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11 Draft Horse Breeds Commonly Used For Work

Nicole Cosgrove

April 5, 2021

A draft horse is usually a large, muscular horse that breeders created for manual labor. The word draft means to draw out or pull a cart, which tells you the purpose of this animal. These animals are very strong, patient, and easygoing. If you are looking to purchase a draft horse for your farm and wonder which breed is best, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done our research and assembled a complete list of horses to get you started. We’ll show you a picture and tell you a little about each one so you can make an informed purchase.

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Draft Horse Breed

1. American Cream Draft

American Cream Draft Horse
Image Credit: Jean, Flickr

The American Cream Draft is an excellent workhorse from the United States that is quite a rare find today. It gets its name from its unique gold champagne color. As technology improved in the farming industry during the mid 20th century, the demand for this breed dwindled, and today its population numbers are quite low.

Height: 18-19.5 hands (6-6.5 feet)

Weight: 1,500 – 2,200 pounds


2. Ardennes

Ardennes
Image Credit: Julian Tysoe, Flickr

You can trace the Ardennes lineage back to Ancient Rome. One look at its muscular frame, and you’ll know why they kept the breed going all these years. It’s native to lands with thick forests, rolling hills, and ridges. Owners often used it as a military horse, but its extreme strength makes it a great farmhand.

Height: 18-19.5 hands (6-6.5 feet)

Weight: 1,500 – 2,200 pounds


3. Belgian Draft

Belgian Draft
Image Credit: Richard, Flickr

The Belgian Draft originates from Belgium, and it is one of the strongest of horse breeds. Owners usually keep this horse as a farmhand, and it can be used to pull carts and plow. It’s the most popular draft horse in the United States and is an excellent choice for anyone who needs a powerful and versatile horse.

Height: 16.5-19.5 hands (5.5-6.5 feet)

Weight: 1,800 – 2,200 pounds


4. Clydesdale

Clydesdale horses
Image Credit: Mitch Bennett, Flickr

The Clydesdale horse is a very large breed that often stands more than 6 feet tall. It’s easily recognizable by the mane that falls over the hooves. It’s changed throughout history, and modern Clydesdale horses are not as large as their ancestors. Owners use these horses in parades, and many people will recognize them as the Budweiser horses.

Height: 18-21 hands (6-7 feet)

Weight: 1,900 – 2,700 pounds


5. Friesian

Friesian
Image Credit: B0rder, Wikimedia Commons

The Friesian horse comes from the Netherlands. It’s extremely agile and graceful and has an attractive mane hanging over the hooves like the Clydesdale. It often carried knights wearing armor, and today people use modern Friesian horses for riding as well as for farm work.

Height: 18-21 hands (6-7 feet)

Weight: 1,900 – 2,700 pounds


6. Fjord

Fjord
Image Credit: Arild Finne Nybø, Flickr

The Fjord draft horse is from Norway, and it has a distinctive appearance. It has a large arched neck and a medium-sized head. Its mane is long and thick but usually trimmed to accent the neck.

Height: 18-21 hands (6-7 feet)

Weight: 1,900 – 2,700 pounds


7. Haflinger

Haflinger
Image Credit: Flominator, Wikimedia Commons

The Haflinger is a horse from Austria and Northern Italy. It’s one of the smaller-sized draft horses on this list. Despite their small size, they have plenty of energy for work and are also popular for riding. They have a beautiful chestnut coat.

Height: 13.5-15 hands (4.5-5 feet)

Weight: 800 – 1,300 pounds


8. Irish Draft

Irish Draft
Image Credit: Wasechun tashunka, Wikimedia Commons

The Irish Draft is a great all-around worker that is very sure on its feet. Its origins are said to date back to the 12th century.  Owners primarily use this horse for showjumping. The Irish Draft gets most of its nutrients through grazing, so it’s popular among ranchers in the south, where the fields grow year-round.

Height: 15-18 hands (5-6 feet)

Weight: 1,300 – 1,400 pounds


9. Percheron

Percheron draft
Image Credit: Richard, Flickr

The Percheron is a French draft horse that is usually colored grey or black and may exhibit several patterns. It has large eyes, small ears, and a broad forehead. It’s one of the most common draft horses in the United States, where you will find 75% of its population. It’s still quite popular in France as well, where they use the Percheron for work and food.

Height: 15-18 hands (5-6 feet)

Weight: 1,600 – 2,300 pounds


10. Shire

Shire Draft
Image Credit: Jean, Flickr

The Shire horse is a large breed that is usually colored black, bay, or grey. Owners commonly used this horse to pull delivery vehicles. Modern uses include plowing and riding. Unfortunately, these horses are becoming rare.

Height: 16-19 hands (5.3 – 6.3 feet)

Weight: 1,800 – 2,500 pounds


11. Suffolk Punch

Suffolk
Image Credit: Amanda Slater, Flickr

The Suffolk Punch is an English horse that is chestnut in color. It has plenty of energy and strength to perform various tasks on the farm. It was popular in the early twentieth century, but its numbers are steadily declining, and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists it as critical.

Height: 15-18 hands (5-6 feet)

Weight: 1,975 – 2,425 pounds

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Summary

We hope you have enjoyed reading over these various breeds and have found a few that you would like to add to your farm. We recommend the Belgian or Percheron. Both species are strong enough to do any work you have in mind for them and popular enough that you can find one relatively inexpensive. The other breeds may be more difficult to find and expensive to purchase, but they are quite attractive, and worth the cost if they have a specific trait you need.

If we have helped you find some answers, please share this list of 11 draft horses commonly used for work on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Emil_95, Flickr

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.