Shire Horse Origin and History
The Shire horse is named after the British Shires, where the breed originated. This horse breed is a descendant of the English “great horse” that carried armies to battle. Flemish horses with feathered legs also had inputs in the breed. Some notable Shire horse-related events include the formation of a breed registry, The Shire Horse Society. This association was previously known as the English Cart Horse Society.
In 1853, Shire horses got to the United States but were not too popular. Instead, farmers used them mainly to breed larger sizes into smaller stocks.
The Most Famous Shire Horses
Goliath, probably the most popular Shire horse, died in 2001. He was Great Britain’s tallest horse during his time, measuring over 19.5 hands high. Goliath was featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest horse for eight years. He was a member of Young and Co. Brewery’s group of show horses.
The world’s all-time most massive horse was also a Shire named Mammoth who was born in 1848. He weighed about 3,300 pounds and measured over 21 hands high.
Size of Shire Horses
Shire horses are the tallest of all horses, measuring between 16 and 19 hands (64 – 72 inches) tall while standing. Their weight ranges between 1,800 and 2,400 pounds at maturity.
Diet and Nutrition
The cost of feeding this breed can be somewhat expensive due to their large size. Shire horses consume a standard diet, which includes grain, quality hay, fruits, and vegetables. They shouldn’t eat dried grass to avoid the risk of colic. They require more water and food than most other horses to maintain proper body weight. High-fat diets are also suitable for them.
How Do They Look?
Shire horses are large animals, with many unique features, such as furred feet, big hooves, and a very long mane. Their appearance makes them ideal for a Middle Age setting.
The Shire horse’s head is long and lean, with docile and large eyes, and the ears are thin, sensitive, and long. The neck is long, slightly arched, and proportional to the other parts of the body. Its shoulders are deep and wide.
The Shire horse’s back is strong and muscular but short. The hindquarters are long, wide, and muscular as well. Its feet are solid, deep, and broad, with thick, open walls.
In the US, Shire horses nearly became extinct, though there’s now an increase in the numbers registered. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy records that the United States Shire registry stopped operating between 1955 and 1961 but gradually revived. If you’re looking to buy a Shire horse, finding it may take more time than with other standard draft breeds.
Uses of Shire Horse
Shire horses were common for pulling carts of beer from breweries. Before the First World War, the breed served in farms, working in fields and pulling wagons. When coal was the primary source of light and heat, people used Shire horses to pull massive wagons that contained coal through rough roads.
Shire horses are still known to pull vehicles, and many equestrians love to ride on them for pleasure. For small farmers, Shire horses are a more friendly option than tractors, and they still use them for logging operations. Some modern beer brewers still use them as a promotional tool to make deliveries of their products.
Markings and Colors
Shire horses are typically bay, black, brown, gray. Their coats are silky, straight, and fine. Excessive white markings throughout their body aren’t a norm for this equine breed.
The Shire horse is prone to progressive lymphedema (a condition that causes the horse’s legs to become swollen slowly). But with proper management, the progression will slow down.
Although draft horses are prone to polysaccharide storage myopathy (a disease that results in hind-leg stiffness and spasms), the condition is not too common among Shire horses. Vet doctors usually recommend high-fat diets to prevent this disease.
Breed Traits and Behavior
Although Shire horses are so enormous, people call them gentle giants. They are docile, calm, and easy-going. Despite their size, they’re easy to train—so they’re ideal for every horse owner, trainer, and beginner. Bucking, shying, spooking, and rearing are rare behaviors you’ll find in them. However, these massive horses may be comfortable for taller riders.
Shire horses typically aim to please, and they don’t mind being with other animals such as goats and dogs. They’re not bothered by loud noises, children, cars, and water. The horse has a mellow state of mind and personality that attributes to their breed being developed initially to function as war horses. The job required that this equine breed remain level-headed and calm during the riskiest and confusing situations, and these traits were transferred down through each generation to the present-day Shire horse.
Shire horses have featherings around their legs, and these feathers require regular cleaning and brushing to avoid infection and irritation. After a bath, it’s essential to completely dry the feathering because they can breed fungi and bacteria if left wet. Besides that, you can groom Shire horses the standard way. But you may require a ladder or a sturdy tool to reach every high spot on the horse’s body.
How to Purchase a Shire Horse
Due to the rarity of the Shire breed, finding them can be a bit tough. Your best bet might be to research reputable horse breeders and rescuers online. Nonetheless, it’s advisable to spend quality time with the horse before considering bringing it home. Shire horses do not have a fixed cost price. Depending on the training level and age, their cost ranges between $2,000 and $20,000. When choosing a horse, be sure to ascertain the full details of its temperament, previous history, and health.