Horses have been a crucial part of human civilization for thousands of years, and we have used them heavily for transport, as well as farming, industry, food, and various other crucial elements of society.
While the treatment and cultural attitude towards horses varies in different parts of the world, there’s no denying the fact that horses have played a huge role in human history and that we have had a massive impact on horses,
as natural selection and breeding programs were created hundreds of years ago to create the biggest,
most powerful and most effective horses for various purposes, from warhorses to farming and draft horses powerful enough to move huge amounts of weight.
There are many different breeds of horses, and there are several that have competed for the title of the biggest horse breed.
In this guide, we’re going to look at which horse is the biggest living breed, as well as which horse is the tallest ever living breed,
and then some of the largest breeds of horse that exist to give you a better understanding of just how impressive and majestic these horses are, as well as where to look if you find yourself looking to purchase one.
What Is The Tallest Living Horse?
The tallest living horse was a red flaxen Belgian gelding horse called Big Jake, who was noted for his enormous height. He was some 20 hands 2 and ¾ inches tall, weighed 2600 lbs (1133 kg), and held the title of world’s biggest horse from 2010.
Tragically, Big Jake passed away in June 2021 at the age of 21 years old, but up until that point in time he was regarded as the world’s biggest living horse, and is the second tallest horse ever recorded in history.
Jake was truly enormous, but as with a lot of large horse breeds, he was a gentle giant, with a gentle soul and a fondness for munching on people’s hair.
Big Jake was so big that he would eat twice the amount of food as a normal horse, and great care had to be taken to ensure that he didn’t become too heavy as this would put huge stress on his joints, which is something that all large horses are at risk of.
The search for a new tallest living horse is ongoing and will likely be claimed in the coming years, but until that point, it is hard to confirm who is next tallest after Big Jake.
What Is The Tallest Ever Recorded Horse?
The biggest horse ever recorded was a Shire Horse called Sampson, born in 1846 in Bedfordshire, England. Sampson was later renamed Mammoth when his full size became apparent.
He was 21.25 hands tall and weighed 2260 lbs (1524kg), which also made him the heaviest horse ever recorded. British Shire horses were made for use in farming and industry, which explains their massive size and powerful bodies.
Mammoth holds the record for the tallest and heaviest horse to this day, although many horses have come close to beating this record.
What Are Some Of The Biggest Horse Breeds?
In this section we’re going to look at some of the biggest horse breeds which regularly count among the heaviest and tallest of horses, to give you a better understanding of what breeds to look for when it comes to finding a very large and powerful horse.
1. Suffolk Punch
The Suffolk Punch originates from Suffolk, England, an area that has bred large draft horses since the 1500s. It is the oldest native breed of horse in Great Britain and was bred for agriculture and farming work, making it immensely powerful.
They can measure around 16 to 18 hands and weigh 1900 to 2200 lbs.
The horse almost became extinct in the 1950s, and there are only a very small number of these horses left in existence today, making their future survival a dubious prospect.
They are chestnut-colored with white markings on the legs and a docile, intelligent nature.
2. Dutch Draft Horse
The dutch draft horse is one of the rarest horse breeds, but is among the largest horses in the world, with a size of 15 to 17 hands in height and a weight of 1500 to 1700 lbs.
This horse was used extensively for farming work due to its immense power, as well as its slow walking speed and intelligent, calm nature.
They are usually grey, chestnut, or bay in color, and have short legs, and a very muscular body, with feathered hooves.
3. Belgian Draft Horse
With a size of 15 to 18 hands and a weight of 1800 to 2200 lbs, the Belgian Draft horse is famous for its size and power.
Sometimes referred to as the Flanders Horse, this is another breed typically used for farming work. They can be bay, roan, sorrel, or chestnut in color, and have a muscular body, short legs, and a thick neck to emphasize their power.
Measuring between 15 to 19 hands, and weighing some 1900 to 2000lbs, the Percheron is famed for its size and power and was once considered the tallest horse in the world.
These horses are famed for their elegance and beauty as well as their size, however, and they are regularly used in parades and horse shows, and a large amount of interbreeding has led to varying sizes of horses.
It’s a horse that is able to withstand hot climates very well and is known for its hardiness as well as its hard-working nature.
They are mostly black or grey in color.
Clydesdales are a horse from Scotland that measures some 16 to 18 hands typically and weigh 1800 to 2000 lbs. They are noted for their high stepping gait, and their bay markings with white patches on the face, legs, and feet.
They can be grey, black, or chestnut in coloration, and are a gentle breed of horse, but can be energetic. They are quite easy to train and have elegant long necks unlike a lot of other draft horses.
6. Shire Horses
Shire’s measure 17 to 19 hands weigh 1800 to 2200 lbs, and hail from England. This breed currently has the record for largest ever recorded horse and is known for its muscular body, height, and easy-going temperament.
They can be bay, black, chestnut, brown, or grey and are famous in England as they were used for pulling beer carts as well as driving the canal boats and other heavy industries with their powerful bodies.
They were also heavily used for farming, and are ranked among the strongest breeds of horses, but the rise of technology has meant that these horses are more often used for carriage pulling, and the number of horses has decreased significantly.
Why Are Horses Measured In ‘Hands’?
Horses are measured in hands because it was traditional to measure a horse by placing one hand on the floor, and the other hand above that, working your way up the height of the horse and counting how many ‘hands’ high the horse was.
While modern measurements are much more accurate thanks to measuring sticks and other technologies, the traditional moniker of ‘hands’ has remained in place.