Draft horses are a group of large, muscular horses that are known for their strength and endurance. They are often used for agricultural work, pulling heavy loads, and riding and driving. There are many different types of draft horses, each with their own unique characteristics and origins.
In this article, we will explore a variety of draft horse breeds, delving into their origins, uses, and characteristics. By gaining an understanding of the different types of draft horses, you can better determine which breed is best suited for your needs.
17 Types Of Draft Horses
The Belgian Draught, also known as the Brabant, is a Belgian breed of draft horse that originates from the region of the Low Countries, which is now central Belgium.
Belgians are the most direct descendants of the Great Flemish Horse and are the heaviest of all the draft breeds. They are well-muscled, with powerful hindquarters, a broad chest, a short, wide back, and a high neck.
Belgians are often used for agricultural work, pulling heavy loads, and giving sleigh rides in maple sugar bushes. The breed was first documented in the seventeenth century, with the first studbook founded in 1886.
Belgians are closely related to other draft breeds such as the Ardennais, Flemish Horse, Nederlands Trekpaard, and Trait du Nord.
The Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America was officially founded in February of 1887 in Wabash, Indiana, and the breed registry offices are still in that city today.
The Clydesdale is a Scottish breed of draft horse that is named after its area of origin, the Clydesdale or valley of the River Clyde, much of which is within the county of Lanarkshire.
The breed was developed in the mid-18th century by mating Flemish stallions with local mares, resulting in foals that were larger than the existing local stock.
The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in 1877 and has been an active force in promoting the breed not only in Great Britain but throughout the world.
Clydesdales are well-muscled and strong, with an arched neck, high withers, and a sloped shoulder. They are characterized by their feathered legs, attractive heads, and well-formed legs and feet.
Clydesdales are often used for agricultural work, pulling heavy loads, and giving sleigh rides in maple sugar bushes. Despite their giant size, Clydesdales have a laid-back, “happy” disposition and are intelligent and easy to train. They make good family horses, even for beginners, and are generally hardy in cold weather.
The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Huisne river valley in western France, part of the former Perche province from which the breed takes its name. They are usually gray or black in color, well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.
Although their exact origins are unknown, the ancestors of the breed were present in the valley by the 17th century and were originally bred for use as war horses.
By the end of the 19th century, Percherons made up the majority of driving horses in Paris. Today, Percherons are still used extensively for draft work and, like other draft breeds, they are also used in France for meat production.
In the United States, Percherons are used for recreation such as hayrides, sleighrides, and parades. Percherons are also comfortable under saddle and in harness, making them versatile horses. They are known for their powerful, proud posture, intelligence, eagerness to please, and legendary stamina.
Percherons typically eat more than an average-size horse and can easily go through 30 pounds of quality hay and 5 pounds of grain in a day.
The Shire is a breed of draft horse that is native to the middle section of England. The breed descended from the English “great horse,” which carried men in full battle armor that often weighed as much as 400 pounds.
Shires were improved as draft and farm animals in the latter part of the 18th century by breeding mares from Holland to English stallions.
Shire stallions average slightly more than 17 hands in height and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. Generally massive and somewhat coarse in build, they are characterized by considerable hair, called feather, on their legs and are usually bay, brown, black, gray, or chestnut.
In 1878, the Shire Horse Society was established in England, and the American Shire Horse Association was founded in 1885. Today, Shires are used for agricultural work, pulling heavy loads, and giving sleigh rides in maple sugar bushes. They are recognizable by their feathered legs and broad, powerful hindquarters.
The Suffolk Horse, also known as the Suffolk Punch or Suffolk Sorrel, is an English breed of draft horse that originated in the county of Suffolk in East Anglia. It is the smallest of the British draft breeds and is the only draft horse breed developed and selected exclusively for farm work.
The breed was developed in the early 16th century, and the foundation sire of the modern Suffolk Punch breed was a stallion foaled near Woodbridge in 1768 and owned by Thomas Crisp of Ufford.
Although it is commonly (and mistakenly) thought that this was the first horse of the breed, by the 1760s, all other male lines of the breed had died out, resulting in a genetic bottleneck.
Suffolks are unusually compact and rotund, with thick, short necks, legs, and backs, and they are docile but powerful. They stand 15.2 to 16.2 hands high and weigh from 1,600 to 2,000 pounds. The coat is always chestnut-colored, and white markings are rare and generally limited to small areas on the face and legs.
Suffolk horses are large, symmetrical, and uniform in color and type, and their frames are supported by clean, dense bone. Due to their extreme draftiness, the legs of the Suffolk Punch are short and strong.
The Suffolk Horse Society recorded the births of 36 purebred foals in 2007, and a further 33 foals as of March 2008. By 2016, about 300 Suffolk Punches were in the UK with 30 to 40 purebred foals being born annually.
American Cream Draft
The American Cream Draft is a rare breed of draft horse that is native to the United States. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Color: The American Cream Draft is characterized by its cream or “gold champagne” coat color, which is the result of the champagne gene. The breed’s defining characteristics are the result of this gene, and the coat color is never cremello or white.
– Build: The American Cream Draft is a medium-heavy draft horse, with an average weight of mares being 1600 to 1800 pounds at maturity. They have a muscular build and are known for their strength and endurance.
– Origin: The American Cream Draft is the only breed of draft horse that was developed in the United States. The breed was developed in Iowa during the early twentieth century from a cream-colored mare named Old Granny.
– Temperament: The American Cream Draft is known for its calm, docile, and trustworthy temperament. They are people-oriented and have a laid-back disposition, making them a good choice for beginners.
– Conservation status: The American Cream Draft is considered a rare breed, with only a few hundred horses in existence. The mechanization of farming in the mid-20th century led to a decrease in the overall population of draft horses, including the American Cream Draft. However, efforts are being made to preserve the breed, and the American Cream Draft Horse Association was founded in 1982 to promote and protect the breed.
The Dutch Draft, also known as the Nederlands Trekpaard, is a breed of heavy draft horse that originated in the Netherlands. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Build: The Dutch Draft is a cold-blooded breed that is massively built and known for its strength and stamina. The average height of the breed is 16 hands high.
– Temperament: The Dutch Draft is known for its calm and docile temperament. They make great companions and workers and are often used for heavy draft and farm work.
– History: The Dutch Draft was created in the years after World War I by cross-breeding heavy draft mares from the province of Zeeland with Ardennes and Brabant stock from neighboring Belgium. Until after World War II, it was the most important Dutch horse breed, but with the mechanization of agriculture, it declined rapidly.
– Conservation status: The Dutch Draft is not considered at risk according to the FAO (2007). In 2009, the breed population was reported to be 1424. There are two breeders’ associations for the horse: the Koninklijke Vereniging Het Nederlandse Trekpaard en de Haflinger (“royal association for the Nederlands Trekpaard and the Haflinger”) and the Stichting het Werkend Trekpaard Zeeland (“foundation for the working draught horse of Zeeland”).
– Appearance: The Dutch Draft is characterized by its massive build and calm temperament. They resemble the Belgian Draft and Ardennes horses in appearance.
The Friesian is a horse breed originating in Friesland, in the Netherlands. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Temperament: The Friesian is considered willing, active, and energetic, but also gentle and docile. They are well-known for being gentle, intelligent, and eager to please. They behave well around people of all ages and do not spook easily.
– Appearance: The Friesian is a graceful and nimble horse for its size, with a conformation that resembles that of a light draught horse. They are characterized by their black coat color, thick mane and tail, and feathering on their lower legs. One of the outstanding characteristics of the Friesian horse is its very long mane and tail, which are never cut and often reach the ground.
– History: It is believed that during the Middle Ages, ancestors of Friesian horses were in great demand as war horses throughout continental Europe. Through the Early Middle Ages and High Middle Ages, their size enabled them to carry a knight in armor. In the Late Middle Ages, heavier, draught type animals were needed. Though the breed nearly became extinct on more than one occasion, the modern-day Friesian horse is growing in numbers and popularity, used both in harness and under saddle.
– Uses: Friesians are used for a variety of purposes, including dressage, driving, and pleasure riding. They are also used in movies and television shows due to their striking appearance. The breed is known for a brisk, high-stepping trot.
The Haflinger is a breed of horse that originated in Austria and Italy. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Temperament: Haflingers are known for their kind, gentle, and easy-going dispositions. They are people-oriented and make great family horses. They are also known for their adaptability and eagerness to work.
– Appearance: Haflingers are typically chestnut-colored with flaxen manes and tails. They are smaller than your average draft breed, standing up to 60 inches tall. They have a thick bone structure, short neck and back, and sturdy legs with tough hooves.
– Uses: Haflingers are versatile horses that can be used for a variety of purposes, including driving, riding, and light draft work. They are also used in therapeutic riding programs due to their calm and gentle nature. Haflingers are known for their rhythmic, ground-covering gaits, with a relaxed but energetic walk and an elastic, athletic trot and canter.
– History: The Haflinger breed was developed in the late 19th century in Austria and Italy. The breed was originally used for agricultural work in the mountainous regions of the Tyrolean Alps. Today, Haflingers are popular all over the world and are used for a variety of purposes.
The Irish Draught is a breed of horse that originated in Ireland and is known for its versatility and athleticism. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Temperament: Irish Draughts are known for their good temperament, docility, and willing nature. They are sound, sensible, and intelligent, making them a great choice for novice riders.
– Appearance: Irish Draughts are active, short-shinned, and powerful horses with substance and quality. They typically stand between 15.2hh and 16.3hh and can be any strong, solid color. They have a pleasant head, good bone, and a short shin, with good spring of rib, strong loins and hindquarters, and an active, powerful stride.
– Uses: The Irish Draught was bred to be an all-round working horse, suitable for draft work, under harness, and under saddle. They are also commonly crossbred with Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods to produce high-quality sport horses. This cross is termed the Irish Sport Horse (or Irish Draught Sport Horse in the US). Irish Draughts are used for a variety of purposes, including hunting, jumping, and eventing.
– History: The Irish Draught is a foundation breed that has been in existence for over 200 years. The breed was developed in Ireland to be a versatile working horse that could be used for a variety of purposes. The breed nearly became extinct in the 20th century, but thanks to the efforts of breeders and enthusiasts, the breed has made a comeback and is now thriving.
The Noriker horse, also known as the Norico-Pinzgauer, is a moderately heavy Austrian draught horse breed that originated in the foothills of the highest Austrian mountains. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Appearance: The Noriker is a moderately heavy mountain draught horse with a low center of gravity, sure-footed, and with a good sense of balance. The height at the withers lies between 158 and 163 cm (15.2 and 16.0 hands). The head should be dry, typy, and should express draught horse characteristics. The neck is strong with visible musculature, and the shoulder should be long and well-positioned. The width of the chest is broad and deep, and the croup is very muscular.
– Temperament: Norikers are a medium-heavy draft breed with a docile, willing temperament. They are very surefooted, agile, and well-balanced thanks to their mountain heritage. They are also known for their strength and endurance.
– History: The Noriker is one of the oldest mountain draft horses in Europe, originating in the foothills of the highest Austrian mountains. They used to be the most important transportation for trade goods between the Adria and the Danube. The breed nearly became extinct in the 20th century, but thanks to the efforts of breeders and enthusiasts, the breed has made a comeback and is now thriving.
– Uses: Norikers are used for a variety of purposes, including agricultural work, forestry, and leisure riding. They are also used in Austria for meat production.
North American Spotted Draft
The North American Spotted Draft Horse is a breed of draft horse that was developed in the United States in the second quarter of the 20th century. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Appearance: North American Spotted Draft Horses are dense, stocky, and strong. They have a rectangular frame, an arched and muscular neck, a deep back, a deep girth, and thick legs. They are characterized by their striking coat patterns with spots and splashes of light to dark brown shades.
– History: The breed was developed in the United States by breeding draft horses with spotted horses, such as Appaloosas and pintos. The primary aim of developing this breed was to create a horse that was strong enough for draft work but also had a flashy appearance.
– Uses: North American Spotted Draft Horses are used for a variety of purposes, including agricultural work, driving, and pleasure riding. They are also used in parades and other public events due to their striking appearance.
– Registration: The North American Spotted Draft Horse Association is the official registry for the breed. To be registered, a horse must meet certain requirements, including having at least one parent that is a recognized draft breed or type, such as the American Cream Draft, Belgian, Clydesdale, Friesian, Gypsy Vanner, or Haflinger.
– Cost: The cost of a North American Spotted Draft Horse varies depending on factors such as age, training, and bloodlines. On average, they can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000.
The Auxois is a French breed of draft horse that is known for its massive size and muscular build. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– Appearance: The Auxois is a horse of great size, larger than the Ardennais and almost as large as the Trait du Nord. They have a massive, muscular build and are built for heavy pulling. The average height is 15.3 to 16.3 hands, with an ideal height of 16.1 hands to 16.3 3⁄4 hands for stallions and 16 to 16.3 hands for mares. They have long, well-muscled hindquarters and powerful, solid legs with broad joints and short, clean cannon bones.
– Temperament: The Auxois is known for its kind, quiet, and biddable temperament. They are highly suitable for heavy draft and farm work due to their endurance and gentle nature.
– History: The Auxois has been bred specifically for their immense size since the start of the 20th century. The breed nearly became extinct in the 20th century, but thanks to the efforts of breeders and enthusiasts, the breed has made a comeback and is now thriving.
– Uses: The Auxois is used for heavy draft and farm work. They are also used for meat production in France. The population of Auxois is very low, and it is one of the rarest of the nine French draft horse breeds.
The Boulonnais, also known as the “White Marble Horse,” is a draft horse breed that originated in France. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– The Boulonnais is known for its large but elegant appearance.
– They are usually gray in color, although chestnut and black are also allowed by the French breed registry.
– Due to the many additions of Oriental blood, the Boulonnais has an elegant appearance that is not often seen in heavy draft breeds.
– The fineness of the skin and delicate appearance of the veins has allowed the horse to be described as looking “like polished marble,” leading to its “White Marble Horse” nickname.
– The Boulonnais is known for its energetic and lively temperament.
– They are also considered noble-looking and elegant.
– The Boulonnais breed nearly became extinct in the 20th century, but thanks to the efforts of breeders and enthusiasts, the breed has made a comeback and is now thriving.
– During the early 20th century, the Boulonnais was imported into the United States in large numbers, where it was registered along with other French heavy horse breeds as the “French draft horse”.
– Breed members in the United States were registered with the Anglo-Norman Horse Association (or National Norman Horse Association) beginning in 1876, an association that was renamed the National French Draft Association in 1885.
– The Boulonnais is an excellent pulling horse, both utilitarian and prestige.
– They are highly valued for their elegance and are successful in driving competitions.
– They are considered one of the best varieties of heavy draft horses and are often used by modern-day breeders for improving different other draft breeds.
The Comtois is a draft horse breed that originated in France. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– The Comtois is a light draft horse with a large head, straight neck, stocky and powerful body, and deep girth.
– They have long, straight backs and short, strong legs with a little feathering and muscular hindquarters.
– The Comtois sometimes shows a tendency towards sickle hocks.
– They are generally bay silver, but they can also be black silver, bay, black, and chestnut.
– They usually stand 1.50–1.65 metres (14.3–16.1 hands) high and weigh 650–800 kg (1,430–1,760 lb).
– The Comtois is known for its quiet, willing temperament.
– They are quick learners with a free action and are generally lively and spirited.
– The Comtois horse breed is an old breed of horse that is believed to have descended from horses brought by the Burgundians of northern Germany to France during the fourth century.
– It is believed that they have been bred in Franche-Comté and in the Jura Mountains since the sixth century.
– In the Middle Ages, the Comtois was used as a war horse and was also used for agricultural work.
– The Comtois is used for a variety of purposes, including agricultural work, driving, and pleasure riding.
– They are also used in France for meat production.
Lithuanian Heavy Draft
The Lithuanian Heavy Draft is a draft horse breed that was created in Lithuania during the 19th and 20th centuries. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– The Lithuanian Heavy Draft generally stands 15 to 16 hands high and may be bay, chestnut, black, grey, or roan.
– The breed is large and solid, with a well-proportioned head, a straight profile, and a heavy jaw.
– The neck is short, muscular, and arched, the withers broad and moderately pronounced, and the chest wide, deep, and muscular.
– The back is long, and generally, the breed has a solid build, large size, and harmonious body proportions.
– Lithuanian Heavy Drafts are known to have a calm and docile temperament.
– They are strongly built, well-muscled, and powerful horses.
– Initially, Lithuanian Heavy Drafts were included in herd books as Ardennes crossbreds.
– A breed-specific herd book was issued from 1951 to 1996, and the herd books for Lithuanian Heavy Drafts are now issued by the Lithuanian Horse Breeders Association.
– In 1964, there were 62,000 Lithuanian Heavy Drafts in Lithuania.
– The breed was developed by crossing Zhmud animals with Swedish Ardennes.
– Lithuanian Heavy Drafts are used mainly for agricultural work and heavy draft work.
– They are also used for meat production in Lithuania.
The Jutland Horse is a draft horse breed that originated in Denmark. Here are some key characteristics of the breed:
– The Jutland Horse is a compact, muscular breed that generally stands between 15 and 16.1 hands (60 and 65 inches, 152 and 165 cm) tall.
– They are typically chestnut in color, but may also be bay, gray, black, or roan, and frequently have white markings.
– They have heavily muscled shoulders and massive, powerful hindquarters with heavy feathering on all legs.
– Despite being compact in size, the Jutland Horse is a strong, powerful horse that was used to transport carriages and heavy goods.
– The Jutland Horse is known for its calm yet energetic temperament.
– They are considered by breed enthusiasts to be willing workers.
– Despite their size and strength, Jutland Horses are good-natured and have a reputation for being gentle.
– The Jutland Horse is one of the oldest breeds of draft horses in the world, with a history that dates back to the 12th century.
– The breed was developed in Denmark by crossing local mares with imported stallions, including the Frederiksborg horse, which had a significant amount of Spanish influence.
– The Jutland Horse was used for a variety of purposes, including agricultural work, transportation, and heavy draft work.
– Today, the Jutland Horse is used mainly for agricultural work and heavy draft work.
– They are also used for pleasure riding and driving.
– The Jutland Horse is considered a national treasure in Denmark and is a source of pride for the Danish people.
1. What is a draft horse?
A draft horse is a large horse breed that is bred for heavy work, such as plowing fields, pulling carts, and hauling heavy loads.
2. What are the different types of draft horses?
There are many different types of draft horses, including the Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, Suffolk, American Cream Draft, Ardennes, American Belgian Draft, Boulonnais, Breton, Comtois, Dole, Dutch Draft, Friesian, Haflinger, Jutland, Lithuanian Heavy Draft, and North American Spotted Draft.
3. What is the smallest draft horse breed?
The Haflinger is considered the smallest draft horse breed, standing up to 60 inches tall.
4. What are the big draft horse breeds? Which draft horse is the largest?
The big draft horse breeds include the Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Suffolk. The Belgian is considered the largest draft horse breed, standing up to 17 hands tall.
5. What is the best draft horse for riding?
While all draft horses can be ridden, some breeds are more suitable for riding than others. The best draft horse for riding depends on your personal preferences and needs. Some popular riding draft horse breeds include the Haflinger, Friesian, and Percheron.
6. What are the characteristics of draft horses?
Draft horses are known for their large size, muscular build, and calm temperament. They have broad, short backs, powerful hindquarters, and heavy bone. They are also recognized by their tall stature, large heads, and feathering on their lower legs.
7. What are some interesting facts about draft horses?
Some interesting facts about draft horses include that they were almost extinct before making a comeback, they were used for a variety of purposes including transportation and agricultural work, and they are known for their strength and endurance.