O'Bannon's DunRovin' Ranch, LLC

Registered Shire horses, N.A.Spotted drafts, ADHA Drum horses, Longhorns, Organic cattle & More!



Shire Information Page 

So you want to know about Shires.......


All of our Shires are Registered ASHA (American Shire Horse Association).  Go to http://www.shirehorse.org/ to reach the ASHA website.  To get to the worldwide Shire studbook go to http://www.shirestudbook.com/


             Our Shires - Our Treasures         

The largest horses in the world and most gentle of all draft breeds, Shires are not only gorgeous and powerful, but also very loyal, Gentle Giants. 

Our Treasures Do Not Twinkle or Glitter 

They Shine In the Sun and

Neigh In the Night!  

What are the Tallest, Heaviest, and

 most Gentle of all the draft breeds??? 

Shires are!!!  Although now largely divorced from the natural world, for 100’s of years they have been working with man in close harmony.  This magnificent horse has served man both at work and at war.  Despite their great size and strength, they are the gentlest of beasts.  Hard workers in agriculture or as urban draft horses, their cheerfulness, courage and aptitude for discipline is unrivaled.

Names - Past names referring to the Shire horse are numerous.    In the remainder of this page you will see many of the names listed below.  Please keep in mind that they all refer to the same breed of horse – the magnificent SHIRE.  These names include:  Bakewell Black, Black English Cart Horse, Giant Horse of Lincolnshire, The Black Horse, English Cart Horse, English   War Horse, Large Black English Horse, The Great Horse, and War Horse        of  England.  In 1884 the name SHIRE was finally adopted for good.

 Although war is the ancient heritage and role of the Shire horse, it proved to be even more useful in peace turning from battle to commerce and agriculture.  During the 1800s the Shire became nothing less than a national treasure as big Shire geldings moved trade goods off the docks and into the streets.  Responding to the need of a horse with enormous bulk, prodigious muscular strength, and docility, the English stockmen and farmers developed what remains........

One of the finest living creations in the

 world today -

The Magnificent

Shire Horse 



 + The Shire, considered “The King of all Draft Horses”,  is a breed of horse that is believed to have originated from the central regions of England.  The writings of Julius Caesar in 55BC state that the ancient Britons were using their native horses very effectively in chariot warfare.  Remains have recently been found that prove those horses were substantial in size.  Caesar especially admired their responsiveness and agility, noting the drivers were able to check and turn them in a moments notice even with the horses in full gallop.  These giant horses were highly prized & ancient documents have been found that even list the names of the horses killed in battles.

Shire history also traces back to the days of the Roman Conquest in the mid 40AD years.  In 1066, William the Conquerer used Shires in battles, quite literally, as a living armored tank.  Their sheer size and weight meant they were ideal to carry a full armor-suited knight, often weighing at least 500lbs., into battle even though they weren’t generally regarded as a riding horse.  Shire’s being used for jousting and as cavalry horses soon became the norm.  The  year 1068 brought with it the knowledge that the Shire could also be useful as   a pack horse.  Between 1154 and 1558 it seems to have been the aim of the government to increase the size and numbers of the "Great Horse" to handle the weight of soldiers in armour (weighing up to 400 pounds). 

From present times back to the time of Henry II,  it has been policy for the lead-er of England to increase the breeding stock and population of these Great Shire Horses.  Edward II went as far as to make it illegal to export any horses to Scotland or to sell a horse to a Scottish person, believing this would enhance their own breed ahead of the rest.  He would roll over in his grave if he knew that eventually the Scots would take English Shire Stallions – breed them with their smaller, less sturdy draft horses - and come up with a horse that would gain in popularity over Shires.  More on this later.  Henry VII went a step further than Edward and enacted legislation prohibiting the exportation of any stallions or mares outside the country.  Henry VIII went even further and enacted a consid-erable amount of legislation in the later years of his reign.  He made his father's exportation law a felony with a fine of 40 pounds ($60.86 U.S. dollars), a huge amount in that time.  He made attempts to improve breeding by forcing people to keep brood mares on their property.  It was said that any owner of an area that was enclosed with a circumference of one mile was required, as of May 1st 1537, to keep two brood mares at least 15 hands tall.  In an area with a circumference of four miles or more, four such mares had to be kept.  These Shire Horse Acts were passed throughout history to promote the breeding of this Great Horse.    

The Shire became nothing less than a national treasure with the passing of these Acts.  Big Shire geldings moved the commerce off the docks & through the streets of England, over badly paved streets and on rough roads.  There was extensive demand for these massive horses of great muscular strength, enormous bulk, and docility.  When the invention of gun powder came along,  the all-mighty War Horse was not as valuable to the army.   The cavalry wanted smaller, faster horses to ride into battle.  The Great Horse was now turned out to pasture and farm work.  When the Black English Cart Horse became popular in the 18th century Shire history became even more visible.

The earliest Shire stallion recorded on paper was a black horse, born in 1755, by the name of Packington Blind Horse.  This stud serviced mares in Warwick-shire, Leicestershire, and Derbyshire, where seven generations can be traced.  These early Shires were thick, powerful animals, with tufts of hair on their knees and upper lip. Size and power were obviously desirable traits, but im-provement of quality and conformation were also important.  Robert Bakewell was one of the foremost breeders of Shires in the 1700’s.  At his home in Lei-cestershire he began to produce Shires to develop familiar characteristics in the horses and improve the breed.  He became so involved in them that, for a time, Shires were named Bakewell Blacks.

During these years of great breeding, there was a need to organize the breed as its own.  In 1878 the English Cart Horse Society was formed to improve and promote this great equine.  In 1880 the first copy of the Shire stud book was published, with 376 entries.  In 1884 the Society decided to change its name to the Shire Horse Society and the name of the horse to simply Shire, which they both remain today.  The Shire's popularity continued to grow in England, and by 1905 there were 3,781 entries in the stud book.  The Shire horse was origin-ally the staple breed used to draw wagons to deliver ale from the breweries to the pubhouses.

The new found popularity for the Shire was not only in England, but it had spread to America.  There had been importing of Shires since the mid to late 1800's.  In the 1880's J.H. Truman started importing large numbers of Shires to the United States.  Truman was originally from Cambridgeshire, and brought his love for the breed to America.  He held his first auction of Shires in 1882 in Chicago, Illinois.  The American Shire Horse Association (ASHA) was formed in 1885, not long afterwards.  NOTE * While the Shire was being improved in the 1800s the smaller Clydesdale in Scotland had been converted into a true heavy horse by using English Shire Stallions.Between 1900 and 1918 almost 4,000 Shires were imported into the U.S.  ***During the Great Depression, good Shire foals were dubbed “the rent payers”.

The Shire again played an important part in the 1st and 2nd World Wars by pulling the heavy artillery.  After World War II, with the improvement in machinery, the Shire was no longer needed in either industry or agriculture and in the 1950’s was nearly doomed to extinction due to their greatest opponent yet – the internal combustion engine.  With the increased use of mechanized farm and transport equipment, the number of Shires began to decline and eventually dwindled to a small fraction of what they had been in their heyday.  It is notable that After WWI the numbers had started to decline but WWII heralded the abrupt end of the Horse Age

Luckily there were a handful of stubborn men in the mid-1960s that the breed owes it’s survival to.  These men kept, bred, worked and loved their Shires and this great breed still exists today because of these men

Although Shire horses have delivered beer daily in the city streets of London, still perform agricultural tasks on farms in rural Britain, are one of the major breeds and the most popular heavy horse in England, there are still less than 2000 of them  in the world today.  Unfortunately, Shires are on the brink of extinction.  This year (2011) as in 2009 and 2010 the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) has placed Shires in the Critical Status on their watchlist. http://www.albc-usa.org/cpl/wtchlist.html.  This means there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and an estimated worldwide population of less than 2,000 of these great horses.  Please click on the links to see.  http://albc-usa.org/documents/CPL_Equines2010.pdf  studies have shown that for conservation to be successful, animals must have useful work. 


Temperament   -   One of the virtues of a Shire, that is of special importance in a horse of this size, is that it is reputed to be the most docile of all the draft breeds.  They are extremely cheerful while their strength, courage and aptitude for discipline is also unrivaled. Although now largely divorced from the natural world they have retained their kind natures.

Build   -   Magnificent in appearance; majestic in movement, mild mannered in temperament.  The tallest and heaviest, breed of horse in the world.  A large, athletic, powerful horse with a powerful, muscular build, dense body, broad back, strong loins, powerful hindquarters, and long legs w/dense bones.  They have plenty of stamina and the ability to carry the weight of mounted knights wearing their heavy battle armor weighing in excess of 400 lb.  Two important characteristics are the Roman nose and the gentle, widely-spaced eyes. The breed standard specifies that the eyes should be docile in expression, and they are generally brown. The neck should be long and lean, with an arch. This leads to a short, muscular back, with no pronounced dipping or roaching.  The Roman nose, gentle, brown eyes, long, lean, arched neck, and short, muscular back are all breed standards.  

Feather   -   A characteristic feature is their abundant hair below the knees and hocks on the lower half of the legs.  This long silky hair on the lower half of the legs is called the “feather", while the hair over the foot is known as "spats". Shires have white stockings (or socks) and may come with any number of them from 1 to 4.  They may range in size from being just on the “spats” as is on the front feet of our stallion Apollo - or they may go all the way onto the belly of the horse as is the case on our Amy, Charlotte, and Webber.  Both spats and feathers can easily break off due to tall weeds, dry weather, etc

Height   -   Mature horses stand 17-19 hands high.  Shire horses are the tallest of all the drafts and the breed standard calls for at least 17 hands.  A “hand” is equal to four inches.   Many stand 18+ hands and weigh over 2,000lbs.  The world biggest horse ever recorded was the Shire named Sampson foaled in 1846, standing over 21.2hands tall at the age of four and at his peak, weighing over 3300lbs.  Although some world records exist, it is of utmost importance that excessive height is NOT a goal for which to strive.  Many of those horses lead less than ideal lives with many medical problems.  17-18+ hands is plenty tall enough for anyone.  Remember – temperament and build are much more important Shire traits for which to aim.

Weight   -   is usually from 1700-2400 pounds

Strength   -   An average Shire will weigh around 1 ton (2000lbs) and is well capable of moving a 5-ton load.  In 19th Century England a pair of Shires would be expected to take on a load of not less than 5 tons and was often required to pull 12 ton loads!  In that same era a team of Shires transported 36 tons a distance of 6 miles along the Surrey Iron railway as part of a wager.  Stories abound about the tremendous size and strength of the horse being used along the Liverpool docs and London streets.  One tells of a driver who became impatient with the amount of time it was taking for his load of timber to be off-loaded.  The driver had his horses tied to the ship and moved off with its stern.

Colors   -   The traditional Shires today are usually black, bay, brown, grey (which turns white), infrequently sorrel and rarely, spotted in their color.  They have a blaze and white markings on their lower legs and feet which sometimes travel all the way up to the belly area.  At the time of this writing there were only FOUR sorrel stallions in the U.S., (with one of them being the sire of our mare Sunrise).  The spotted Shires are not seen in shows because too much white is considered undesirable as is roaning.  

Variations on the Shire Horse



Modern & Old-Style  

These horses were bred for size early on to support their work and war jobs, but the Shire of today is a more refined horse with fine feather on their feet.  Still known for the strength, athletic ability and docile disposition The Shire horse is now primarily used as a draft animal for farm work, logging, and advertising on promotional hitches but is also making a name for itself in the sporthorse world as a hunter/jumper/eventer when crossbred with thoroughbreds. 

            OLD STYLE SHIRE                   MODERN STYLE SHIRE  


Shire Crosses  

Shires are the “Draft of Choice” for crossing.  Besides being the largest and most athletic of the draft breeds, they are also the most elegant.  They are light-footed, excellent for riding and driving and pass their agility, grace, trainability and docile attitude to their offspring.  Although Shires have been used since the beginning for crossing with other breeds for that breeds improvement, the most famous of Shire Crosses is also  horses comes from a smaller Scottish horse that was turned into a true heavy horse by breeding none other than English Shire Stallions in the 1800’s.  What is this famous draft called?.....a Clydesdale!!! 

ThoroShire - This horse that the British have long known about is fast becoming the #! Sporthorse in all North America.  The Thoro-shire can do it all, hunt, jump, event, dressage, carriage, endurance, trail, and pleasure.  It is said that there is not a hunter/jumper worth its salt in all of England that doesn’t have some Shire blood in it.

Drum Horses - Although in modern times the Drum horse is a cross of a Gypsy horse from Ireland and pretty much any draft horse, the original Drum Horse was actually a spotted Shire. 

Because of the size, and temperament Shire horses are used in the UK as the “drum horses” by the Household Cavalry. 

The drums & riders weigh several hundred pounds so a strong horse is needed. Drummers work the reins with their feet, as their hands are using the drumsticks, which requires a calm-tempered horse.  They are now widely used in breeding heavier hunter types by crossing with thoroughbreds and are seen in draft horse competitions worldwide.



                 Music credit:  'Pirates of the Caribbean (Part One)' by Prototype,                                          from the Shine of the Caribbean album.