What Makes A Shire Horse?
The Shire horse is a draught horse, with powerful and muscular
build, a dense rounded body, a broad back, strong loins,
powerful hind-quarters, and long legs with dense bones. The
breed standard is set by the Shire Horse Society in the United
Kingdom, and the American Shire Horse Association in the United
States. Shire horses can be black, bay or grey. The legs should
have white stockings or socks (except on grey horses). The hair
down the back of the legs is called the "feather", while the
hair over the feet is known as the "spats".
Shire horses average around 17.2 hands (178
cm) tall at maturity (measured at the withers), with the breed
standard being at least 17 hands, although a Shire horse was
recorded reaching over 21.2 hands (220 cm). The girth of a Shire
horse varies from 6 feet (1.8 m) to 8 ft (2.4 m). Shire
stallions weigh, on average, between 144 st (910 kg; 2,020 lb)
and 176 st (1,120 kg; 2,460 lb).
The head should be long and lean, with a
Roman nose and widely-spaced eyes. The breed standard specifies
that the eyes should be docile in expression, and they are
generally brown. The neck should be long and lean, with an arch.
This leads to a short, muscular back, with no pronounced dipping
What Can A Shire Horse be Used For?
The simple answer is … anything! The early ancestors of the
Shire Horse were originally used to carry knights into battle
but as the years progressed, the Shire was the staple breed used
to draw carts and work on the farms.
Nowadays, Shires can be seen still working
for selected breweries, delivering ale from the brewery to pubs
but they are also used for other equestrian activities, like
driving, logging, farming and riding - some Shires even compete
in dressage and jumping events!
Did you know?
The Shire horse holds the record for the world's biggest
horse; Sampson, foaled in 1846 in Toddington Mills,
Bedfordshire, England, stood 21.2½ hands high (i.e. 7 ft 2½ in
or 2.20 m at his withers) by the time he was a four year old,
when he was re-named Mammoth. His peak weight was estimated at
over 3,300 lb (approx 1.5 long tons).
The most recent Shire to hold the record was
Goliath, a dray horse for the Young & Co. brewery who held the
Guinness World Record for the tallest living horse at 19.2 hh
(1.98 m) until he died in July 2001.