Draft horses were an integral component of agricultural life in many places across the globe before the industrial revolution. Generally speaking, they are strong, intelligent, docile and willing to work, making them ideal animals for farm work as well as many other purposes.
Working horses are no longer required in the contemporary world, and they are significantly less prevalent than in the past. However, many examples of these magnificent animals still exist, so here we look at 15 draft horse breeds that are either the most important or the most interesting.
The Famous Work & Draft Horse Breeds
1. Shire horse
The Shire, an English draft horse breed, is one of the world’s tallest, biggest, heaviest, and strongest breeds, with stallions typically standing approximately 17.2 hands (178cm, 70in) at the withers.
It has great pulling power and was initially employed for agricultural labor, road hauling, and barge pulling when England’s canal system was a vital element of the country’s transportation infrastructure.
The breed declined as railroads became more common, and particularly with the introduction of mechanical farming. However, Shire Horses have undergone a revival since the 1970s, and they remain a treasured part of English agricultural and rural culture.
One of the traditional uses for Shire horses was to pull carts to deliver beer from breweries. While this is no longer widespread, a few brewers in the UK continue to transport beer by horse-drawn cart to this day.
The tallest horse ever documented is said to be a gelded Shire called Samson, whose name was subsequently changed to Mammoth when he grew to legendary dimensions.
2. Suffolk Punch
The Suffolk Punch, also known as the “Suffolk Horse” is an English breed that originated in the county of Suffolk, hence the name. It is shorter and stockier than breeds such as the Shire, measuring 16.2-17.2 hands on average (165-178cm, 56-70in). It is usually chestnut in hue (traditionally written “chesnut”).
It was bred for agricultural labor and is known for being hardworking and kind. This breed also requires less feed than other similar types of horse, making it a more convenient, practical and economical animal to keep.
The Suffolk Punch was developed in the 16th century and is considered the oldest breed of draft horse in the world to still have the same recognizable form today. Nonetheless, it is now rated “important” by the UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust and is currently regarded quite uncommon.
Clydesdales are descended from Clydesdale, the historic name for what is now largely the county of Lanarkshire in Scotland. The breed is supposed to have originated when Flemish stallions were mixed with local mares to boost their size. Shire blood was also used in the nineteenth century to improve the breed.
Clydesdales are tall and powerful, standing at 16-18 hands (162-183cm, 63.5-72in), although they were shorter in the past. They are typically bay in color with prominent feathering around the legs, although other hues are conceivable.
With the introduction of automated farming, the breed suffered a significant decrease and was on the verge of extinction by the 1970s. Nowadays, they are a popular parade or carriage horse and are famously used by the Anheuser-Busch brewery in the United States for publicity purposes.
4. Irish Draught
The Irish Draught is the product of decades of breeding, including crosses between the Irish Hobby and Anglo-Norman military horses, Iberian breeds, Clydesdales, Thoroughbreds, and Connemara Ponies.
It is a versatile workhorse with a calm disposition and a height of 5.2-16.3 hands (158-170cm, 62-67in).
This horse is often mated with Thoroughbreds or warmbloods to generate a variety of sports horses. However, this practice has put the survival of the breed at risk since many breeders concentrate on breeding sports horses while neglecting to allow mares to produce purebred horses and continue the line.
5. Dutch Draft
The Dutch Draft is a huge, stocky, muscular horse that was developed in the early twentieth century after the conclusion of World War I. For a time, it was the most important Dutch breed of draft horse, but like many other breeds, it went into decline as farming became mechanized after the Second World War.
It is characterized by a docile temperament and good stamina. It has a lot of feathering on its legs.
Another Dutch breed is the Friesian, which is one of the lighter, more elegant draft horses. They are normally black, although chestnut and bay varieties are sometimes available. They stand at between 14.2 and 17 hands (147-173cm, 58-68in), although the average height is around 15.3 hands (160cm, 63 inches).
As a versatile horse, they are now used both in harness and under saddle, particularly in dressage. Yet, because to their small stature, they are not often used for more strenuous tasks like as farming.
The Ardennes is a horse with a long history. It is among the oldest of the modern draft horse breeds, and as the name suggests, it originates in the Ardennes region of France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
These horses’ ancestors served in the army of Ancient Rome, and descendants of that original breed were utilized as war horses throughout the years, both as mounts and to haul artillery.
With stallions standing at around 16 hands (162cm, 63.5in), they are a relatively short and stocky breed with heavy musculature. They are now utilized for agriculture labor, forestry, and recreation. This is a breed that is often bred for meat.
8. Jutland Horse
The Jutland Horse, which originated on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula, is most likely a descendent of a breed of horse employed by Viking raids in the 9th century.
The contemporary Jutland was developed by crossbreeding with other horses and has existed in its present form since the late 1800s.
These horses were originally used on farms, but nowadays they are more commonly found in horse shows. In Copenhagen, the Carlsberg Brewery still utilizes Jutland Horses to distribute beer throughout the city.
Jutland horses are small and stocky, standing at around 15-16.1 hands (152—165cm, 60-65in). They are generally chestnut in color and have a calm and cooperative demeanor. Just around 1000 purebred Jutland Horses are considered to be left.
9. South German Coldblood
The South German Coldblood horse is mostly found in Bavaria, Germany’s southernmost state. It is closely related to the Noriker horse of Austria, although the two breeds are considered distinct.
This breed is notable for its ability to show “leopard complex” patterns; it is one of the few horse breeds capable of doing so.
The most well-known of the current French draft horse breeds is the Percheron. It originated in the Huisne river valley in France, a region that was formally known as Perche, hence the horse’s name.
This breed’s forefathers were battle horses. In the early 19th century, Arabian blood was added to the bloodline, after which, stallions from other parts of France were also brought in to increase the size of the breed, transforming it from a coach horse to a draft horse.
Before to WWII, this breed was immensely prevalent in the United States, accounting for 70% of all draft horses in the nation. However, after the War, numbers declined due to the increased mechanization of agriculture and and the reduced need for working horses.
Percherons in France are between 15.1 and 18.1 hands tall (155-185cm, 61-73in). They are usually gray or black in color, and even now, they are still used extensively as a workhorse. They are commonly used in competitions and are a popular horse in show jumping. They are also raised for meat in France.
Along with the Shire, the Clydesdale and the Percheron, the Belgian was one of the four main breeds of draft horse in use in Europe at the start of the 20th century. It originates in Belgium’s Brabant area and is prized for its robustness.
This horse’s name is a little deceptive. In the past, Brabant and Belgian horses were the same breed, and the names could be used interchangeably.
With the conclusion of WWII, however, Belgian horses in the United States and Brabant horses in Europe diverged; in the United States, they were bred to be taller and lighter, whilst European horses were chosen for strength and stockiness.
As a consequence, they are today considered two distinct breeds, with the “Belgian” horse really being an American horse, and the “Brabant” horse remaining in Europe. In any case, the two breeds are highly similar and share many characteristics.
American Belgians are light chestnut in color and stand between 16.2 and 17 hands (168-173cm, 66-68in).
Nowadays, they are still used as working animals but are also commonly used as show horses or for pleasure riding. Its flesh is also highly esteemed in certain locations, thus the Brabant is often raised for meat.
12. North Swedish Horse
The North Swedish Horse is a tiny but powerful horse that was bred for forestry and agricultural labor.
They are highly recognized for their pleasant nature and docility, and despite their small stature for a draft horse, they are remarkably strong creatures.
They are especially regarded for their superb health, which allows them to live long lives in northern Europe’s typically harsh environment.
North Swedish Horses, like almost other draft horse breeds, are less needed for agricultural labor in the contemporary world. However, they are also commonly used for recreation and are one of the only coldblood horse breeds used for harness racing.
13. Fjord Horse
The Fjord Horse is a Norwegian breed from the country’s western area and is another Scandinavian horse. It is a particularly beneficial breed in the hilly region of Norway where it originated due to its surefootedness. It is a versatile animal that may be utilized for a variety of tasks such as ploughing, hauling, driving, and riding.
The Fjord Horse stands at only around 13.1-14.3 hands (135-150cm, 53-59in), but despite its modest stature, it is not lacking in strength. It is also typically eager to work and has a pleasant and approachable personality.
The majority of Fjord Horses are brown dun, however four additional colors are officially recognized. It naturally sports a long mane, although this is usually cut short to make grooming easier as well as to accentuate the musculature of the neck.
Interestingly, this breed is among the world’s oldest and is thought to be closely related to Przewalski’s Horse, a native of Central Asia that is considered to be possibly the world’s last surviving true wild horse. Another breed employed as a military horse by the Vikings was the Fjord Horse.
14. Russian Heavy Draft
The Russian Heavy Draft is a little but remarkably robust horse that was developed in Russia in the late nineteenth century.
It was originally bred as a working horse for use in farming. However, now it is also kept for milk since mares are able to produce high quantities during each lactation period. Mare’s milk is an essential part of the diet of many peoples in Central Asia. It is also raised for its flesh.
15. American Cream Draft
The American Cream Draft is interesting in that it is the only extant draft breed that was developed in the US. It is generally a striking cream hue, with amber eyes, as the name indicates.
It was originally intended as an animal for farming, but as with many other breeds, the increasing mechanization of agriculture saw its numbers dwindle. This breed is becoming extremely uncommon; they are likely less than 2000 remaining in the world today.
A beautiful animal that is finding its place in the modern world
While draft horses are no longer required for agricultural labor, forestry, transportation, or any of the other traditional applications for draft horses, they are increasingly seen in exhibits and are popular for recreational reasons.
This implies that the breeds and bloodlines will be preserved, enabling us to pass on these beautiful, elegant, and clever animals to future generations to admire and enjoy.
What are the 5 draft horses?
In North America there were five draft horse breeds on the classic list: Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Suffolk. Draft horses are recognized by the Draft Cross Breeders and Owners Association as the following breeds: Ardennes American Cream Draft.
What types of draft horses are there?
Draft horse/Representative species
What is a Draught horse breed?
Draft horses are large, heavy breeds of horses characterized by tall stature (>16 hands), heavy muscular build, and large body size (>1400 lb). Percheron, Belgian, Shire, and Clydesdale are common breeds that are utilized for hauling, plowing, and agricultural work.
What is the best draft horse?
Shire draft horses are unrivaled in terms of pulling power and strength. It’s an ancient breed originating in Great Britain and was once used extensively for pulling carts of ale from the breweries to pubs.