The Gentle Giants of the Horse World

Draft horses or cold bloods were used for hundreds of years to pull wagons loaded with freight and by farmers to plow their fields. When the tractor came along the draft horse was no longer needed. They are still used for pleasure and in horse shows. There are a few still used for farm work.

They are very large animals but are so gentle and kind.

The Belgian Draft Horse

Brabast horses, painting by Henry Schouten By Georges Jansoone Public Domain
Brabast horses, painting by Henry Schouten By Georges Jansoone Public Domain | Source

Brabant Horses

The Belgian horse has been regarded as a versatile and powerful horse since Julius Caesar occupied Belgian. In Europe, the Belgian draft horse is known as the Brabant horse. They are known as the Belgian draft horse in America.


Big boys (Belgian draft horse) By Anne Norman CC BY-SA 2.0
Big boys (Belgian draft horse) By Anne Norman CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The Belgian Draft Horse

The Belgian horse is a decedent of the war horses used by the knights of the Middle Ages. Many Belgian horses were brought by Richard the Lionhearted to England. When the knight on horseback was no longer used the Belgian draft horse became popular in agriculture. The Shire, Clydesdale, Suffolk Punch and the Rheinesh horse have all been influenced by the Belgian horse.

The Belgian horse is large and will stand 16 to 18 hands tall. They are very gentle and willing to work. The Belgians in America are usually chestnut or roan with white or blonde points, mane, and tail. They usually weigh 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. Some stallions have weighed up to 2,400 pounds.

Dr. A. G. Van Hoorebeck who lived in Illinois brought the first Belgian horses to America in 1866. They became the most popular draft horse in America.

Brooklyn Supreme is believed to be the largest Belgian horse. It is said he weighed 3,200 pounds and was 19.2 hands tall.

The Belgian draft horse is well known for pulling large amounts of weight. They are very popular in pulling competitions. In Denver, Colorado at the National Western Stock Show a team of Belgian horses pulled 17,000 pounds for 7 feet 2 inches. This was an extraordinary feat for a 2 horse team.



The Clydesdale Horse

The Budweiser Clydesdales By Paul Keteker CC BY-SA 2.0
The Budweiser Clydesdales By Paul Keteker CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The Clydesdale Horse

The draft horse the American people know best is the Clydesdale. They are beautiful horses that are usually seen pulling decorated beer wagons. Anheuser-Busch Company that were in St. Louis owned the most famous Clydesdales.


Two New Zealand Clydesdales pulling a wagon By Jude CC BY-SA 2.0
Two New Zealand Clydesdales pulling a wagon By Jude CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The Clydesdale Horse

In the 1700s, the Clydesdale horse was developed in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Flemish stallions were bred to the native mares and this benefited the Clydesdale. The founding sire of the Clydesdale was called Blaze. He was foaled in 1779. Wagons and teams started being used instead of pack horses when the roads were improved. The Clydesdale was developed to be a workhorse that pulled a wagon. They were also used by farmers in Britain.


Clydesdale horse By Bonnie U Gruenberg CC BY-SA 2.0
Clydesdale horse By Bonnie U Gruenberg CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The Clydesdale horse will weigh 1700 to 1900 pounds and will be 16 to 17 hands tall. You will find them in bay, brown, chestnut and roan. They have white on their face and lower legs. They are not the largest draft horse, but they can haul heavy loads.

The Clydesdale was exported to many countries. The Clydesdale came to the United States and they worked in the cities in 1880 pulling merchant's wagons. They did not work well doing farm work because the feathers around their feet were hard to maintain because of the muddy land. The farmers also preferred heavier draft horses for working in the fields.




They have been used for packing, driving and farm work. The Haflinger horse is usually 14 to 15 hands tall and will weigh 800 to 1200 pounds. They are usually a light to dark chestnut color and will have a flaxen mane.



The Swedish Ardennes Horse

Swedish Ardennes Horse By Jacob Rask CC BY-SA 2.0
Swedish Ardennes Horse By Jacob Rask CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The Swedish Ardennes Horse

The Swedish Ardennes is a cold blood. They were developed to replace the lighter Swedish horses because the farmers of the 1800s needed heavier horses to do the farm work. The Swedish Ardennes is now used as a cart horse.

They will be 15 to 16 hands tall. They are not beautiful, but they have a great disposition.

In 1872 Ardennes horses were brought to Sweden by Count Wrangle and these horses were crossed with the wild horses of Sweden to give them more size.

The Swedish Ardennes has been influenced by the Forest Horse, Ardennes, and Swedish Country Horse.




The Percheron Horse

 Percheron Horse By Just chaos CC BY-SA 2.0
Percheron Horse By Just chaos CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The Percheron Horse

The Percheron horse is a cold blood. They are probably today's most famous draft horse. They are from France. They have an oriental breeding which makes them very graceful for such a large animal. They have been used for farm work, pulling coaches, and for riding. They are very popular and are found living all over the world.


Black Percheron By Eponimm  CC BY-SA 3.0
Black Percheron By Eponimm CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

The Percheron horse will be 15 to 17.2 hands tall. They are black or gray in color.

When the Muslims invaded Normandy the Percheron was already there. In 732AD, Charles Martel's knights stopped an invasion and they were using the ancestors of the Percheron horse.

In the 11th century Eastern blood was added and in 1700 Arab blood was added. The Arab blood did not cut down their large size but, did make them more refined looking.

The Percheron was influenced by Arab, Oriental, and Norman blood.





The Noriker Horse

Spotted Noriker Horse By Unknown Public Domain
Spotted Noriker Horse By Unknown Public Domain | Source

The Noriker Horse

The Noriker horse is a very old cold blood horse breed. They originated in the Roman Province of Noricum which is now Austria.

The Romans built an elaborate road system and they used the Noriker horses to pull wagons. They were also used as pack animals and by the farms. They are known for being very sure-footed and capable of pulling very heavy loads for a long distance.

They are a heavy draft horse that is medium size. They will be 16 to 16.2 hands tall at the withers. They will be brown, bay, dun, and chestnut colored. There also are some that are spotted which they get from the Andalusian blood that was brought in during the 1700s.

The Noriker horse has been influenced by the Andalusian, Ardennes, and Percheron.



The American Cream Draft Horse

Horses in Parade By Unknown CC BY-SA 2.0
Horses in Parade By Unknown CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The American Cream Draft Horse

The American Cream draft horse is a cold blood. They were developed in the U.S. Most of them are found living in the Midwest.

Their cream color is unusual for a draft horse. They will be 15 to 17 hands tall and can weigh as much as 2000 pounds. Their body is always cream colored and their tail and mane will be white. They have very little feathering on their feet.

The American Cream draft horse was influenced by the Percheron, Shire, and Belgian Heavy Draft.



The Friesian Horse

 Friesian Horse By Martha Schiver CC BY-SA 2.0
Friesian Horse By Martha Schiver CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

The Friesian Horse

The Friesian horse is a very old horse breed found in Europe. Their native home is the Netherlands.

When farming and transportation became mechanized the Friesian was no longer in demand. It is said that before World War I there were only 3 Friesian stallions left.


By Larissa Allen CC BY-SA 3.0
By Larissa Allen CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

Oldenburg horses were crossed with the Friesian and their numbers are increasing. The Friesian was used for light farm work and as harness horses. Many circuses used the Friesian horse.

The Friesian is not a large cold blood horse. They usually stand 15 hands tall. Their tail and mane are very long and will touch the ground if they are not trimmed. They have feathers on their legs that will also touch the ground. They are always black and can have e a white star on their forehead.

The Friesian's ancestors date back to the Middle Ages. They are found in artwork from the 1600's,


By Just chaos CC BY_SA 2.0
By Just chaos CC BY_SA 2.0 | Source

The Friesian horse has a great trot. The are now used as pleasure horses.

The Friesian was influenced by the Andalusian, Barb, Arab, and Oldenburg.



The Shire Horse

"Goliath" By Farrierpete CC BY-SA 3.0
"Goliath" By Farrierpete CC BY-SA 3.0 | Source

The Shire Horse

The Shire is a cold blood horse and is considered to be the best draft horse in Britain. The Shire is a descended from the “Great Horse” of the Middle Ages.

When the knights and tournaments lost popularity the “Great Horse” was used to pull carts and plow the farmers fields.

The Shire horse was found mainly in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire where the soil was very heavy and the draft horse had to be large and strong to be able to pull the plow to work up the ground. The Shire was Britain's largest and strongest draft horse.


wadworths brewrey dray By Unkown Public Domain
wadworths brewrey dray By Unkown Public Domain | Source

The Beer companies in the city used the Shire to pull their beer wagons. Their beer wagons and the horses that pulled them were decorated and very attractive.

An adult Shire stallion will stand 16.2 to 17.2 hands at the withers and weigh as much as 2200 pounds. They are usually brown, bay, gray and black in color. Their feet are feathered.

The Shire horse breed has been influenced by the Flanders Horse, and the Friesian.



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Comments 7 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 months ago from Queensland Australia

Very informative and attractive hub, Norma. I love draft horses, especially Clydesdales. The temperament of draft horses is amazing and they are such beautiful animals. I look forward to reading more of your hubs.


norlawrence profile image

norlawrence 5 months ago from California Author

Thank you very much. I plan on doing one on war bloods and hot bloods. Horses are great. I started showing horses when I was 8. I still do but now I ride western and show in dressage.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

What a superb Hub! Excellent work. Norma!


Anne Harrison profile image

Anne Harrison 4 months ago from Australia

Such beautiful animals - and I love the photos. Such gentle giants, as you say.


norlawrence profile image

norlawrence 4 months ago from California Author

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.


norlawrence profile image

norlawrence 4 months ago from California Author

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 4 months ago from Philippines

what beautiful horses you've written about. My favorite are the Budweiser Clydesdales for their beautiful feet:).

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