Draft horses and their most representative breeds

Draft horses

Draft horses are those used for work due to its great traction capacity. Traditionally they have been used for agricultural work, as a driving force and as draft horses on certain occasions that required moving machinery.

A draft horse, requires a little more specific care and feeding depending on the type and amount of work that they carry out in their day to day.

The vast majority of draft horse breeds they did not exist before the XNUMXth century. It was from this century that the military and agricultural needs that were defining the races heavy duty. In addition to the influence of the industrial revolution, the improvement of carriages and agricultural machinery.

Those Ones Countries that had trade routes found these powerful new equines very useful. Even those places with canals used them to transmit power to the water using wire ropes and mechanical devices.

In Spain there were no heavy draft horses until the XNUMXth century.

draft horse breeds

Types of draft horses

We can find three types of draft horse according to their characteristics and uses, both intrinsically related: heavy draft horses, semi-heavy draft horses and light draft horses.

Heavy draft horses

They are the largest of the draft horses weighed up to 180 cm at the withers. They are also large in size, weighing from 600kg to over 1000kg. Their limbs are rather short and its skeleton is strong with well developed musculature. In addition, they usually have a very calm character.

Some heavy draft breeds are: American cream draft, Ardennes horse, Belgian draft horse, Breton horse, Percheron, Shire horse, Bolognese horse or the Catalan Pyrenean horse.

Semi-heavy draft horses

The draft horses that were used in transport such as stagecoaches also required quick power. This was why heavy draft horses were not entirely suitable for these higher speed tasks. The semi-heavy draft horses they are lighter animals that could advance at a trot.

Some of the semi-heavy draft breeds are the light variety of the Percheron and the also light variety of the Breton, also called Breton Postire, Ardenes horses.

Light draft horses

These are the lightest equines among draft horses. They normally performed tasks such as hauling light carriages at a higher speed than the previous two.

We find within this category breeds such as: Morgan or Hackney.

Traditional uses of draft horses


Heavy draft horses were used to till and move agricultural machinery of all kinds until horses and mules were replaced with technological advancement.

plowing horses

Transport of goods and people

It is well known that during different times goods were transported in horse-drawn carriages. These carriages could be of different shape and size, according to which, they had one name or another: cart, cart, tartata, galley.

You can know the different types of carriages that have been drawn by horses in our article: Horse carriages: history, types and uses

As highlights we are going to mention two, one for its great use and the second for curious:


For a long time the movements between cities or towns were carried out on horseback. The roads, which coincided with those built by the Romans, were bad or there were none. The use of the carriage was spreading and roads were built between the main cities, establishing stage lines between the main cities. It was the draft horses that fulfilled the function of leading these proceedings.


In Paris there was a network of trams pulled by equines.

Tow horses

As we mentioned earlier, those cities that had river transport, horses played an important role. The animals pulled the goods by means of ropes replacing the people or the mules that used to pull these goods until the appearance of the draft horses.

Machine drive

Draft horses were also used as a motive force to power machinery or devices such as looms, mills, presses, water pumps, etc. The animals were usually attached to a vertical axis winch to a line of radially arranged bars. The horses were arranged to walk in a circle with the force necessary to reach the power required in the operation of the machinery.

Forestry work

In difficult terrain, it is the draft horses who pull to haul the logs.

forest work horse

Main breeds of draft horses

Now we are going to see some of the main races within the Draft horses. But first we are going to talk about the common characteristics that draft horses have.

Common characteristics of draft horse breeds

Draft horses are well known for their great strength and endurance. They are large, tall, large equines, although as we have already discussed, depending on the type of draft horse that a breed has, it will be more or less large. They can vary from 160 cm to 180 cm at the withers and be between 600 and 1000 kg, although those of heavy draft can surpass this last weight.

The bones of these horses are strong and large. His highly developed musculature. The profile of the head is usually short and convex lines, and the limbs rather short.

The coats can be very varied depending on the breed in question, although they usually have a rather thick coat. Some breeds, such as the Percherons, have their hooves covered in hair. 

As for his character, it is about extremely calm animals.

And now yes, we are going to talk about four breeds of these equines.

Ardenes Horses

We face one of the oldest breeds of draft horses. This breed is bred in the Ardennes, Belgium, Luxenburg and France, the first is where it gets its name. However, the history of these equines it dates back to much further back in history, to ancient Rome. Ardennes or Ardennes horses are the ancestors of most other draft breeds.

Ardenes Horse

In their beginnings they were draft horses rather of the heavy category, but in the XNUMXth century, the breed was mixed with Arabian horses to lighten it. Today it is considered as semi-heavy draft horse. 

Were very important to carry out work in the war, both as a draft horse and as a mounted cavalry.

If you want to know a little more about this breed you can find information in our article: Ardennes Horses, one of the oldest draft breeds

American Cream Draft

This breed of horse is the only draft horse developed in the United States that exists today. It gets its name from its cream or champagne gold cape and its amber eyes.

It is a breed with very few specimens although work is being done so that it is not lost.

American Cream Draft

Source: youtube

Italian draft horse

Es one of the smallest draft breeds, at most they can reach 160 cm. In addition to being strong, it is a fairly active breed that is used as a farm horse. It has the pompadour and the blonde tail.


Within this race of great endurance, we find the three types of draft horses: the heavy-duty Latvian, the semi-heavy-duty Latvian and the Latvian light-riding light.

Belgian draft horse

Originally from Belgium, it is one of the draft breeds that has been widely used in the United States and Canada. It was used above all for the transport of large loads.

Belgian Draft Horse

suffolk punch

This breed originated from the county of the same name. It was obtained by selecting indigenous breeds in the area. It is a long-lived breed that requires little food to survive. Today there are not too many copies.


This breed originating from Le Perche, in France, is not only known for its great strength and integrity but for its aesthetic characteristics so appreciated that they place it on many lists of the most beautiful horses in the world.


Little by little, this breed was spreading and adopting different varieties depending on the country in which it continued to develop. If you want to know the different varieties within this breed, we recommend you take a look at our article: Percheron horse

Breton horse

We are facing another draft horse from France. It is a breed developed in the nineteenth century and who owns a great intelligence. Its name derives from the Breton mountains, where it was very present.

It is a rustic breed, with a fast walk and a lively trot despite its large size.



This breed of draft horses is the result of crossing of Scottish heavy draft mares and Flemish horses. It was improved by crossing with the Shire and Arabs. All this makes this breed more elegant.



With characteristics of Arabian and Berber horses, this is a breed of great size and weight (around 850 kg). It's a breed widely used for slow drag jobs. 

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it.

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