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5 Stocky Horse Breeds

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All horses might neigh the same way, but you’ll find that they are built differently. Depending on their physical appearance, a horse can be heavy, light, or a pony.

Heavy horses have thick bodies, broad backs, round withers, chunky legs, and various other features that make them appear stocky.

girl riding a stocky horse

Light horses, on the other hand, have long, thinner legs and angular bodies. Also, their backs are not as broad as those of heavy horses.

Ponies resemble miniature horses. They are small, usually below 14.2 hands, but they differ from miniature horses since they have thicker manes, coats, and tails.

The body of a pony is also proportionately different from the body of miniature horses.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look at 5 stocky horse breeds that are heavy horses. The breeds on our list span 2 classes: big stocky horses and short stocky horses.

Big Stocky Horse Breeds

Clydesdale Horse

little girl feeding Clydesdale Horse inside barn

The Clydesdale is one of the most common heavy horses. It originated from Scotland and got its name from Clydesdale, a county in Scotland formerly known as Lanarkshire.

This breed was bred for use as a draft animal by farmers of Lanarkshire and for various types of heavy haulage.

Clydesdale is an active horse. It is expected to lift its feet high off the ground as it moves.

Clydesdale horses have broad foreheads, large nostrils, long arched necks, and short backs. They have thick thighs, big knees, broad well-developed hocks, and hairy legs.

Most of the mature stallions have heights between 17.1-18 hands. In contrast, the mature mares are 16.2-17.2 hands. On average, Clydesdales weigh between 1600-1800 pounds with some weighing as much as 2200 pounds.

Clydesdale horses come in various colors, but the most common color is bray. Other colors include black, chestnut, and brown.

Shire Horse

Two beautiful Shire draught horses hooked up to pull a sleigh through the snow

The Shire horse breed is the tallest in the world. On average, horses belonging to this breed measure about 17.2 hands, and some even grow as tall as 19 hands.

Shire horses are quite similar to the Clydesdales in their appearance. Shire Horses are revered for their strength and height. They have large hooves, long arched necks, hairy legs, and slightly Roman noses. Their shoulders are deep and broad, and their backs are short and muscular.

Shire horses got their name because they were developed in the British Shires.

It is thought that they were bred from the British Great Horse and that Flemish horses may have played a part in the development of the breed as well.

Shire horses came to the United States in 1853, but they were never popularized. In 1878, the Shire Horse Society, an organization that sets the standard for Shire horses, was formed.

In the times before the first World War, Shire horses were used for various haulage purposes on and off farms. These days, they are used for pulling vehicles for exhibition and pleasure. Shire horses are still used as draft animals on some small farms today.

Shire horses are easygoing and not easily spooked. They typically weigh 1800-2400 pounds, and they commonly come in bay, black, gray, and brown.

Short Stocky Horse Breeds

Ardennes Horse

Ardennes Horse running on a field

The Ardennes horse is a historical breed dating as far back as ancient Rome. It originated in Northern Europe in the Ardennes plains located between Belgium and France.

Ardennes horses are very strong. But even with such strength, they are docile, easygoing, and even tempered.

In ancient Rome, the original Ardennes horses were very small. They were eventually crossed with Arabian horses to improve their stamina and later bred with Thoroughbreds and Percherons.

In the 1800s, Ardennes were crossed with Belgian horses, and this led to the formation of the stocky horse breed we see as Ardennes today.

Stallions of this breed span 15-16.3 hands while the mares are around 14.2-16.2 hands tall. On average, Ardennes horses weigh between 1500-2200 pounds.

Ardennes horses are used as draft animals, as a source of meat, and for competitive riding. They are also involved in the development of other horse breeds including Trait Du Nord and Sokolsky horses.

Commonly colorings include bay and black, but Ardennes also come as chestnut, roan, palomino, and gray goats.

Irish Draught

Irish Draught Horses Grazing at farm

Irish Draughts originated from Ireland in the 1700s. Irish farmers needed flashy but sturdy horses. They wanted a draft animal with sufficient visual appeal that would work on their farms and haul their carts on special occasions.

Irish Draught horses were created from a crossing between Irish Hobby horses (a foundation horse that is now extinct) and Iberian horses. Later crossbreeding with Clydesdale horses led to taller offspring.

A significant number of Irish Draughts were used in the First World War, and this affected their population. The post-war mechanization of agriculture did not help them regain their numbers.

Irish Draught horses are active, docile, gentle, and intelligent. Their foreheads are wide, their eyes are bold, and their ears are well-set.

Irish Draughts have large knees closer to the ground, their shoulders are clean-cut, and their withers are well-defined.

The average adult Irish Draught stallion stands at 15.3-16.3 hands, while the mare stands at 15.1-16.1 hands. They come in various whole colors and grey.

American Cream Draft Horse

American Cream Draft Horse eating grass

Of the many American draft horses that have existed, the American Cream Draft is the only one still in existence.

The American Cream Draft horse breed was created in Iowa in the earlier parts of the 1900s. The breed was bred from a horse called Old Granny, a foundation mare.

This breed has always been a rare one, and even around the time it gained precedence, industrializing agriculture reduced the use of draft animals.

American Cream Draft horses are built with strong backs, broad chests, well-sprung ribs, and sloping shoulders. Their legs are short and well-outlined with thick, muscular hindquarters.

American Cream Drafts are calm and willing to work. If you are a new horse handler, you may want to consider getting this breed.

Horses of this breed average 15-16.3 hands, with the mares weighing an average of 1600-1800 pounds. The stallions weigh more, averaging around 1800-2000 pounds.

American Cream Drafts are cream colored with white manes, white tails, amber eyes, and pink skin. You may come across 3 different shades of cream with these horses: light, medium, and dark. Each of these shades is officially recognized.