What Breed is a Shire Horse?

Trotting Shire Horse

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The tallest horse with enormous strength is what describes the Shire horse. This British draft horse breed is born either brown, bay, gray, or black.

You could easily spot the magnificent yet rare shire horse by looking at its strong head, thick tail and mane, perfectly conformed legs, and feathered fetlocks.

The Origin of the Shire Horse

This bread is thought to originate from the Great Horse, a famous war mount from medieval England. It is believed to hail from the Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire shires.

A brown horse with a white spot on the nose

Boasting an imposing height, the Shire horse has existed since the mid-18th century, helping to carry knights into battle. They have a talent for weight pulling and doing other tasks like farm work, cart-pulling, and barge towing.

The breeding of the Shire hose was influenced by breeds like Friesan, Clydesdale, and more. You find them as tall as 16, 17, or even 18 hands. The tallest of them was a gelding known as Sampson, foaled in 1846 and measuring 21.25 indicators tall with a record weight of 1,524kg.

What Shire Horses are Used For

While they’re noticeably muscular in build, these draught horses are very gentle giants who display a patient, easygoing, and docile nature. If you’re a leisure rider, this is the horse for you. They’re always eager to please, with a keen inclination to work. 

A Shire horse is naturally a working horse. Any horse rider can ride a Shire horse. In some cases, this breed is used for therapy. This is because of their intelligence and ability to follow verbal queues.

A brown horse eats grass in a field in a landscape of snowy mountains

Today’s Shire horse is used for leisure and forestry riding. The British also hold various national horse shows, like The National Shire Horse Spring Show, dedicated to the Shire horse.

Other owners use them to pull sight-seeing wagons during logging operations and ride them for pleasure. 

Characteristics and Behavior of the Shire Horse

A Shire horse has similar physical characteristics to a Clydesdale, another draught horse. But in build, the Shire horse is much larger and muscular, with a few white markings on the body.

One of the breed’s unique characteristics is its tall size and strength. In 1994, two Shire horses pulled 50 tonnes of load during an exhibition. This says a lot about their weight and why they’re regarded as hardworking.

The horse’s distinct features are the large hooves, feathering on the legs, and Roman nose. Besides using these features for hard work, they are docile, patient, and don’t spook easily during the ride. You can depend on them for anything.

What Does a Shire Horse Eat

The Shire horse eats a regular equine diet consisting of grain, fruits, hay, and vegetables. Their size requires more food and water than average horses to keep them healthy and energized. 

Veterinarians recommend feeding them high-fat diets to keep them from polysaccharide storage myopathy, which causes spasms in their front legs.

Grooming a Shire Horse

A Shire horse undergoes the regular equine grooming routine. Because of their height, you may need a ladder when grooming them. The feathering on the legs needs extra attention and care. They often get dirty, which may cause irritation and infection.

Regularly brush, clean, and dry the feathering to keep the fungi and bacteria off. 

A brown horse with a white spot on the nose and white legs

Health Complications for Shire Horses

Generally, a Shire horse is healthy but will always exhibit complications, including;

  • Susceptibility to chronic progressive lymphedema
  • A chronic skin condition that causes swelling of the lower limbs. This is a progressive condition with no cure.
  • Being prone to a condition known as polysaccharide storage myopathy. The condition makes them experience muscle tremors, sweating, lameness, and sore muscles.
  • The heavy feathering puts them at risk of mud fever and feather mites. To prevent this, you should keep the feathers clean at all times.

The Lifespan of a Shire Horse

A healthy Shire horse can live for 25 to 30 years. The only challenge today is that the breed is becoming rare and endangered. It is at risk, according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Currently, only 1500 or fewer breeding Shire horse mares are available. 

Reasons to Get a Shire Horse

A Shire horse is a breed you want to have at home. That’s because;

  • They are calm and easygoing, with an even temperament. You can depend on them when it comes to companionship.
  • They are intelligent and easy to train – great to have during leisure riding.
  • They can be ridden by riders of all levels. Their rides are often smooth.
  • You can use them for manual labor, like working on a farm or at a brewery.
  • They are great for sporting and hunting, primarily when bred with lighter breeds and thoroughbreds.

A brown horse with black legs licks grass in a field

In Conclusion

So, what breed is a Shire horse? In short, a Shire horse is majestic with a muscular body, high-arched neck, powerful sloping hindquarters, well-sprung ribs, and heavily feathered legs. 

It is a powerful breed from Britain used for heavy work, leisure riding, and forest hunting. Its calm and friendly nature makes it an ideal companion at home.

Matthew Flor

Matthew Flor

Hi, y’all! My name is Matthew Flor, and I’m from Ocala, Florida.
I’m a horse enthusiast, and one of my favorite breeds is the Shire horse.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing information about these amazing animals – everything from their history to their unique characteristics.

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