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Are Shire Horses Calm

author
Bob Roberts
• Tuesday, 27 October, 2020
• 20 min read

Height: 16.2-21.2 hands (84.8”) Physique: Heavy, tall, powerful Weight: 1,800-2,400 lb Lifespan: 27.5 years These animals were known for being large and for featuring hindquarters that were massive, but they were actually smaller when compared to the draft breeds that would develop from them.

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Contents

As the need for war horses carrying knights declined, and as wheeled forms of transportation were developed, there was a new requirement. As a result, carthorses were developed, and the Great Horse was used as a foundation for those new equine breeds.

Evidence also points to the fact that black Flemish horses with leg feathering were brought to England in the early part of the 13th century. They are also easy to train, despite their size, so they are suitable for all levels of horse owners, riders, and trainers, including beginners.

In fact, shying, rearing, bucking, and spooking are rare behaviors for this breed. They do not mind being around other animals, such as dogs, and they are even comfortable around loud noises, water, cars, and children.

Overall, this breed has a mellow personality and state of mind that is typically attributed to the fact that it was originally created to work as a war horse. That occupation required that the animals stay calm and even-tempered during the most chaotic and dangerous situations, and those traits have been passed down through the generations to modern Shire horses.

The Shire Horse is massive, with an appearance that would make it perfect for a medieval setting. The Shire Horse is a massive animal, with several distinguishing features that include a long mane, large hooves, and furred feet.

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The neck should be long and in proportion to the rest of the body, as well as slightly arched, and the shoulders should be wide and deep. The colors associated with this breed include brown, gray, bay, and black, as well as chestnut, sorrel, and roan.

Like all other equine breeds, the Shire Horse requires regular grooming sessions in order to maintain the health and beauty of the skin and coat. To keep the feathers on a Shire Horse’s lower legs looking healthy and clean, you can spray on a detailing product designed for equines.

This makes them an exceptional horse for general work purposes and for recreational riding, even though many of them stand up to 19 hands. Over time, as conflicts subsided, the heavy nature of the Shire made it an attractive investment for farmers and those in agricultural work.

One Shire could pull a plow, take the family to town, and perform a wide range of jobs. This led to the development of a close relationship between this breed and humanity which still exists today.

Lumberjacks have heavy equipment to haul logs now instead of relying on the strength of a Shire. This has led breeders to work on refining the breed so that it can be adapted to the modern world.

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Today’s Shire has had Clydesdale influences to help it become taller and improve the quality of the feathering. Yet the Shire horse temperaments have remained virtually the same throughout the entire improvement process.

There will always be individualistic exceptions to that rule, of course, but in general terms, the Shire is an excellent family horse that is ready and willing to put in a good day of work. In 2013, he was measured at just over 20 hands, making him the tallest horse in the country and competitive with the world record holder.

Because Shires can keep growing well after their seventh birthday, there is always a chance that a new record holder could be crowned. The goal is to create horses that have a gentle disposition, but an imposing presence, so that the best of both worlds can be obtained.

Part of the reason why this pulling strength exists is that the physical makeup of the horse. Shires have wide shoulders and a long neck for a draft horse, which gives them some added leverage when it comes to driving.

Their hocks are set in such a way that they can achieve maximum leverage, especially with their hooves that are oversized and round. Unlike other horse breeds that become stubborn when they sense a perceived lack of respect, there is rarely any aggression that comes from a Shire.

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Shires tend to stand still and refuse, putting the onus on the owner to provide an explanation. They are generally well-mannered and work hard, but they will not put up with an owner who doesn’t offer respect in return.

Shire horses are very hardy as well, partially due to their size, but their coat helps a lot as well. They can handle harsh environments, the cold in particular, and they don’t mind being asked to work in difficult locations, like a wetland lumber harvest.

The feathering on a Shire has improved over the past few generations, but moisture and debris still tends to get caught in this part of the coat. Appearing similar to a Clydesdale, these horses are absolutely massive with large hooves and feathering on their legs.

Instead, they were used primarily to breed increased size into smaller farm horse stock. In the days before machinery became the workhorse of agriculture and industry, the shire horse was used for its immense pulling power.

But now that the horsepower of draft horses is no longer required, the shire has landed on lists of endangered livestock breeds in the U.K., U.S., and Canada. Bred for its size, strength, and easygoing demeanor, the shire horse was used extensively to pull carts of ale from breweries to public houses.

clydesdale horses horse budweiser shire clydesdales farms riding draft track forward march duke calming creatures
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Before World War I, these gentle giants commonly served as farm horses, pulling wagons and working in fields. Today, the shire horse is still popular for pulling vehicles, such as sightseeing wagons, and many equestrians enjoy riding the docile breed for pleasure.

They also are a popular promotional tool for modern-day beer brewers, some of whom are again making deliveries by horse and wagon. The most outstanding characteristics of the shire horse are its imposing height and extreme strength, traits documented both in record books and anecdotally.

For example, in the 1920s, a pair of shires reportedly pulled a load of more than 45 tons, though the exact weight could not be determined because it exceeded the scale's capacity. This trait likely arose from the breed's original use confidently carrying soldiers in heavy armor into loud, dangerous battle situations.

Shire horses eat a standard horse diet that includes good quality hay, grain, vegetables, and fruits. Some vets recommend high-fat diets to ward off polysaccharide storage myopathy, a condition that can cause spasms in the hind legs.

Also, while polysaccharide storage myopathy is not that common in shire horses, some still might experience its bouts of leg stiffness, cramps, and spasms. The feathering around a shire horse's lower legs requires regular brushing and cleaning to avoid skin irritation and infection.

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It is also important to fully dry the feathering after a bath, as a wet environment can breed bacteria and fungi. But you might need a sturdy stool or ladder to reach all the high points on your horse's body.

Measured at more than 19.5 hands high, he was the tallest horse in Great Britain at the time. The world’s largest horse of all time might have been a shire born in 1848 named Mammoth.

When selecting a horse, it’s important to get the full picture of its health, temperament, and history. Jessica Stammer Topographic The Shire horses are a massive draft breed, that’s built to work in fields and pull carriages.

Many people think the Shire breed is limited to pulling heavy loads, and they would be mistaken. These animals make great riding horses and are suitable for any level of rider.

Shires provide an excellent seat for large riders; they’re powerful and travel effortlessly. They move exceptionally well and have a kind, gentle nature, which makes them a desired breed for therapeutic riding.

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The transition from walk to trot to a slow loping canter is graceful, and the gaits don’t jar its rider. If you’ve witnessed a man and horse plow a field, you likely remember the driver verbally directing his animal continuously with various sounds.

Their reaction to verbal commands illustrates the breeds’ intelligence, and these transitions well to horseback riding when trained correctly. The Shire quickly learns basic commands that increase the pleasure of riding.

This draft breed is extraordinarily tall, which makes it virtually impossible to step into the saddle stirrups without aid. The Shires' girth makes it difficult for most of us short people to ride and train them with leg ques.

Stubborn horses are difficult to control for the rider not accustomed to handling large draft breeds. When a standard sized horse begins acting up, it’s natural to pull their heads to one side and take away their power.

Shire horses are calm and patient, and these are essential traits for a trail riding horse. We take a few long trail rides each year, and one thing I’ve learned is it’s of paramount importance to be on the back of an animal that doesn’t spook easily.

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When you ride in public spaces, the unexpected yapping dog, wild animal, or breakaway horse is going to challenge you. No problem for the Shire, these big horses are sure-footed and can easily step over logs and debris.

Fit horses are recommended to be burden with no more than 20 percent of their body weight, and most Shires weigh over 2,000 lbs. Certain breeds, donkeys, and mules comfortably carry 25 percent of their body weight.

The Shire descended from the Great War Horses,” which often carried men in full battle armor that weighed as much as 400 pounds and are naturally strong animals. Some signs your horse is overworked are excessive sweating, increased heart rate, and a sudden change in demeanor.

Shires are giant draft breeds for sure, but they aren’t clumsy, just the opposite; they are athletic and smooth. They compete and have a desire to please their owners; they don’t mind hard work and have a presence in the arena.

Shire horses originated in England and are believed to be descended from the “War Horses of the European continent. But the industrial revolution ushered in the age of the steam and combustible gas engine, which drastically reduced the need for draft horses.

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Some horses are still used in typical draft occupations such as forestry, farming, and pulling carriages. They have large, well set eyes, wide but thin nostrils and long, slender ears.

American standards, on the other hand, preclude roans and Shire horses with an excessive amount of white markings from being fully registered. Shire horses are the living embodiment of the “gentle giant.” Though their sheer size and height may be imposing, they are easy-going, even tempered horses and do not spook easily.

If riding a Shire horse, expect a calm, cool head and a chill, friendly attitude. While their size may be intimidating, Shire horses are actually excellent horses for children, as they tolerate a lot.

Those long hairs on the legs absolutely require regular brushing and thorough cleaning, as they are susceptible to a bacterial infection known as mud fever or scratches, which causes painful, crusty scabbing on the skin. It is important to keep those areas of thick hair dry and unwanted to avoid infection setting in.

Shire horses are selectively bred and are a bit of a rarity, so come with a more premium price tag. As war was such a chaotic scene and as the armor of knights itself could weigh hundreds of pounds, Shire horses needed to be both unflinching and extremely strong.

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The reign of Henry II (1154) was thought to kick start this obsession, leading to the breeding of the Shire horse. Throughout the 1700s, they were refined by breeders to be the perfect farm animals and draft horses by breeding English stallions to mares from Holland.

These big horses were responsible for moving freight from docks to towns, even when road conditions were poor. After years of demand in England, the first Shire horse was shipped to the United States in 1853, where it was appreciated but never quite as popular as back in the UK.

For original Shire horses, two regions in England, Lincolnshire and Cambridge shire and Yorkshire and Lancashire, had the greatest impact on breeding and distributing the Shire horse. Shires bred in their original home counties of Lincolnshire and Cambridge shire had bigger bones and thicker hair.

As technology advanced and lifestyles and needs changed, Shire horse breeding had to adapt to reflect that. No longer needed for pulling plows or heading cavalry charges, draft horses such as the Shire, have been refined by breeders for modern interests.

Their sturdy nature made them choice mounts for carrying knights wearing heavy loads of armor. During peacetime, these strong horses were sought after by farmers and carriage drivers to pull plows and transportation.

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Its history dates from when its ancestors were used by knights in battle over hundreds of years ago. In 1853, the first Shire was imported to the United States, but the breed never became popular there and was primarily bred to upgrade smaller farm horses.

Shires were improved as draft and farm animals in the latter part of the 18th century by breeding mares from Holland to English stallions. Instead, Shires were used primarily to breed increased size into smaller farm horse stock.

The Shire horse is bay, brown, black or gray with plenty of white on the legs and feet. Younger people now feel the draw of working with these beautiful creatures, and there is a demand for traditional, experienced equestrians to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

All of these activities demonstrate the abilities of the working horse in a social, if competitive, environment Today, the Shire is still famous for pulling vehicles such as sightseeing wagons, and many equestrians enjoy riding the gentle breed for pleasure.

Likewise, according to the American breed standard, “roans and excessive white markings are undesirable.” Its imposing height and extreme strength, which are traits documented both in record books and anecdotally, are one of the most outstanding characteristics of the Shire horse.

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Although the number of registered Shires is increasing, the breed is almost became extinct in the United States. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the U.S. shire registry ceased operations from 1955 to 1961, but after that period, a slow but steady revival took place.

If you want to purchase a shire, it could take more time and travel than with more common draft breeds to find the right animal. The subsequent revival of the Shire owes much to a few determined breeders and exhibitors and Breweries using them for short haul work and promotions.

The beautiful feathering around the ankles requires regular brushing and cleaning to avoid a bacterial infection that causes painful, crusty scabbing. Keeping your Shire dry and treating any signs of infection promptly with antibiotics is a sure way of avoiding this problem.

Up on top, you’ll likely need a sturdy stool to reach high enough to groom your Shire horse fully. A body finishing brush should be ideal for the face and legs, which are sensitive areas.

You can also invest in a tail brush and mane comb specifically for those areas of the horse’s body. Like other draft breeds, shires are prone to polysaccharide storage myopia thy.

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While topical treatment or antibiotics can help, keeping your shire out of wet areas reduces the odds of his developing this dermatological disease. Properly conditioned, he can work for long hours in the field, on the road or under saddle.

Some vets recommend high-fat diets to ward off a condition that’s common in Shires, which causes cramps in the hind leg quarters. In general, though, the Shire is a genial, sturdy breed that’s ideal for anyone with the time and means to feed, house, and groom it.

The “Duke,” a shire who, as of 2008, stood at a regal 19.3 hands high (that’s about 6 feet 5 inches), weighed almost the same size as a car and was still growing. The world’s largest horse of all time might have been the Shire named Mammoth, born in 1848.

For many years, the Shire breed of horses has been well known and recognized for its vast and enormous pulling ability due to its power. The Shire is on the lists of endangered livestock breeds in the U.S., UK., Canada and other countries since the horsepower of draft horses are no longer required.

Shires tend to be taller, more muscular, and have thicker coats compared to Clydesdale's. This British breed of horse was developed over hundreds of years and once had numbers in the millions.

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It is easy for one to confuse a Clydesdale for a Shire Horse, as they have similar appearances. Both Shires and Clydesdale's are large, with strong, muscular builds and have feathers on their legs.

Shires have a short, back with a deep shoulder, slightly arched neck, big hooves and well-muscled legs. They should have long, lean heads, large eyes with a slight Roman nose.

Clydesdale's have a muscular yet arched neck, moderately sloping shoulders, deep chest, short back, powerful legs and large, round hooves. Their heads should be wide, yet proportional, with a flat face or occasionally a slight Roman nose and expressive eyes.

Shires can come in different colors including black, bay, brown, gray and on rare occasions chestnut. Considered one of the best horse breeds for beginners, Shire horses are known for their docile, easy-going temperaments.

Being a cold blood horse breed, Clydesdale's are known for their calm yet active, gentle temperaments. Today, they are used as driving and riding, for both show and pleasure, as well as participating in parades.

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At a 1924 British exhibition, a pair of Shires pulled an astounding 100,000 pounds. In 2000, Goliath the Shire won the record standing at just over 19.1 hands high.

Eight Clydesdale's pull each Budweiser hitch, and they are accompanied by their mascot, a Dalmatian dog. It is a breed that is relatively tall, standing between 16-17 hands on average, and have feathered feet that are similar to a Clydesdale horse.

Here are some additional Shire horse facts to help you get to know this breed a little better. Although Shire horses are often counted as some of the largest in the world, with many weighing over 1 ton, they are still very laid-back creatures.

The Shire horse is also quite easy to train, with bucking or rearing considered to be an unusual behavior. Unlike other large horses, however, the size of the Shire was bred into them for war purposes, which is why they are believed to be so gentle.

During his reign, Henry II recognized the need to have a horse that could bear the full weight of a knight that was in heavy armor. Add in the weaponry and gear weight to that and many horses just couldn’t perform.

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It has been this way ever since the first breed registry for this draft and draft horse was established. In 1924, during an exhibition in England, it was found that a pair of Shire horses were able to pull a starting load that was estimated to be 45 tons.

No one knows for sure how much the pull weight actually was because the pair of Shire horses exceeded the maximum reading of the measurement equipment. In slippery footing, this same pair of horses were able to pull a documented 16.5 tons successfully.

Although his breed was not officially measured, it was believed that Mammoth was a Shire based on the descriptions given. The official measurement put Mammoth at a height of 21.25 hands and with a weight of over 3,300 pounds.

Documentation from Smithfield Market in London shows that horses were being sold that were “fit for the dray, plow, or the chariot.” This was even when many farmers were preferring to use oxen in order to manage their farms instead of horses, which goes to show the historical popularity of this breed in England and then later in the United States. Breeders used the Clydesdale horse in the 1950s and 1960s to improve the appearance of the modern Shire.

There are fewer than 200 new registries for Shire horses that are made in the United States each year. There may be more unregistered Shire horses in isolated communities that still use the breed for farm work.

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Many small scale farms in the UK are once again looking to use the Shire horse for the work that needs to be done to reduce the impact they cause on the environment. Forestry management services are also using Shire horses more frequently because their hooves cause much less environmental damage than modern equipment.

Although not everyone can handle a tall horse, many are finding or rediscovering that owning a Shire can be a highly rewarding experience in many ways. Shire horses have long been one of the tallest and most majestic horse breeds on the planet.

Today there are several charities that work hard to save this breed for future generations. Wind charger Epic x Royal View Parked Dolly.

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