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Gentle giants of the Equine world

Updated on May 2, 2012

The defining differences in each breed.

Though both breeds look similar there are defining differences. The basic ones are these.

Shires originated in England. Clydesdale's in Scotland.

Shires tend to be heavier -bodied and were taller. Clydesdale's have more white markings, more colours and more feathering(long hair) at the bottom of their legs.

Shires have longer, leaner heads and big ears. Clydesdale's have a broader face and forehead and muzzle.

The Clydesdale.

Although the breed originates form Scotland and was considered a small draft horse originally, its roots are from imported Flemish Stallions and Scottish breeding mares. The breed started in the 19Th century.They were originally used in agriculture and have the distinction of being known as The Breed that built Australia.

They have strong muscular shoulders and an arched neck and a very active gait when moving, lifting their legs high. The Clydesdale comes in a variety of colours including roan and has sabino white markings, though the presence of the Sabino1 gene is disputed by some.

The Clydesdale

Clydesdale mare and foal
Clydesdale mare and foal
Clydesdale dressed for the show ring. Note the extensive white on the legs and heavy feathering.
Clydesdale dressed for the show ring. Note the extensive white on the legs and heavy feathering.
Famous team of Clydesdales in America
Famous team of Clydesdales in America


Shire horses were bred in England and can trace their ancestry back to The Black Horse of King Henry V111's time.

Very powerful they were bred to pull the great brewery wagons, and other carts. Though the Black Horse was a warhorse.

They can grow very tall reaching heights of 18 hh in stallions and geldings and one of their breed was recorded as the tallest horse ever growing to 21 hh. hh(hands high) a hand being approx 4ins.

They generally come in black, bay, grey or brown and have a smooth, silky fur coat. Their feet are larger than the Clydesdale and they have less feathering.Muscular backs and long in the quarters they can can reach weights of 1500 kilograms, a truly massive animal

The Shire

Gentle giant
Gentle giant
Team of shires doing their job
Team of shires doing their job
Shire mare and foal
Shire mare and foal

Rare Breeds, but such Gentle Giants

Both of these breeds are under watch by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK, and The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

In both cases the decline in their numbers has been largely due to mechanisation and wars.

Clydesdale numbers , or the rather the lack of them are at a vulnerable to extinction level.....extremely worrying, even though numbers are increasing .

Shire numbers are considered to be at a critical level, but again slowly their numbers are increasing too.

Although today these great horses are still used in a small way for their original tasks they have also been found to be adaptable and are also used for forestry, pleasure riding and Clydesdale's are even being shown under saddle.

There are definite differences to these two breeds but there is also some very important characteristics that they share.

This is their kind, honest and gentle natures. Animals as powerful as this could easily be uncontrollable, but they work with humans and give their best to us.

A word of warning.........Watch where you put YOUR feet!!!

English Draught Horses

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    • clairemy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank You so much, its great to be able to share a little of my knowledge and hopefully bring some attention to these wonderful animals plight.

    • clairemy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank You for reading and enjoying,and for the kind comments. I love horses, and worked with them closely for over 40yrs, so to give something back to them and a little of my knowledge is a pleasure.

    • Kamalesh050 profile image


      6 years ago from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India

      Enjoyed the hub. It's very interesting and informative. You have written and presented the hub Excellently. Voted Up and Awesome.

      Best wishes, Kamalesh

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • clairemy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thankyou for visiting the hub, they are lovely and they need as much support as possible so they continue and thrive.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Lovely horses, which I was happy to learn about.

    • clairemy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thankyou for reading it. Yes they are beautiful.

    • Zabbella profile image


      6 years ago from NJ-USA

      Thank you for sharing this informative hub. Beautiful creatures!


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