and heaviest documented horse by Guinness World Records was the shire gelding Sampson of Bedfordshire, England. This horse was foaled in 1846, measured 21.2½hh, and was over seven feet in 1850. He also weighed 3,359 pounds.

Beautiful white shire horse moving

Large Animal Vet Consult

Seeing a large animal vet is an essential step if you are interested in bringing a draft horse home to your pasture. An equine vet may examine the working horse breed and recommend if the animal is in top condition and healthy. Large animal vets vaccinate against disease, treat horses when they are sick with colic and lameness.

Shire Horse Lifespan

The lifespan of this horse is between 27 and 30 years. Owning this heavy horse is a lifetime commitment, so a large animal vet may help determine if this gentle giant is a good fit for your pasture or barn.

Shire Horse Resources

The best resources evolved from the American Shire Horse Association, created in 1885. Reputable breeders are available across the U.S. and England.

Horse On Field

Heavy Draft Horses

Heavy draft horses are also known as coldbloods. The horses were born to work and play a vital role in forestry and haul timber when it is not ideal to use machinery. There are different breeds, and the most common traits include a broad, dense structure and short and strong limbs.

The Shire Is a Gentle Giant

The shire horse is the largest and tallest horse in the world. The distinctive feathering on his feet and legs makes this horse look like he belongs in a fairy tale. If you are lucky enough to see one race and fall in love, you can contact a reputable breeder or one of the associations trying to save this working breed.

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Shire Horse: Overview and Origin of a Distinctive Breed