Are Friesian horses bigger than thoroughbreds?

Large horses have been produced for millennia to assist people with a variety of tasks. From pulling chariots to riding in parades and racing in competitions, these noble creatures have been of great usefulness to mankind.

In this post, we will explore some of the largest horse breeds in the world, their history, as well as the characteristics that make them stand out. But first, let’s learn a little bit about the size of a horse.

World’s Largest Horse Breeds

1. Shire


  • Height: 17 – 19  hands
  • Weight: 1, 800 – 2, 400 pounds
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Life Expectancy: 25 – 30 years

The Shire is currently the largest horse breed in the world, and it’s known for its tall, muscular build and feathered legs. It is also one of the horses with a laid-back personality.

This breed is usually bay, grey, black, brown, or chestnut in color. It has a fascinating history, the most noteworthy of which is pushing massive carts of ale from breweries to houses. Yet, it has also been used for farming, riding, and battling on battlefields.

Even today, farmers with small farms believe this kind of horse to be a more environmentally friendly alternative to tractors.

Perhaps one of the reasons Shire horses are used to perform heavy tasks is that they historically rank among the strongest breeds. Two Shires are believed to have hauled a cargo weighing more than 40 tons in the 1920s!

Unfortunately, because to the rising automation of transportation equipment, people have shifted to more sophisticated modes of carriage, resulting in a major decrease in the number of Shire horses.

But thanks to organizations like the American Shire Horse Association, there is hope for this almost extinct breed of horses. Shire horses are slowly making a return as a result of their efforts.

2. Clydesdale


  • Height: 16 – 18  hands
  • Weight: 1, 800 – 2, 000 pounds
  • Country of Origin: Scotland
  • Life Expectancy: 20 – 25 years

Clydesdale is slightly smaller than the Shire and is noted for its high stepping gait. Most Clydesdales have a bay coat with white markings on the feet, legs, and face. Some horses have marks beneath their bellies. Clydesdale horses may be black, grey, or chestnut in hue.

This breed of horse is gentle yet energetic and is favored for its high trainability and easygoing nature. Silky feathery legs, a large brow, and a long arched neck are some of the distinguishing features.

These magnificent critters are utilized on farms and other regions that need their talents due to their kind and active disposition. Moreover, because of their flamboyant look, which is marked by white, feathered hooves, these horses are employed for performances and parades.

3. Percheron


  • Height: 15 – 19 hands
  • Weight: 1, 900 – 2, 000 pounds
  • Country of Origin: France
  • Life Expectancy: 25 – 30 years

Did you know that Percheron horses were formerly thought to be the tallest in the world? That’s correct! Early Percherons may stand up to 19 hands tall.

The crossbreeding of Percherons with lighter horses like the Arabian, however, had a significant influence on the size and strength of these horses. But, there is an advantage; it also contributed to their exquisite look.

Percherons are now utilized in parades, riding, horse exhibitions, and a variety of other equestrian sports. They are also some of the most intercrossed, especially when the breeding involves a larger horse and a smaller one.

This horse breed is most renowned for its toughness, desire to work, and ability to survive harsh weather conditions.

Percherons are mostly black or gray in color. Their size, however, varies depending on where they are bred. Those bred in France or the USA, for instance, tend to be bigger than similar breeds in Great Britain.

4. Belgian Draft

Belgian Draft

  • Height: 15 – 18  hands
  • Weight: 1, 800 – 2, 200 pounds
  • Country of Origin: Belgium
  • Life Expectancy: 18 – 24 years

Originally known as the Flanders Horse, The Belgian Draft horse is one of the horses historically used for farming. The horse is still employed in agriculture, cart hauling, and shows and riding circles today.

Even though Belgian Drafts have feathered hooves like the Shires and Clydesdales, they do not boast a long, elegant neck as these two breeds do; their neck is short and muscular. And the majority of them are bay, roan, sorrel, or chestnut in color.

Belgian Drafts are generally shorter than many of the horses considered larger breeds but we still have some that have been found to grow as huge as the Shire. The Brooklyn Supreme was the most renowned huge Belgian, standing up to 19 hands tall and weighing over 3,000 pounds.

5. Dutch Draft

Dutch Draft

  • Height: 15 – 17  hands
  • Weight: 1, 500 – 1, 700 pounds
  • Country of Origin: The Netherlands
  • Life Expectancy: 15 – 20 years

Dutch Draft horses are among the biggest horses ever known, while being one of the rarest breeds. It is a crossbreed of the Belgian Draft and the Ardennes, and one of the most popular in ancient equine activities.

Over the years, Dutch Drafts have excelled at farm work, where they have been used to pull incredibly heavy loads for extended periods of time. They are quite clever and have a peaceful disposition. These draft horses are also recognized for walking more slowly than other draft breeds.

The majority of Dutch Drafts have a bay, gray, or chestnut coat. They also feature a straight head, short legs, a broad neck, and a strong physique overall. They also have magnificent feathered hooves inherited from their Belgian forebears.

6. Suffolk Punch

Suffolk Punch

  • Height: 16 – 18  hands
  • Weight: 1, 900 – 2, 200 pounds
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Life Expectancy: 25 – 30 years

As the name hints, the Suffolk Punch originated from Suffolk, England a place known as home to draft horses since the 1500s. It is the oldest native horse breed in the United Kingdom, developed largely for agricultural labor.

Suffolk horses were almost extinct in the 1950s when their population plummeted in the late 1940s. This downward curve has continued over the years and today there are only a few of these horses left, with their status considered critical by the American Livestock Breeds Conservatory.

The color of Suffolk Punch horses is usually chestnut. Some have white markings on the legs and face but are very rare. The legs are short, muscular, and boney. Generally, the horse has a rounded appearance, hence its name, the “Suffolk Punch”.

Suffolk’s primary characteristics are intelligence, docility, and a desire to work. Also, the breed requires relatively little food than other draft horses, which makes it easier to domesticate.

7. American Cream Draft

American Cream Draft

  • Height: 15.1 – 16.3  hands
  • Weight: 1, 600 – 1, 800 pounds
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Life Expectancy: 25 – 30 years

The American Cream Draft is the only historic draft bred in the United States that is currently in production. It has a gorgeous cream coat, amber eyes, and a stunning white mane and tail. White markings may be seen on several breeds.

This horse has the typical draft configuration, with a wide chest, short, strong back, and properly muscled hindquarters. It is mostly utilized for transportation, displays, horseback riding, and agricultural chores.

The American Cream Draft, like the Suffolk Punch, is regarded as an important breed. The number of registered breeds, however, has increased over the years, but it’s still not at a point of being considered safe.

8. Australian Draught

Australian Draught

  • Height: 16 – 17.2  hands
  • Weight: 1, 320 – 1, 980 pounds
  • Country of Origin: Australia
  • Life Expectancy: 20 – 30 years

Crossbreeding four pure draught breeds resulted in the Australian Draught: Shire, Clydesdale, Percheron, and Suffolk Punch.

Known for its strength, hardiness, and moderate temperament, Australian Draught was historically used for draught work. Nonetheless, in current times, this horse is employed for exhibitions, riding, and agricultural labor.

As a result of the multiple horse breeds used in coming up with this breed, the coat can be of different colors including white, black, gray, roan, and brown. More recently, Belgian Draft blood was introduced into the breed, resulting in additional colors and features within the breed.

A powerful and durable build, clear alert eyes, a medium-length neck, well-muscled shoulders, a broad chest, hips, and hindquarters, and light, medium-feathered legs are some of the noticeable physical characteristics.

9. Boulonnais


  • Height: 15.1 – 17 hands
  • Weight: 1, 250 – 1, 650 pounds
  • Country of Origin: France
  • Life Expectancy: 20 – 25 years

Boulonnais, often known as the White Marble, is the most exquisite of all drafts. It is one of the breeds that have been around for some time, with its origin dating back to the times there were no crusades.

Some scholars believe that this breed may be traced back to the horses that Julius Caesar’s cavalry left behind before conquering England.

Boulonnais horses have been combined with other breeds such as the Arabian, Andalusian, and Spanish Barb throughout the years to improve them, and the resultant breeds have been intercrossed to generate new draft horses.

Boulonnais horses are usually gray, however contemporary types may have a black or chestnut coat. Their heads are short and unique, with a broad brow and tiny, upright ears. The neck is robust and muscular, with a lovely arched neck, and the legs are sturdy and powerful, with clean joints.

Despite their size, these horses are simple to handle. They are social, active, and energetic, which makes them wonderful companions.

10. Jutland


  • Height: 15 – 16.1  hands
  • Weight: 1, 430 – 1, 760 pounds
  • Country of Origin: Denmark
  • Life Expectancy: 25 – 30 years

Jutland got its name from the famous Jutland Peninsula and is one of the most popular horse breeds in shows, films, and festivals. It is kind, peaceful, docile, and vigorous, making it simpler to domesticate and work with.

Most of the horses are chestnut-colored but there are some that come in other colors like bay, black, gray, or roan. Some may have white markings on their legs and faces.

Jutlands have specific physical traits such as a convex facial profile, low and flat withers, a short and arched neck, a broad chest, straight shoulders, and a short, strong back.

They are believed to be a descendant of the Fredriksborg horse and some of the ancient breeds used to develop the Suffolk Punch. Contemporary breeds, on the other hand, have been produced using Suffolk Punch and Ardennes.

How to Determine a Horse Size

The tallest horses are often the biggest. This means you need to know how the height of a horse is measured in order to figure out whether the horse falls in the category of large breeds or not.

Horses are measured in hands, often abbreviated as “hh” or “h”. According to statistics, one male adult’s hand is equivalent to four inches.

So, if someone tells you a horse is 16.4, for instance, it means that the horse is 16 hands and 4 inches. The biggest horse breeds generally stand between 16.2hh and 19hh tall.

In the past, the height of a horse was measured using its own hands. One would place one hand next to the equine’s hoof on the ground and the second hand above it, then remove the first hand from the initial position and place it over the second and keep doing this over and over until the last hand is rested on the horse’s wither.

Nevertheless, things have evolved through time, and many new tools have been developed to measure the height of a horse more quickly and correctly, the most effective being a horse measuring stick.

Just place the stick perpendicular to the floor next to the horse and align it with the horse’s highest point of withers. Make a note of your measurement. Divide the reading by 4 if you’re using an instrument that only measures in inches.

Here’s a brief video that shows in detail how to measure the height of a horse.

Are Friesian horses bigger than thoroughbreds?

Have you had any interactions with any of these horses? Is there a breed you like more than others? Inform us in the comments section.

Related Questions

  • Are Friesian horses big?

    Friesians are typically of a medium-to-large height, ranging from 15 to 16 hands, although some lines still bred for draught work are considerably taller, approaching 17 hands. A Friesian horse’s head is short and broad, but nicely proportioned, with tiny, alert ears and huge, expressive eyes.

  • Are Friesian horses small?

    Friesian Horse Size
    The Friesian horse stands between 15 and 17 hands tall and weighs between 544 and 635kg. To qualify for ‘star-designation’ or as a ‘ster Friesian’, Friesian mares and geldings should be a minimum of 15.2 hands high.

  • Are Friesian stallions smaller than mares?

    The average Friesian horse height will stand at 15.3 hands. Several stallions have been measured to be taller than 17 hands. In fact, some mares have been measured at 14.2 hands.

  • What horse is similar to a Friesian?

    Neapolitan horses share the same mane and tail traits as Friesian horses, as well as a comparable pace. Their coat, on the other hand, is distinctive, and their head is bold and square. Nowadays, it is also a highly uncommon and endangered breed.

    1. Oldenburgs. …
    2. Holsteiners. …
    3. Andalusians. …
    4. Groningens.

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