Breeds of Draft Horses

Draft horses are recognizable by their tall stature and extremely muscular build. In general, they tend to have a more upright shoulder, producing more upright movement and conformation that is well-suited for pulling. They tend to have broad, short backs with powerful hindquarters, again best suited for the purpose of pulling. Additionally, the draft breeds usually have heavy bone, and a good deal of feathering on their lower legs. Many have a straight profile or “Roman nose” (a convex profile). Draft breeds range from approximately 16 to 19 hands (64 to 76 inches; 163 to 193 cm) high and from 1,400 to 2,000 lb. (640 to 910 kg) in general.

Draft Horse Breeds popular in the United States

ClydesdaleClydesdales Cropped
A Scottish breed noted for its hardiness and high action. Its lower legs are covered with long heavy hair called “feathers” which protect from rocks and ice. This breed is easily recognized by most Americans from the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser commercials, where they used a team of eight Clydesdale horses. Colors are bay or chestnut with white markings on the face, legs, and often the belly. Today, the Clydesdale stands 16 to 18 hands (64 to 72 inches, 163 to 183 cm) high and weighs 1,800 to 2,000 pounds (820 to 910 kg). Some mature males are larger, standing taller than 18 hands and weighing up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg). The breed has a straight or slightly convex facial profile, broad forehead and wide muzzle. It is well muscled and strong, with an arched neck, high withers, and a sloped shoulder.

A flashy breed from Belgium, Europe. Originally a heavy, chunky horse, today’s Belgian isBelgian Breed Shrunk refined, tall and athletic. Belgians are currently more numerous in the United States than other draft horse breeds. Color is primarily a light chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail and white markings on the face and legs. The Belgian Heavy Draft horse stands between 16.2 and 17 hands (66 and 68 inches, 168 and 173 cm). On average the Belgian grows to weigh slightly over 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds).

Percheron ShrunkAn animated, stylish horse, originally bred in the Le Perche region of France. During the Moorish invasions of France in the Middle Ages, some Arabian war chargers were captured and bred with French farm horses resulting in a large but graceful animal which French nobility used as coach horses. Color is black or dapple gray. Percherons in the United States generally stand between 16.2 and 17.3 hands (66 and 71 inches, 168 and 180 cm), with a range of 15 and 19 hands (60 and 76 inches, 152 and 193 cm). American Percherons average 1,900 pounds (860 kg), and their top weight is around 2,600 pounds (1,200 kg).[

The tallest of draft horse breeds, and the direct descendant of the Great Horse of England used in warfare. The Shire has feathered legs like the Clydesdale, and is primarily black or bay with white markings and legs, or dapple gray. Stallions must stand at least 17 hands (68 inches, 173 cm) high when mature, and they average around 17.2 hands (70 inches, 178 cm). Geldings stand at least 16.2 hands (66 inches, 168 cm) high and mares at least 16 hands (64 inches, 163 cm). Their average weight ranges from 900 to 1,100 kg (2,000 to 2,400 lb. The head of a Shire is long and lean, with large eyes, set on a neck that is slightly arched and long in proportion to the body.

Some other breeds

Suffolk PunchThe Suffolk Punch is a small chestnut breed of British draft horse whose breed was listed as critical in the UK and the US, but appears to be making a comeback. Suffolk Punches generally stand 16.1 to 17.2 hands (65 to 70 inches, 165 to 178 cm), weigh 1,980 to 2,200 pounds (900 to 1,000 kg), and are always chestnut in color. The traditional spelling, still used by the Suffolk Horse Society, is “chesnut” (with no “t” in the middle of the word). Horses of the breed come in many different shades of chestnut, ranging from dark to red to light.

The Fjord horse or Norwegian Fjord Horse is a relatively small but very strong horse breed fromFjord Mare and Foal Shrunk the mountainous regions of western Norway. It is an agile breed of light draught horse build. All Fjord horses are dun in color, with five variations in shade recognized in the breed standard. There is no upper or lower limit for height set for the breed, but heights between 135 and 150 cm (13.1 and 14.3 hands; 53 and 59 inches) at the withers are recommended. The weight normally ranges from 400 to 500 kilograms (880 to 1,100 lb). Though some individuals may fall under the traditional cutoff between horses and ponies, the Fjord horse is considered a horse, regardless of height. Fjord horses have a reputation for a generally good temperament.

Many other breeds exist in Europe, among them the Fresian, a German black draft, very leggy and elegant. Draft horses also cross well with light breeds such as the Thoroughbred to create a robust, but refined horse suitable for jumping, dressage, and driving.

New Breed

Spotted Draft

The spotted draft as a breed was solidified in the 1990s by breeders in New Mexico and Spotted Draft ShrunkMinnesota.  First developed by Leonard Tostenson cross-breeding draft mares with a Spotted Moroccan, a sturdy horse of saddlebred type.  Mr. Tostensen’s first Spotted Draft, Charlie, was bred by Mr. Tostenson from that Moroccan stallion and one of his Percheron mares. Charlie competed in pulling contests with Tostenson for 20 years, and set a state pulling record in Wisconsin that still stands today.