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Horse History: The Old English Shire

The Shire horse is a tall breed horse, that has played a huge role in the world and have at various times held world records for both the largest and the tallest horse. They have great capacity for weight-pulling and would be used back in the day to tow barges as seen at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. The Shires are a very rare horse in Australia – as in the world generally.

The Shire breed was established in the mid-eighteenth century, although its origins are much older. The Old English Shire horses where also used as a war horse carrying knights in armour, they where also used in the 1st and 2nd world war pulling the heavy artillery in appalling conditions.

Source – Pinterest – Shire horses in the Royal Easter Show’s Grand parade.

The Shire Horses in Australia

Shire Horses were imported into Australia during the 1800’s and early 1900’s but not enough to form a viable herd. The early shire, being so big and heavy struggled in Australia with the long distances and harsh environments. So by the mid-1920’s registered had virtually died out.

In 1981 Helen and Gregory Scarf imported the first registered Shire Stallion. Then soon followed was Edward Ladbrook 60 years later importing a small herd of Mares. Others soon followed and the shire number in Australia have slowly built up ever since.

Source – Natalie Agius – Sorento the Shire Horse


The shire is a horse of great size, a mature stallion can stand over 18 hands high and weigh up to 1,000kg (1 tonne). Mares and geldings are slightly less massive. Shires have wide set and expressive eyes. The shoulders are large, they have long legs and feathered feet.



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