Picture of a Percheron Draft Horse

The Draft horses are the largest of the horse breeds!

Draft Horses were developed for heavy labor. They were often used for pulling loads, like farm equipment or carriages. But they were also used as war horses to carry heavily armored knights into battle.

The Draft Horse is known as a Heavy Horse, and is also described as cold-blooded. These horses can weigh 1600 pounds or more and stand about 15.2 to 20 hands high from the ground to their withers. (One ‘hand’ equals 4 inches.)

The Draft horse is tall in stature, heavy boned, and extremely muscular. They have a shorter back and strong hindquarters. Many of heavy horses have long hair called ‘feathering’ on their lower legs, and it sometimes covers their hooves. Many also have a head profile that is either straight or one that is convex, giving them the “Roman nose” appearance

Draft horses have shoulders that tend to be more upright than other horse breeds, making their conformation and movement well suited for pulling carriages or hauling heavy loads. Sturdy pony breeds are also more heavy bodied. They have also been used as work animals or as draft horses, pulling loads and carts, but they are much smaller than the heavy horse.

The term cold-blooded refers to the quiet, calm disposition of these big horses, which contrasts with the more high strung nature of the hot-blooded, light horse breeds. Draft horses are good natured, have a natural curiosity and will readily train. They make wonderful companion horses and equestrian mounts.

The list of draft horse breeds below includes the best known heavy horses, as well as those that are lesser known. Each draft breed horse guide provides in-depth information about their origins and background. There is a description with pictures, horse care, feeding, training, and the activities they are best suited for as well as potential problems.

For information about other horse breeds, see:
Light HorsesandPonies

Draft Horse Breeds
Click for more info on Clydesdale
Equus caballus
Click for more info on Percheron
Equus caballus
Click for more info on Shire
Equus caballus

Horse Backgrounds: About Draft Horse Breeds

The names of Draft Horse, Draught Horse, and Dray Horse describe these horse by what they were developed for, pulling a heavy load. The term ‘draft’ is defined as the act of pulling loads or something that is pulled or drawn. However it can actually apply to any animal that is used to pull or draw loads, such as dogs, oxen and other farm animals, as well as other smaller horses. “Dray” is a similar term, derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for to haul or to draw.

The heavier draft horse was developed from the bulkier type of equine found in the northern hemisphere. These hardy horses evolved to survive in a colder harsher climate, and are much heavier and broader than the light horses. The breeds in this horse class are referred to as cold blooded, in reference to their quiet and calm temperament. They are heavy in the body, strong legged, and often have “feathers”, or long hair, covering their large hooves.

As early as the roman times, Europeans used these huge types of horses for heavy labor. They were used for pulling heavy loads in cities as well as for farm work. In the middle ages, their great strength and stamina made them a popular war horse, being easily able to carry a heavily armored knight into battle. They range in size from approximately 15.2 to 20 hands high, and are slower but more powerful than the light horse.

Horse Breeds

Draft Horse Breeds Found In North America include:

  • Clydesdale
  • Belgian
  • Percheron
  • Suffolk Punch
  • Shire
  • American Cream
  • Spotted
  • French Mulassier

Numerous other Draft Horse Breeds that are common in Europe include:

  • Comtois
  • Rhinelander
  • Auxois
  • Avelignese
  • Ardennes
  • Australian Draught Horse
  • Boulonnai
  • Breton
  • Dutch Draught
  • Dole Gudbrandsda
  • Irish Draught
  • Pinzgauer Noriker
  • Trait Du Nord

Horse Care Tips:

These horses are known as Heavy Horses for a very good reason. They are much bigger than any other horse breed so they eat more. Consuming about twice as much as other horses, they will eat between 25 to 50 pounds of hay a day. They also need more room, with a 24′ x 24′ stall being the minimum for the largest of these breeds.

Horse Class and Use: Work and Equestrian

The personality of the Draft horses is sweet tempered and they lend themselves well to a variety of pursuits. As a workhorse they are used for farm work and commercial carriage horses. For pleasure they are used for driving, trail riding, parades, and showing. With a natural curiosity and willingness to learn, Draft horses also make wonderful companion horses and equestrian mounts.

For More Information, See this article: Draft Horses, Information and Horse Care for Draft Horse Breeds

Featured Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures