How Many Hands is a Draft Horse: A Detailed Guide

Have you ever wondered how many hands a Draft Horse is? If you’re new to the equestrian world, the term “hands” can be confusing. But fear not, we’ve got you covered. In this detailed guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about how to measure a horse’s height in hands and give you a clear understanding of how many hands a Draft Horse typically stands. So, let’s get started and demystify this horse measurement once and for all!

Understanding Draft Horses

Draft horse in a green field

Draft horses, known for their strength and size, have played a significant role in various tasks throughout history. In this section, we will explore their historical and modern uses, as well as their key characteristics.

Historical and Modern Uses

Historically, draft horses were used for pulling plows, logs, and heavy carts due to their immense power and strength. Although machines have mostly replaced horsepower in modern times, these large and hardworking horses are still valued and admired today. In addition to certain agricultural and logging work, draft horses are popular for pleasure and recreation riding, pulling carriages, and participating in various equestrian shows and competitions.

Characteristics of Draft Horses

Draft horses typically range in size from approximately 16 to 19 hands high (64 to 76 inches; 163 to 193 cm) and can weigh between 1,400 to 2,000 lb (640 to 910 kg) (“Draft horse – Wikipedia”). They are strongly built creatures, often featuring wide nostrils, sturdy bodies, and powerful muscles. One example of a draft horse breed is the Belgian draft horse, which usually measures around 17 hands high and is characterized by its chestnut-colored coat and white tail and mane (“What Is A Draft Horse? (A Complete Guide) – AHF”).

These horses are known for their docile, willing, and gentle temperament, making them great companions and workers for various tasks. Draft horses possess impressive power and “scope” in their movements, which can be further enhanced by crossbreeding them with lighter riding horses (“Draft horse – Wikipedia”).

Some of the world’s largest and tallest horses, such as Big Jake with his almost 21 hands height or Brooklyn Supreme weighing nearly 3,200 pounds, belong to the draft horse category (“5 Fun Facts About Draft Horses – COWGIRL Magazine”).

In summary, draft horses are magnificent, powerful creatures that have served humans throughout history in various tasks, from heavy lifting to leisure activities. Their unique combination of strength, size, and gentle temperament make them truly exceptional.

What Does ‘Hands’ Mean

draft horse portrait with long mane

The term ‘hands’ is used to measure the height of horses, with one hand being equal to 4 inches or 10.16 centimeters. This method of measurement has been used for centuries, allowing for a standard and easy way to communicate the size of various horse breeds.

History and Development

The use of ‘hands’ as a unit of measurement dates back to ancient Egypt when people would commonly use their hands and fingers to measure various things. As horse breeding and racing became popular, a standardized way to measure horses was required. Eventually, the hand was chosen as the most convenient way to measure the height of horses. Over time, the definition of a hand was formalized, and the universally accepted measurement of 4 inches or 10.16 centimeters was established.

Measurement Methods

To measure a horse, one must start from the ground where the horse’s hooves touch and measure up to the withers. The withers are the highest point on a horse’s shoulders and are located where the neck and back meet. This is the conventional way of measuring a horse’s height, ensuring consistency across different breeds and situations.

Measuring a horse in hands is simple, with each hand representing 4 inches or 10.16 centimeters, you just need to divide the horse’s height by 4 inches to get the number of hands. For example, a horse measuring 58 inches would be (58/4) 14.5 hands tall. It is important to note that the decimal figure does not represent tenths but additional inches. So, 14.5 hands translates to 14 hands and 2 inches, often written as 14.2 hands.

When measuring draft horses, their size falls within the larger range, typically between 16 and 18 hands (1.63-1.83m)  Draft horses are known for their strength, size, and calm temperament, making them ideal for work purposes such as plowing and transport.

Understanding the concept of ‘hands’ and its usage in measuring horse height is essential for anyone involved in horse-related activities. This standardized method allows for clear communication and classification of horse sizes across various breeds and cultures.

Average Hand Size for Draft Horses

Brown Belgian draft horse grazing in a meadow

Draft horses are known for their exceptional strength and size, with an average height ranging between 16 and 18 hands, or approximately 64 to 72 inches. However, some draft horses may grow to be even taller.

Different Draft Horse Breeds

There are a variety of draft horse breeds, each with their own unique characteristics and sizes. The Belgian is one such breed, with exceptional height and weight. In fact, a Belgian named Big Jake holds the record for the tallest living horse, standing at 20 hands and 2 ¾ inches tall, or about 6 feet 10 inches. Other breeds, such as the English Shire, have also been known to reach impressive heights, with the tallest recorded Shire horse, Samson, reaching a remarkable 21.25 hands or 85 inches.

Some other popular draft horse breeds include the Percheron, Clydesdale, and Suffolk Punch, among others. Each draft horse breed displays slight variations in height and size, but all typically tower over other types of horses.

Size Considerations

When selecting a draft horse for any purpose, understanding their height and size is crucial. While the average horse height is around 15 to 16 hands or 60 to 64 inches, draft horses stand significantly taller, making them a bit more challenging to handle for some riders. Most riders find that medium-sized horses between 15 and 15.2 hands, or 60 to 62 inches, offer the highest level of comfort and versatility for a wide range of equestrian activities.

In addition to height, the overall build of draft horses is generally more substantial than other breeds, featuring massive bone structure, large hooves, and impressive strength. These characteristics are typical among most draft horse breeds.

However, despite their imposing size, draft horses possess an abundance of gentleness, making them beloved family horses for generations. These gentle giants serve various roles, including working on farms, being used for pulling carriages, and participating in equestrian sports.

Comparing Draft Horses to Other Horse Types

Draft horses are a unique category of horses known for their impressive size, strength, and gentleness. They typically stand between 16 and 19 hands high, with a weight range of 1,400 to 2,200 pounds (WikipediaHelpful Horse Hints). In this section, we will compare draft horses to other horse types, discussing the differences between warmbloods and cold bloods, as well as distinguishing between light and heavy horses.

Warmbloods and Cold Bloods

Warmbloods and cold bloods are two groups that represent different horse types. Warmblood horses are known for their athleticism and versatility, excelling in activities like dressage, show jumping, and eventing. These horses are a blend of draft horse and lighter riding horse breeds, which result in horses with a balance of power, grace, and agility.

On the other hand, cold bloods encompass draft horses and other heavy working breeds. They are characterized by their size, strength, and calm temperament. These horses excel in heavy harness work, such as plowing fields, logging, and pulling carriages. They have a steady and dependable nature, making them suitable for a variety of tasks and environments.

Light and Heavy Horses

The main difference between light and heavy horses lies in their size and purpose. Light horses are smaller in stature, usually standing 14 to 17 hands high and weighing between 900 and 1,400 pounds. Their lighter build makes them faster and more agile in comparison to heavy horses. They are more commonly used for riding, racing, and various equestrian disciplines such as dressage and jumping.

Heavy horses, which include draft horses, are larger and stronger, standing between 16 and 19 hands high with a weight range of 1,400 to 2,200 pounds (WikipediaHelpful Horse Hints). They are characterized by their muscular build, large hooves, and extensive bone structure. Heavy horses have historically been bred for labor-intensive tasks such as pulling heavy loads or performing farm work. Their imposing size and strength make them an ideal choice for these types of activities.

In conclusion, draft horses are a unique and versatile category of horses. While they share some similarities with warmbloods in terms of lineage, they differ greatly in size, strength, and specific abilities. Furthermore, draft horses are a part of the larger group of heavy horses, which are distinct from light horses based on their physical characteristics and purpose. By understanding these differences, we can better appreciate the impressive qualities and capabilities of draft horses.

Finding the Right Draft Horse

Black Friesian Draft Horse Standing

When searching for the perfect draft horse, it is important to consider the size and breed of the horse. These factors will ensure the horse is suitable for the intended work it will perform and makes an excellent addition to your farm or stable.

Evaluating Size

A key aspect to think about when selecting a draft horse is its size. Typically, draft horses stand between 16 and 18 hands high, with each hand equals to four inches. Their weight can range from 1200 to 1800 pounds, with larger ones weighing over 2000 pounds (Hunting Horse). These dimensions must be carefully considered to ensure the horse can comfortably perform its tasks and has the suitable space available.

Keep in mind that draft horses are considerably larger than other breeds. An average saddle horse normally stands around 15 to 16 hands high and weighs about 1000 pounds ( Comparatively, draft horses are massive creatures that require proper care and management due to their size.

Choosing a Breed

When selecting the right draft horse, another crucial factor is the choice of breed. Many draft horse breeds offer varying qualities and characteristics that may fit your needs better than others. Some well-known draft breeds include the Shire, Clydesdale, Belgian, and Percheron. Each breed presents different elements in terms of size, temperament, and aesthetics.

For example, the Shire breed is known for its exceptional size, with horses standing as tall as 19 hands high and weighing anywhere from 1,500 to 2,300 pounds ( Other breeds, like the Belgian, are recognized for their heavy-boned and muscular build, while Clydesdales are admired for their distinctive feathering on their legs.

It is essential to research and become familiar with the various draft horse breeds to select the one that aligns best with your specific needs and preferences. A suitable choice of a draft horse breed will ensure a positive experience for both the owner and the horse.

Caring for Draft Horses

Red draft horse

Draft horses are large, powerful animals typically standing between 16 and 19 hands tall, which is around 64 to 76 inches or 163 to 193 cm (Wikipedia). Due to their stature, caring for draft horses requires special considerations in terms of feeding, grooming, and health needs.

Feeding Requirements

Draft horses have unique nutritional needs compared to lighter riding horses. Due to their size and workload, draft horses generally require a higher daily intake of calories. However, it’s crucial to avoid overfeeding and ensure they receive proper amounts of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. A suitable diet for draft horses may consist of quality forage, such as hay or grass, along with grain concentrates tailored to their specific energy and nutritional requirements. It’s essential to consult with an equine nutritionist or veterinarian for advice on an appropriate feeding plan for your draft horse.

Grooming and Health Needs

Regular grooming is vital for maintaining a draft horse’s overall health and well-being. Make it a point to brush your horse’s coat, mane, and tail with appropriate grooming tools to remove dirt, debris, and loose hair. Moreover, pay close attention to their feet, picking out and inspecting their hooves daily to prevent infections and other potential issues.

While draft horses are generally known for their gentle disposition (Horse Illustrated), they may still face breed-specific health issues. For example, some draft horses are prone to certain medical problems, such as joint and hoof ailments (Hello Homestead). To keep your draft horse in optimal health, schedule regular veterinary check-ups and follow recommended care practices tailored to their breed and individual needs.

Overall, properly caring for a draft horse involves addressing their unique feeding requirements, grooming, and health needs. Establishing a consistent care routine and working closely with equine professionals helps ensure your draft horse remains happy, healthy, and ready for work.


In summary, draft horses are large and powerful equines, specifically bred for carrying heavy loads and performing strenuous tasks. They typically stand between 16 to 19 hands high (64 to 76 inches; 163 to 193 cm) and weigh around 1,400 to 2,000 lb (640 to 910 kg). These gentle giants have been indispensable in various industries, including agriculture and transportation, for centuries.

Some of the most popular draft horse breeds include the Clydesdale, the Shire, the Percheron, and the Belgian. Each of these breeds offers distinct characteristics and varying size ranges, but they all share the impressive strength and size that define draft horses. As these horses have become less prevalent in modern work environments, their roles have shifted to leisure activities, show events, and even therapeutic settings.

Overall, draft horses embody the epitome of strength and resilience, while simultaneously being gentle and obedient creatures. Their ability to stand up to 19 hands high makes them stand out among other horse breeds and demonstrates their adaptability for carrying heavy loads or performing strenuous tasks. Those interested in draft horses can appreciate their significant contributions to human society, both historically and today.