Breed Profiles - Shire Horse

By: Horse Deals

Find out all about the Shire horse, including typical height, colours, conformation, temperament and ideal disciplines

Breed Profiles - Shire Horse
Breed Profiles - Shire Horse

Shire horse breed summary:

Origin - Britain
Height - An average of 17hh
Colour - Black, bay, grey or roan
Conformation - Long and lean head, neck that is slightly arched but in proportion with the body, wide chest and a very muscular back
Ideal disciplines - Driving, all-rounder, safe hacking

Historically, British native horses were very small e.g. Dartmoor. However, when knights started wearing suits of armour, the native breeds were unable to cope with the weight and foreign heavy breeds were introduced into the country. These foreign breeds, crossed with the British native breeds, eventually produced the Shire horse as we know it today. When battle techniques changed and guns become more common, the shire was no longer needed on the battlefield. Instead they took on a farming role as their heavy size and gentle nature made them excellent for pulling heavy loads and ploughing the land. In the industrial revolution, their use changed again and they were used for pulling heavy barges along the newly formed canal network. As the use of motorised transport became increasingly common, Shires lost their place as part of the workforce and by 1960 their numbers were dangerously low. A group of specialist breeders set about building up Shire horse numbers and now they are popular for both riding and driving.


The average height of a shire is 17hh. Shire stallions can be black, bay or grey but they must not have large patches of white on their body or be roan in colour. Mares and Geldings can be black, bay, grey or roan. A Shire horse will have a long and lean head and a neck that is slightly arched but in proportion with its body. They have a wide chest and a very muscular back. Shire horses are famous for the silky feathering on their legs.


They are often referred to as ‘gentle giants’ and are renowned for their laid back, calm and placid nature. Shires are generally very easy to handle and they are hard working. Their laid back temperament makes them ideal driving horses.

Ideal Disciplines Shire horses are ideal for:

• Driving

• All rounder horse

Safe hacking horse

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