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December 11, 2008
Draft horses are among the most robust and obedient of all horse breeds. Some can weigh up to a ton or more, while others may weigh little more than 800 pounds. Bred for their power, stamina, and calm temperament, draft horses were mainly used for farm work and driving until mechanized farm equipment and passenger vehicles came along. Some breeds are still used for traditional work, but others are entering the show ring in dressage, pulling, and jumping competitions. Here are some of the most popular draft horse breeds.
These draft horses are natives of the United States. They weigh between 1,600 and 2,000 pounds and are typically 16 hands high. Their coloring is similar to the Palomino, with cream-colored bodies and white manes and tails. What sets this draft horse breed apart from the rest is its pink skin, brown hooves, and light blue eyes that usually change to amber as the horse matures.
These natives of Belgium are the most common breed found in the United States. They range from 17.3 to 18.2 hands high and have an average weight of 2,100 pounds. Bay, chestnut, sorrel, and roan are the most common colors. While the populations of other draft horses have dwindled, the numbers of Belgians have increased. They are still used as workhorses, but can also make good trail riding horses and show horses.
These draft horses are natives of Scotland and get their name from the River Clyde. They range from 16.2 to 18 hands high and weigh between 1,600 and 1,800 pounds. The most common color is bay, and they often have white socks and white blazes on their faces. They have long, flowing hair called “feathers” around the bottoms of their legs. A team of Clydesdales pulls the Anheuser-Busch wagon.
Natives of Friesland, a province of The Netherlands, these horses were used to carry heavily-armored knights into battle during the Middle Ages. The breed nearly went extinct when passenger vehicles and mechanized farm equipment became popular, but today the number of Friesian horses is ever-growing due to their versatility. Friesians range from 15 to 17 hands high, weigh between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds, have long, thick, and wavy manes and tails, have feathers on their lower legs, and are always solid black in color.
The Gypsies, or Romany people, bred horses that were extremely hardworking but also very docile. The Romany people are from the British Isles, and while most of them have become more contemporary in their lifestyles, a few families still practice the traditional Gypsy aspects like breeding horses and traveling by wagon. Their horses range from 13 to 15.2 hands high. Gypsy horses come in any color including skewbald and piebald, although pinto is the most common. They also have thick feathers on their lower legs.
These quiet and sturdy horses stand between 13 and 15 hands high and weigh between 800 and 1,300 pounds. They are always chestnut in color and have a white or flaxen mane. The first Haflinger, 249 Folie, came from a cross between a half-Arabian stallion and a native mare from the Tyrolean Mountains of today’s Italy in 1874. These horses were used during World War II as packhorses due to their willingness to work and their surefootedness.
These horses are the national horse breed of Ireland and were traditionally bred for farm work. These exceptionally intelligent horses stand between 15.2 and 16.3 hands high and can be any strong, solid color including gray. Today these horses make fine hunters and jumpers, especially when crossbred with Thoroughbreds, which result in the Irish Sport Horse.
These horses are the smallest of the draft horses ranging from 13.1 to 14.2 hands high and weighing between 900 and 1,200 pounds. They are one of the world’s oldest, pure-bred horse, and are known for being quick learners and especially friendly. Vikings in western Norway selectively bred these horses for over 2,000 years. Fjords have dun coloration in many different shades including cream, silver, red, and gray. Their manes are unique because they are two-toned: white with a black stripe running down the center.
These natives of the Le Perche region of France can be 16.2 to 17.3 hands high and have an average weight of 2,000 pounds. Typical colors are black and gray. They can easily adapt to any environment and are known for being proud, alert, powerful, and graceful.
These natives of “The Shires” of England are the tallest of the draft horse breeds. They average 17.2 hands in height and their weight typically ranges between 1,800 and 2,100 pounds. Colors are black, brown, bay, or gray—with black being the most common color found in our country. Like Clydesdales, they usually have a white blaze on their faces and long, flowing feathers around their lower legs.
These draft horses are natives of the Suffolk and Norfolk counties in England. They are shorter draft horses, with their average height being 16.1 hands. They are chestnut in color with few white markings. This breed of horse is rarely used in shows, but it is used in pulling competitions in both England and the United States.