Giant Heart, Giant Hooves: The Tale of Big Jake, The World’s Tallest Horse 🐴💫

Photo from the Guinness Book of World Records

A Glimpse into the Life of Big Jake, the Gentle Giant Who Captured Hearts Worldwide

Big Jake, a Belgian draft horse gelding, held the title of the world’s tallest horse, standing at 20 hands and 2.75 cm without his shoes, as confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010. His passing occurred in 2021 at Smokey Hollow Farm in Wisconsin, where he was cherished as a beloved family member. Despite his physical absence, his legendary stature continues to leave an enduring impact.

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In March 2001, Big Jake, the gentle giant, made his grand entrance into the world, weighing an impressive 240 pounds at birth. Owned by the Gilbert family of Smokey Hollow Farm in Wisconsin, Big Jake’s remarkable journey began when he joined their family at the age of three. Originally too big for his previous owners, Big Jake found his forever home with the Gilberts.

To the Gilbert family, Big Jake was not just a horse; he was a beloved member of their family, known for his affectionate and kind nature. One iconic image captures him standing tall with Caley, the Gilberts’ young daughter, holding his leadline in front of their picturesque barn. The stark size contrast between the young girl and the towering horse exemplifies Big Jake’s colossal presence. Another heartwarming photo depicts Caley driving him, her even smaller brother standing in awe in front of this magnificent creature.

Standing officially at 20 hands and 2.75 cm tall, Big Jake earned the prestigious title of the World’s Tallest Horse in 2010, a recognition immortalized in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Gilbert family, renowned breeders and exhibitors of Belgian draft horses, recognized Big Jake’s extraordinary potential for greatness when he was just a young colt of seven or eight. His journey to becoming the world’s tallest horse is a testament to his remarkable stature and the immense love showered upon him by the Gilbert family and admirers worldwide.

The Belgian draft horse breed stands as the most favored among draft horses in the United States, boasting a robust population. Recognized for their robustness, amiable temperament, and distinct coat colors, typically in shades of blonde, sorrel, or chestnut with lighter manes and tails, Belgians are easily identifiable. Their eagerness to work coupled with a cooperative demeanor has positioned them as the leading draft breed in the country.

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Belgian draft horses

Belgian draft horses generally measure between 16 and 18 hands in height. Notably, Big Jake surpassed this average, towering over at more than 20 hands, making him a remarkable eight inches (or two hands) taller than the tallest members of his breed. Additionally, Big Jake’s birth weight, a substantial 240 pounds, was nearly double the typical 125-pound birth weight of a Belgian foal. Remarkably, despite his parents being of average size, Big Jake emerged as the extraordinary outcome of genetic chance.

Big Jake led a comfortable life at Smokey Hollow Farm. His daily diet included a bale of hay and 24 quarts of grain, carefully managed to maintain his health. He resided in a spacious 20×20 foot box stall, providing him ample room, and enjoyed time in a large field outdoors.

Retired from the show ring at nine, he still made public appearances, delighting crowds and serving as an ambassador for horses. The Gilbert family utilized his fame for charity, raising funds for the Ronald McDonald House through his appearances.

Big Jake
Big Jake with 3 riders, from Facebook.

Big Jake wasn’t the first noteworthy Belgian; Brooklyn Supreme, also known as Brookie, held the record as the heaviest horse ever recorded, weighing 3,200 pounds. Standing at 19.2 hands tall, he resided in Minnesota from 1928 to 1948.

As impressive as Big Jake’s towering height was, there was equal fascination for the world’s smallest horse. Capturing the attention of both measurements, the tallest and smallest horses, became a popular topic in the press. Thumbelina, who had dwarfism, held the title of the world’s smallest horse for numerous years. After her passing, Einstein Horse assumed this esteemed position, serving as an ambassador for the equine world, akin to Big Jake’s role.

Big Jake never had the chance to meet Thumbelina or Einstein Horse. However, photographs featuring these horses alongside large or small objects, including the Gilbert children, effectively demonstrated the vast spectrum of sizes within the equine species.

Big Jake, the remarkable Belgian draft horse, passed away in June 2021 at the age of 20. His demise garnered widespread attention from major media outlets worldwide, including the Guinness Book of World Records, Newsweek, and USA Today.

In the historical context of towering horses, Sampson, a Shire gelding born in 1846, held the title of the world’s tallest horse at 21.2 hands tall. Big Jake’s legacy continues, much like that of Sampson and Brookie. A tribute to him remains on the Smokey Hollow Farm website, ensuring his memory endures. For those who had the privilege of meeting him, Big Jake was not only the World’s Tallest Horse but also a remarkable and gentle soul.

In conclusion, the tale of Big Jake, the world’s tallest horse, is one of awe-inspiring proportions and heartfelt connections. From his early days as a colt, his towering presence hinted at the extraordinary journey he would undertake. Under the care of the Gilbert family at Smokey Hollow Farm, Big Jake not only achieved the remarkable title of the World’s Tallest Horse but also captured the hearts of people worldwide.

His story symbolizes more than just his colossal stature; it represents the enduring bond between humans and animals. Big Jake’s gentle nature and the love he received from the Gilbert family showcased the profound connections possible between different species. Through his towering presence and kind spirit, he became an icon, reminding us of the beauty in the animal kingdom and the remarkable friendships that can form between humans and their animal companions.

As we bid farewell to this gentle giant, his legacy lives on, inspiring generations with his tale of strength, kindness, and the extraordinary heights that love and care can elevate even the mightiest of creatures. Big Jake’s story remains a testament to the wonders of the animal world and the profound impact these magnificent beings can have on our lives.

Similar: The World’s Strongest Horse Breeds (With Pictures)