Draft Horses, Percheron & Clydesdale

Draft breeds are descendants of the "Great Horse" of the knights of the Middle Ages. These horses have developed into heavy carriage, draft, and farming horses. Many are also ridden in just about every discipline. Draft breeds are often crossed with lighter breeds to produce a large, sturdy, even tempered and well moving individual. The breeds of draft horses all developed in northern Europe – Scotland, England, France, and Belgium – and are named for the counties and districts where they originated.

[Photo of Percheron horse]

The five most well known breeds are the Percheron, Belgian, Clydesdale, Shire, and the Suffolk. All of these breeds are large and heavily muscled. They typically stand 16 to 17 hands and weigh between 1600 and 2200 pounds.

The Percheron originates from the La Perche district in France. It is known as the breed of blacks and grays, and is the only draft breed that has the Arabian in its history. The Belgian is the most popular breed of draft horse in the U.S. Originally from Belgium, it is almost always seen as a sorrel with a flaxen mane and tail.


The Clydesdale has achieved worldwide fame as the chosen hitch for the Budweiser brewery. The horse itself is almost always bay or roan with extensive white face and leg markings with a full feather on the lower legs. The Shire is the largest of the draft horses and this breed has long thick hair (feathering) over its lower legs. The Suffolk is a smaller draft breed, is always chestnut, and is less common in the United States.

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