Skip to Content

The Largest Horse Ever Recorded – Sampson

Old image believed to be Sampson ("Mammoth) showing his large size. © Unknown author -, Public Domain,

This record is held by a Shire horse named Sampson (later known as Mammoth), born in 1846 in Toddington Mills, England. The largest horse ever recorded in history stood at an exceptional height of 21.2 hands (7 feet, 2 inches, or about 2.19 meters) by the time he was four years old, setting a record that has not been surpassed to this day. Sampson also weighed around 3360 pounds! 

What Breed of Horse Was Sampson?

An example of the Shire breed of horse pulling a carriage. Image by Umdash9 on via Depositphotos

Sampson was a breed of horse called a Shire. They are large-boned and strong horses often seen in photos where they pulled plows or carriages. They are also characterized by their calm temperament. Shires are known to be one of the larger horse breeds around the world. Sampson really took his size to the next level. So much so that his record still stands 174 years later. 

How Sampson Was Selectively Bred

Illustration of a horse, resembling Sampson, standing next to a height measurement scale. This image depicts the horse at the same impressive height of 21.2 hands (7 feet, 2 inches or about 2.19 meters). Illustration generated by Alex van der Walt, Animals Around The Globe using DALL-E

Sampson’s birth and early years coincided with the Victorian era, a period marked by a fascination with the natural world.

The significance of Sampson’s size extends beyond mere physical dimensions. He represented the pinnacle of selective breeding practices of the time, aimed at producing horses capable of heavy labor. In the mid-19th century, horses were indispensable for agriculture and transportation, and a horse of Sampson’s size would have been highly prized for his ability to perform demanding tasks with relative ease.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Draught horses, such as shires plowing a field. Image by 1000Words via Depositphotos

However, Sampson’s extraordinary size may have also brought challenges. Larger horses often face health issues related to their size, such as joint problems and increased stress on the heart and lungs. While there is limited information on Sampson’s overall health and lifespan, it is likely that his caregivers would have had to pay special attention to these potential issues.

Wrapping It Up

baby horse
Image by kyslynskyy via Depositphotos

The legacy of Sampson as the largest horse ever recorded lives on and amazes many. His story highlights the remarkable capabilities of the Shire breed and serves as a historical marker in the context of animal breeding and husbandry.

Sampson’s record stands as a testament to the possibility of selective breeding and the extraordinary potential within the animal kingdom.

If you enjoyed learning about Sampson, you might enjoy learning more in these articles:

Latest posts by Alex Van der Walt, B.Sc. Animal Science & Vet Student (see all)
Southern Resident Orcas Extinction Risk Accelerating Humpback Whale Chases Dolphin Explained Watch: Eagle Flies Into a Man’s Car While Driving Definitive Answer: Why Insects Are Attracted To Light Rescued Elephants Cooling Off Enjoying Their Mud Bath