Horse sizes range from towering, 6-foot draft horses to miniature ponies that barely top 2 feet. The average height of a horse is 15.2 hands, or around 5 feet. Any equine measuring more than 14.2 hands (57 inches) is a horse, and anything less is classified as a pony or miniature horse. Here are five of the largest horse breeds, along with five of the smallest horse breeds.
To measure a horse, first make sure it's standing on level ground. Place your measuring tape at the base of a front hoof. Then, stretch the tape upward to the top of the withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades). The head isn't included in the measurement.
01 of 10
The shire holds world records as one of the tallest horses. Originating in England during the 1800s, it was used for farm work, pulling carts, and towing barges. It still remains popular for pulling vehicles. As part of the calm "cold-blood" category, shires are generally gentle giants with docile temperaments.
Height: 16 hands (64 inches) to 18 hands (72 inches)
Weight: 1,800 to 2,400 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Very tall; muscular build; large hooves; feathered legs
02 of 10
Named for the River Clyde in Scotland where they originated, Clydesdales are still used to pull farm equipment and wagons. The massive breed was developed during the 1800s from Flemish stallions imported to Scotland that were crossed with local mares. Clydesdales achieved widespread fame as the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company mascot.
Height: 16 hands (64 inches) to 18 hands (72 inches)
Weight: 1,600 to 2,400 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Feathered legs; round feet; broad forehead; arched, long neck
03 of 10
Known as the Flanders horse in the Middle Ages, the Belgian is a large draft horse that originated in the Brabant region of Belgium. It was mainly used as a farm horse. Belgians are still working animals, but they also have become popular as show horses and for pleasure riding.
Height: 15 hands (60 inches) to 18 hands (72 inches)
Weight: 1,800 to 2,200 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Low-set, wide build; short, muscular neck; feathered legs
04 of 10
This large, powerful horse breed was developed in the Perche province of France's Normandy region. Its ancestry includes Moorish Barb horses and Flemish draft horses, along with some Arabian blood. Today, Percherons are used for forestry work and to pull carriages, as well as for competitive riding and show jumping.
Height: 15 hands (60 inches) to 19 hands (76 inches)
Weight: 1,800 to 2,600 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; broad forehead; small, upright earsContinue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
The Dutch draft horse developed after World War I for agricultural work. It was derived from the Belgian breed and stands around 16 hands (64 inches). Despite its large size, it tends to be quite active with a long working life. It's also highly intelligent and has a calm temperament.
Height: 15 hands (60 inches) to 17 (68 inches)
Weight: 1,550 to 1,650 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Stocky shoulders; bay, gray, or chestnut coat; feathered legs
06 of 10
The miniature horse is one of the smallest horse breeds. It includes two height divisions, with the tallest being no more than 9.5 hands (38 inches). Miniature horses are often too small for riding. But they can pull carts, compete in obstacle courses and jumping, and serve as therapy animals.
Height: Typically under 8.5 hands (34 inches) to 9.5 hands (38 inches)
Weight: 150 to 350 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Small, muscular build; proportions similar to larger horses
07 of 10
The Falabella is a miniature horse from Argentina. Its ancestral stock includes Andalusian and Iberian bloodlines. The horse is named for the Falabella family, which selectively bred small horses to create a consistently miniature version. Falabellas are often used as guide animals due to their manageable size and trainable nature.
Height: 6.25 hands (25 inches) to 8.5 hands (34 inches)
Weight: 40 to 100 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Smooth coat; slender, compact structure; large head
08 of 10
Don't let their small size fool you. Shetlands are strong, intelligent, and spunky horses. But they are also gentle and often excellent with children. Hailing from Scotland's Shetland Islands, these horses were used for agricultural work and hauling coal in mines. Their thick coats help them to withstand frigid winters.
Height: 7 hands (28 inches) to 11.5 hands (46 inches)
Weight: 400 to 450 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Compact body; broad head; short legs; lush mane and tailContinue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
The Noma is the smallest native horse breed of Japan. These horses were developed during the 17th century primarily to serve as pack animals on steep terrain and remote islands. Today, they are a critically endangered horse breed but still a highly visited attraction in Japanese zoos and on farms.
Height: 10.75 hands (43 inches) to 13.75 hands (55 inches)
Weight: 450 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Cylindrical body; oblique buttocks; thin legs; durable hooves
10 of 10
The Yonaguni is another critically endangered Japanese small horse breed. It hails from Okinawa's Yonaguni Island. The breed was initially used for farm work and transportation. Today, it is often used for instructional purposes in local schools and for recreational riding. As of 2019, there were around 100 Yonaguni left.
Height: 11.5 hands (46 inches) to 11.75 hands (47 inches)
Weight: 460 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Large head; short neck; long, sloping back