The Largest and Smallest Horse Breeds Around the World

An illustration of the biggest and smallest horses

The Spruce/Lisa Fasol

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.

Tip

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

    Shire

    Shire horses outside with handlers

    Hugh Threlfall/Photolibrary/Getty Images

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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

    Clydesdale

    Clydesdale horses in full tack

    Alan Crawford/Getty Images

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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

    Belgian

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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

    Percheron

    harnessed percheron sleigh horses

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    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.

    Breed Overview

    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 ears

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Dutch Draft

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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

    Miniature Horse

    Miniature horses in a nursing home with senior citizens in wheelchairs

    Tom Nebbia/Getty Images

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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

    Falabella

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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

    Shetland Pony

    Shetland ponies grazing outside
    Danita Delmont/Getty Images

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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 tail

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Noma

    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.

    Breed Overview

    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

    Yonaguni

    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.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 11.5 hands (46 inches) to 11.75 hands (47 inches)

    Weight: 460 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Large head; short neck; long, sloping back