You can recognize the heavyweights of the equine community by their stockier build and are best known for their contribution to the agricultural community at large.
Typically the strongest horse breeds hale from the other side of the pond. The British Isles and the western European countries of Holland, Belgium, and France must certainly be feeding the 6 Strongest Horses something different than the rest of the New World.
From Wild to Domesticated
Most equine historians seem to agree that the contemporary horse that you have come to love today began being domesticated about 6,000 years ago. Since that time, these magnificent animals have used mind-blowing strength to pull the weight of humankind behind them.
Whether used for transportation purposes or as indispensable tools of the agricultural industry, horses certainly are deserving of credit for the contributions they have made to the advancement of civilizations around the globe.
Although still commonly used for farming, horses have become man’s best friend and have served as loyal riding companions whether on the battlefield or in the competitive arena.
Horses are also popular in the sporting community and partake in a range of riding games along with their human partners. However, upon more careful inspection of horses performing various jobs, the following horse breeds are known for their superior strength and muscular poise.
Originally from Belgium, in the Brabant region, the Belgian draft horse is regarded as the pinnacle of strength over any other horse breed. In modern times, registries recognize all Brabants (referring to their origin) as Belgians; however, not all Belgians are Brabants.
This particularity exists because the original Belgian horse breed has a lighter weight cousin that horse breeders brought to America over two hundred years ago.
Anna Stanek points out in her HorseyHooves article that “Belgians have powerful, muscular builds, with arched necks, refined heads, and strong backs.”
Belgian horses can weigh up to 2,200 pounds and stand up to 18 hands tall. The late Big Jake was the tallest horse recorded in the Guinness Registries, lining up at over 20 hands tall and weighing near 2,600 pounds.
Belgian horses are known for their supreme strength and impressive physiques and are usually the leaders at worldwide equine pulling competitions.
Usually, a pair of horses will work together to pull incredible amounts of weight across a regulated distance. Some say that the sport all began with friendly competition between farmers, but teams have pulled record weights of over a staggering 17,000 pounds.
Besides their propensity for strength, Belgians are an incredibly gentle and patient breed, making them an excellent breed for beginners.
The history of the Percheron horse breed dates back to the French Napoleonic Wars. Initially a warhorse, this breed would also be an excellent breed for beginners.
Regardless of their mountain-like stature and proud poise, these beautiful horses are well-mannered and happen to be extremely smart. Harsh weather does not sway these magnificently rugged beasts that tend to adapt to changing environments rather quickly.
Depending on a Percheron’s particular pedigree, it can weigh between 1,800 and 2,600 pounds- about the norm for big draft horses. However, once you figure out how to mount this large breed horse, you are in for a surprisingly pleasant and relaxed ride as you get comfortable upon its broad back.
The Percheron Horse Association of America recognizes this breed as “the do-all draft horse.” From the battlefield to the jumping arena, Percheron horses have done it all, including fine-carriage pulling and heavy agricultural work.
#3. Suffolk Punch
This breed has exceptionally close ties to England’s farming industry. The Suffolk Punch breed is renowned for its strength and agility for heavy farm work.
Their namesake vividly reminds its owner of its ability to punch its way through the rocky and arduous clay-dirt mixture that represents so much of England’s soil content.
According to Brittanica, the Suffolk Punch breed “has probably had less crossing with other lines than most draft breeds.” However, as one of the oldest breeds registered in the General Stud Book of England, the Suffolk Horse Society informs us that the breed is “more endangered than the Giant Panda.”
Interestingly enough, about twice as many Suffolk horses registered in America than in England. Because of their endangered status, it can be quite a high-priced horse to acquire.
Though these horses don’t have leg feathering, the muscular Suffolk Punch is always chestnut in color. The breed’s top weight is a tad lower than other draft horses, tipping the scale at 2,200 pounds and standing up to 17 hands.
Did you know that “the record for the most weight ever pulled by a horse is held by a Shire, who in 1924 pulled a whopping 58,000 pounds?” Despite their Samsonion-type strength, Shire horses have been otherwise called “gentle giants” in the equine community.
One thing I have not mentioned as of yet is the propensity for large breed draft horses to polysaccharide storage myopathy. The University of California Davis Center for Equine Health defines PSSM as “a disease that results in an abnormal accumulation of glycogen (sugar) in the muscles.”
If you are the owner of a draft horse, then the most common signs include leg spasms, lameness, and overall poor performance. These signs tend to increase after sessions of heavy exercise or work.
Shire horses are also prone to other dermatological issues that affect the areas behind the horse’s leg feathering due to exposure to moisture. However, these horses can endure exceptionally long working hours in the field if properly nourished, hydrated, and conditioned with the proper care.
The chill composure of a Shire horse adds to its magnificent presence and therefore is ideal for therapeutic riding. By witnessing its temperament, you would never guess that you are riding on the world’s strongest horse weighing in at 2,000 pounds on average.
The only issue you may run into from time to time with these arched-neck muscular creatures is a bit of stubbornness. But usually, nothing that a treat can’t fix.
Bred in the hills of Scotland, the Clydesdale horse is known worldwide for its beautiful leg feathering. This horse breed usually sports shorter limbs and appears much thicker than other draft horses.
Generally shorter than other drafts, the Clydesdale is probably the most popular draft horse in the United States. And being able to pull up to 8,000 pounds is nothing short of bewildering.
An article in Horse Racing Sense credits the Clydesdale horse for its “ability to pull consistently over long periods is displayed in farming, logging, pulling competitions, and during parades.”
Draft horses take home the wins at the extreme sport of pulling competitions to which the Clydesdale is no new member. But, whether you knew it or not, this horse breed is mainly bred for pulling.
These large horse breeds owners must have a special relationship with their horse and be careful not to push a horse beyond its capability.
A published article from the University of Calgary reports that draft horses entering pulling competitions usually exhibit signs of rapid weight loss preceding the event. Nonetheless, they have ample time to rehydrate and usually only sustain short-term stress on their metabolic systems after exhibiting superior levels of anaerobic exertion.
#6. Dutch Draft
Our last runner-up for this article is the Dutch Draft breed in Holland. These workhorses were critical to the farming landscape pre-mechanization. While these horses are not as suitable for equine sports as other draft breeds, they continue to establish their presence at competitions and other agricultural shows worldwide.
Despite their declining numbers, the Dutch Draft breed still provides its owners with years of loyal companionship both on and off the field of work.
Not only that, but these horses have incredible stamina and share ancestral lineage with the Belgian Draft, which was the first horse in this article list.
These cold-blooded horses are gaining popularity for riding purposes and are undoubtedly another excellent choice for beginners, provided that you feel comfortable around big horses.
Still a massive horse by any standard, the Dutch Draft is significantly smaller than other draft horses. A full-size Dutch can measure up to approximately 16 hands tall, weighing around 1,600 pounds.
Even though this relatively recent breed appears small compared to its draft brethren, the heavyset Dutch is just as tough a contender as any, and you would be lucky to see one canter as beautifully as it does.
If you do, watch this video, shared by HorseRookie, where “Knowledge is Horsepower.”
I think that we can agree that the strength and agility of the horse species are one to marvel at. Large breed horses, commonly referred to as draft horses, tend to have the upper hand over more common lightweight breeds.
The 6 Strongest Horse Breeds discussed are bred explicitly for heavy work and pulling. However, these are undoubtedly the gentlest Goliaths of the species (I know, it’s quite the contradiction), readily willing to please their owners.
Please remember to leave any questions about strong horse breeds in the comments section below—extra credit for those that post a picture posing with one of the draft horses named above.