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Height at the withers:
160 – 205 cm
muscular and bulky, lush feathering, long and dense coat, often white marks on the blaze and legs, arched muzzle, strong neck
Colour of coat:
brown, black, rarely white, chestnut-coloured not desired
gentle, with strong nerves, oriented towards people, uncomplicated and capable of learning
tactful, sure-footed, spirited
show and recreational riding, as draught and carriage horses
Did you know? A gelding named “Sampson” was the biggest Shire horse so far. He measured 2.19 m at the withers and weight about 1,500 kg! He really lived up to the Shire horses’ reputation as the world’s largest horse breed.
In their native country of England, Shire horses – the world’s largest horses – are also known as gentle giants. In contrast to their impressive appearance, they are a very gentle breed. They have a well-balanced nature, they are highly reliable and form close relationships with their owner or rider. These cold-blooded horses are rarely agitated, and riders appreciated their well-balanced and calm nature. However, you shouldn’t underestimate them because of their slightly clumsy appearance. Unlike many other cold-blooded horses, they have a lively temperament, and they are eager to learn. These particular characteristics make Shire horses so versatile.
The beautiful cold-blooded horses are remarkable not only due to their extraordinary nature, but because of their impressive looks. Shire horses can measure up to 2.05 m at the withers and weigh about 800 to even 1,000 kg. This makes them not only bigger than most other horses but also heavier. Their powerful appearance is distinguished by a sturdy body with a strong back and muscular hindquarters and front legs. Typically, the horse breed is not only large and massive, they also have striking, thick long hair. Shire horses can be brown and black. White Shire horses are rarely seen, and chestnut-coloured horses not desired. Their lush feathering and mane as well as the long tail that reaches the ground are particularly striking. Most Shire horses usually have white marks on their blaze and legs. The latter often makes them look as if they are wearing boots. Their slender head with an arched muzzle, their slightly curved neck and the beautiful, dark eyes give these horses a graceful and elegant appearance.
Today, the heavy cold-blooded horses are very popular and fascinate horse enthusiasts around the world as carriage or riding horses or horses for representing. In their home country, they served as sturdy riding horses for knights as early as the 11th century. They were able to effortlessly carry their riders heavy armour over long distances, and their appearance was enough to scare of enemies. This is why back then, breeding horses that were as large and heavy as possible was desirable. Later the war horses became transport and working horses used for farm work in particular. As they were capable of pulling heavy weights, they were also popular carriage and plough horses. However, the number of Shire horses dropped when many cold-blooded horses were exported to Scotland for breeding Clydesdale horses. By founding the Shire Horse Society as a breeding association in 1878, the Shire horse population was stabilised. Nevertheless, the demand for these horses declined due to the rapid technological development. But thanks to the commitment of a small number of English breeders and breweries, the cold-blooded horse breed recovered. Today, they are still popular carriage or draught horses. And as recreational and show horses, they are more popular than ever. They were already able to show off their elegant and spirited movements – despite their size – in a great number of sophisticated dressage performances in our shows.