Are Clydesdales and Shire horses the same breed?

Two of the most popular horse breeds are Shires and Clydesdales.

They seem eerily similar at first sight. But, there are some distinctive differences between the two equines.

I have owned both horses and will discuss the differences between Shire and Clydesdale horse breeds in this essay.

Let’s get started!

What’s the Difference Between Shire vs. Clydesdale?

What's the Difference Between Shire vs. Clydesdale

The primary distinction between a Shire and a Clydesdale is their origin. Shires began in the United Kingdom, whilst Clydesdale started in Scotland. Shires are also larger, taller, and have longer coats than Clydesdales.

Let’s take a closer look at the distinctions between Shire and Clydesdale.


Shires and Clydesdales have a common ancestor, although their beginnings are very different.

Clydesdales are descended from the county of Clydesdale in Scotland, which is today known as Lanarkshire.

Because of their substantial weight and readiness to obey directions, these equines were initially developed as drought horses in 1826.

The Shire breed existed considerably earlier, going back to 1066. They, too, were used as farm animals for their heavy-set bodies and strong work ethic.

Shires were popular and were sold in huge quantities to countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

The Shire’s population had plummeted by the 1960s. Breeders crossbred the few remaining Shires with Clydesdales to increase the population.

Shires and Clydesdales have similar looks because of this.

Physical Traits

Despite their remarkable resemblance, Shires and Clydesdales have slight variances.

The bodies of both horse types are huge, muscular, and robust. But, Shires are bigger; they stand at 17 hands and weigh between 1,800 and 2,400 pounds.

Clydesdales are not small horses but have a slightly smaller frame when compared to Shires. Their height ranges from 16 to 17 hands, and they weigh between 1,600 and 2,300 pounds on average.

Clydesdales have leaner and more refined muscles than a Shire’s, which are thick and dominant. The legs and hooves of both breeds are feathered.

Clydesdales are distinguished by their slightly arched neck and shoulders, short, muscular back, deep chest, short, powerful legs, and rounded hooves.

The Shire will have a short back and a slightly arched neck. Its shoulders and chest are deep, but its legs are longer and more muscular, with large hooves.

Shires have long, thin heads with a broad nose and huge eyes. Clydesdales, on the other hand, have a broader forehead, wide eyes, and a flat face. Shires often have their natural tails, while Clydesdales have their tails docked.

Shires’ coat colors are typically black, brown, grey, and even chestnut. Most Clydesdales are black, brown, roan, or bay.

Both breeds may have white markings on their face, body, and legs, although Clydesdales are more likely to have them. Shires with no white markings are preferred by breeders and owners.


Shires and Clydesdales have quite distinct personalities. Both are mild-mannered, one of the reasons they were kept as drought animals for centuries.

Shires are considerably more docile, eager to please, and have a strong work ethic. Their laid-back personality and eagerness to please make them the ideal horse for new riders.

Shires may still be utilized for agricultural labor and other outdoor activities. But, more recently, they are a popular choice for riding because they are among the easiest horse breeds to train.

Clydesdales are frequently called ‘cold-blooded.’ Not because they are related to reptiles by any chance but because of their cool and gentle demeanor.

Still, Clydesdales are energetic and playful while maintaining admirable level-headedness. They are ideal as both a work animal and a riding companion.


Shires and Clydesdales have traditionally been employed as work horses. Farm owners and ranchers used them for plowing, pulling carts, logging, and as means of transport.

Both species perform best when they have a task to complete. But, these days, most owners keep these horses for their riding pleasure and shows.

Both horses are visually appealing. Owners take pride in showing off their equines, especially the feathered legs, which are prominent on both horses.

The Shire’s population is rapidly dwindling. The breed is classified as endangered. Shires are becoming more scarce on racetracks and at exhibitions nowadays.

In certain regions of the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, Clydesdales are still utilized as labor horses. But, for the most part, you will find Clydesdales proudly displayed in shows and farms for riding and companionship.


Shires and Clydesdales are usually healthy breeds that don’t need a lot of care, grooming, or general upkeep.

Yet, both are susceptible to several hereditary disorders specific to their breed.

Shires are susceptible to a disease known as polysaccharide storage myopathy, a neuromuscular disease that causes inflammation in the hind legs. A high-fat diet may reduce your horse’s chances of developing this condition.

Clydesdales are also susceptible to a chronic condition called as progressive lymphedema. This disease causes the limbs to swell, subjecting the horse to a great deal of pain.

The legs and hooves of both horse breeds are feathered. The feathers give the horses an extra cuteness factor, but regular care and maintenance are necessary.

Maintain the cleanliness of the horses’ feathers and hooves at all times. Debris, feces, and other dirt caught in the feathers can cause itching and breed disease-causing bacteria.

Which One Should You Choose: Shire Vs Clydesdale Horse Breeds?

Which One Should You Choose Shire Vs Clydesdale Horse Breeds

Shires and Clydesdales have more in common than they have differences. Both are great choices, whether you are looking for a riding, show, or workhorse.

Boredom is a problem for both breeds. They prefer when they have work to do, making them an excellent choice if you are looking for a breed with a consistently strong work ethic.

Because of their laid-back demeanor, two-horse breeds get along well with youngsters and other pets in the home.

Shires and Clydesdales are typically decent riders. They are both well-mannered and less likely to exhibit aggressive or surprising behavior. If you want a horse you can teach new tricks, these two breeds are good choices.

When picking between a Shire and a Clydesdale, the physical appearance will most likely be the decisive factor.

Shires have thicker coats and generally come in solid colors with few or no white markings. A Clydesdale would be a better choice if you want white markings and a primarily white coat.

Remember that Shires and Clydesdales have a shorter lifetime than other horse breeds. Although other breeds may live for up to 30 years, draft horses have an average lifetime of 20 years.

Both horses are prone to health difficulties, but with good care and management, these may be handled.

Now that you understand the distinctions between Shire and Clydesdale horse breeds, let’s go through some frequently asked questions regarding these two horse breeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Shires and Clydesdale the same breed?

Clydesdales and Shires are different breeds of horses, but they fall under the same category of draft horses. The primary distinction between these breeds is their origin. Clydesdales trace their origins to Scotland, while Shires originate from England. Clydesdales are usually shorter and slimmer than Shires.

Which is one is better, Shire or Clydesdale?

Shires and Clydesdales are two distinct breeds with striking resemblance. Both are powerful horses with excellent work attitudes. Their personalities are also quite similar—Shires and Clydesdales are laid-back, having a calm temperament and a laid-back demeanor. They are simple to teach, obedient, and get along well with other pets. Both breeds are great choices if you want to add an equine companion to your farm.

How can you tell the Shire from a Clydesdale?

The greatest way to tell a Shire horse from a Clydesdale is by their coloration. Shires are typically solid colored, with white markings on the face and legs. Clydesdales have prominent white markings on their bodies.

Summary: Shire vs. Clydesdale Horse Breeds

Shires and Clydesdales have numerous physical and psychological similarities as well as minor variances.

Shires are often bigger and taller than Clydesdales. Shires are somewhat thinner and leaner than Clydesdales. Yet, the anatomy of both horses seems to be extremely similar to the untrained eye.

Clydesdales and Shires have a lot in common in terms of personality. They are both amiable, easygoing, and ready to please their owner. Clydesdales are more nimble and lively, but Shires are calmer and more level-headed.

Related Questions

  • Are Shire horses the same as Clydesdales?

    The Shire horse is overall much bigger than the Clydesdale, and is a solid color with markings concentrated on the legs or head. The Clydesdale has more pronounced white markings on the body, which may be seen anywhere on the body. Shire horses and Clydesdales are both tall and strong.

  • What two breeds make a Clydesdale?

    The Clydesdale breed was established in the early eighteenth century when two breeders, John Paterson of Lochlyoch and the 6th Duke of Hamilton, brought Flemish stallions and mated them with local Clyde valley draught mares.

  • What horse breed is similar to Clydesdale?

    The Shire horse is a huge British breed notable for its size. These horses can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand over 17 hands tall at the withers. They have thick coats that are usually bay, brown, black, gray, or chestnut in color. Like Clydesdales, they have feathers on their lower legs.

  • What are Clydesdale horses also called?

    These stallions disseminated the Clydesdale type across the places where they were sent by considerable crossbreeding with indigenous mares, and by 1840, Scottish draught horses and the Clydesdale were one and the same.

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