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Belgian Horse vs. Clydesdale: What’s the Difference?

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Both the Belgian and the Clydesdale are magnificent horses. They both stand tall and proud, they are gracious and majestic, and they show great intelligence. The scientific name for all horses is Equus caballus, which tells us that every horse has a thing or two in common by nature. However, each breed has their own unique features and characteristics.

The Belgian horse and the Clydesdale are just as different as they are alike. So, what are the differences between these two different horse breeds, and what are the similarities? We aim to discuss these aspects and more below.

Visual Differences

clydesdale vs belgian horse visual

The first thing you might notice is that the Clydesdale is quite a bit taller than the Belgian horse. Clydesdales stand up to 6 feet (72 inches) tall once they reach adulthood. Belgian horses can be anywhere from 64 to 68 inches tall as adults. Clydesdales are typically bay in color and can have white markings on their body, whether the legs, head, or underbelly.

Belgian horses have chestnut, sorrel, or brown coats and blonde manes that contrast beautifully. Sometimes, white hairs can be spotted growing sporadically throughout their coats. The Belgian’s head is usually smaller than the Clydesdale’s, and their tails just a tad shorter. Clydesdales and Belgians are both strong and stocky, but the Clydesdale tends to look a bit hardier overall. Still, both breeds are among the biggest and strongest in the world.

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At a Glance

The Belgian Horse
  • Average height (adult): 64-68 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 1,800-2,200 pounds
  • Lifespan: 16-20 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: High
The Clydesdale
  • Average height (adult): 68-72 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 1,800-2,000 pounds
  • Lifespan: 20-25 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: High

Belgian Horse Overview

belgian horse in the meadow
Image Credit: Pixabay

The Belgian horse is strong and mighty, a force to be reckoned with. These are draft horses, bred to work hard and stay loyal to their masters. Today, Belgian horses are popular in many places around the world, including the United States, as work and show animals. They are also commonly trained as riding horses by many farmers and caretakers for both profit and pleasure.

Belgian horses can pull massive amounts of weight, making them perfect for plowing the fields, pulling carriages, and transporting goods like lumber. This horse breed is commonly referred to as a “gentle giant” due to their docile, affectionate, and interactive nature. They are not easily “spooked” like some horse breeds are and can do well in public settings where many people are around.

Personality / Character

Belgian horses are fun and playful during their downtime, but they get serious when they know that it is time to work. They are not happy unless they have something to do, whether it is practicing jumps, working on the farm, or allowing children to learn how to ride them. Belgians are typically willing to work with anyone who wants to work with them, even strangers, which differs a little from the Clydesdale, which is a little pickier and more independent.

belgian horse
Image Credit: Pixabay

Training

The Belgian horse is eager to please, extremely intelligent, and docile, making them the perfect horse to train in a variety of ways. These horses can be trained to ride, jump, show, and work in the fields or on the wagon trail. They take well to direction and do not typically show any stubbornness. They are usually willing to try anything once but may shy away from activities that they considered failures in the past.

Suitability

These horses are suitable for beginners and horse enthusiasts alike. They are gentle yet strong, docile yet powerful, and friendly yet loyal. They have all the characteristics that one looks for in a genuine friend and confidant. Plus, they can help tend to the garden plots and farm fields when necessary. They can also help one transport their firewood from one end of the property to the other. There are many reasons to consider investing in this horse. However, it is important to keep in mind the big commitments in terms of feeding, grooming, and generally caring for this sensitive breed.

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Clydesdale Horse Overview

clydesdale horse
Image Credit: Pixabay

The Clydesdale is well known for their portrayal in Budweiser commercials, but they are much more than just commercial icons. These beautiful animals are draft horses like Belgians are, but their bigger stature allows them to pull a little more weight. These animals are tall, hefty, and intimidating at first glance.

They can tend to agricultural needs, but as shown on television, their true passion is spending time with human companions and helping to transport things, whether people or goods. These are active horses that thrive on action and look forward to work or exercise. They are a little more independent than the Belgian horse, and while they respect and trust their owners, they may need time to trust humans whom they newly meet.

Personality / Character

These horses are fun-loving and interactive when they are not in working mode. However, they look forward to work, so they need to exercise, haul goods, or participate in the farm plowing process regularly.

clydesdale horses
Image Credit: Pixabay

Training

Clydesdales are more independent than Belgian horses, which means they are not always quite as easy to train. They might need a little more patience in a handler, although the handler should always possess a firm yet loving hand. Once trained, the Clydesdale is loving, gentle, easy to ride, and hardworking.

They typically require refresher training courses as time goes on, but in general, they are easy to deal with and lead. These animals prefer to be trained by the humans they trust the most rather than strange paid trainers. The Clydesdale is open, honest, and filled with emotion and should be treated as such. 

Suitability

The Clydesdale is suitable for the moderate to professional horse rider and handler. They require a little more grooming than most other horse breeds, including the Belgian horse, due to their long and luxurious manes. However, they have a great deal of love and affection to offer their human companions. They are best to adopt during adolescence, but even adults can adapt quickly to new environments and handlers if dealt with in a loving and patient way.

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Final Thoughts

Both of these horse breeds are unique in their own ways, but they have many similarities too. These are farm animals and should be treated as such. They both enjoy the company of humans, but the Belgian seems to be the most susceptible to human companionship overall. However, the Clydesdales can grow up to be the biggest human fan if raised in the proper conditions. Which type of horse interests you the most? The Clydesdale or the Belgian? We would love to read about your thoughts in our comments section.

Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Rachael has been a freelance writer since 2000, in which time she has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. As a vegan, Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. Animals also happen to be her favorite topic to write about! She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens.