The Shire horse is a breed of draught horses which developed in England during the Medieval Era. Often described as a calm and placid breed, it is also one the largest breeds in the world. Stallion Shire horses can be over 17 hands in height with mare heights around 16 hands and over.
As with other breeds, there are strict guidelines as to what an authentic Shire should look like. Stallions are black, bay or grey and they should not have too many white markings. Mares and geldings are black, bay, grey or roan. A notable Shire quality is their white socks with long hairs which are often referred to as feathers.
This horse began to be valued during the reign of Henry VIII. Once heavier armour became popular among soldiers and knights, smaller horses could not be used anymore. Later Shires were used as work horses due to their massive weight pulling properties.
Today's Shire has been influenced by the arrival of Friesian horses from the continent. In later years the Shire was also cross-bred with Clydesdale, resulting in a change in their conformation.
In the 20th century, this horse was most notably used for pulling brewery wagons. After the railroad network was developed and tractors and other motor vehicles became popular, the amount and need of these horses decreased.
After the near extinction of the breed, these horses became popular in the 1960s. Since then they have been used in forestry work and leisure riding. These days Shires can be found all over the world but they are most common in England and the United States.
Due to their large size, the Shire breed holds a record for the largest horse in the world. A horse called Mammoth, who was born in 1848 is said to hold the record of the largest horse in recorded history with a height of over 21 hands and an estimated peak weight of 1,500 kilograms.
A Shire gelding called Goliath was a Guinness Book of World Records holder until he died in 2001. This Shire was measured 19 hands in height.
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