10 Popular Draft Horse Breeds

Draft Horse Breeds

Draft horse breeds were an everyday sight in the past. Able to pull double their own weight, they could pull heavy loads, making them ideal as working horses on farms, tilling, and plowing fields. They were pressed into service as war horses in the First World War, for riding and pulling heavy artillery. 

These hard workers seemed destined to disappear from farms in the latter half of the 20th century as new technology introduced farm machinery to replace them. But a few years ago these draft breeds started to make a comeback, and they are once again becoming popular on farms and homesteads.

These magnificent beasts are not only good for agricultural work, but also for pleasure riding. And many draft horses serve as hunting, show jumping, and even dressage horses. We did the research and have compiled a list of the top 10 draft breeds, to help you select the draft horse breed that meets your needs.

Different Types Of Draft Horses

Shire (Largest Draft Horse)


Where Did The Shire Horse Originate?

Shire horses are the largest horse breed and are native to England. They arrived in the US in the mid-19th century.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Shire Horse?

Shire horses are incredibly strong, and usually 16-17 hands tall. They can, however,  grow to 19 hands, making them the tallest horses. It is generally bay, gray, or black in color with feathered legs, white markings, and its head has a convex profile.

What Is This Horse Used For?

Shire horses have traditionally been used to work fields and pull wagons. They were also ridden by knights into the great battles of history. A pair of these horses can pull a cart carrying a weight of more than 45 tons, but Shire horses are as popular in shows as they are for farm work. 

Haflinger (Smallest Draft Horse)


Where Did The Haflinger Originate?

Haflinger’s ancestry can be traced back to the Middle Ages. This hardy draft horse was developed in Austria and Northern Italy (in Hafling, South Tyrol) for use in mountainous terrain. 

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Haflinger?

The smallest of the draft horse breeds, a Haflinger stands about 15 hands tall and is a sturdy horse known for its endurance. A Haflinger will weigh anywhere from  800 -1300 pounds. Haflinger horses are always chestnut-colored and have a flaxen mane and tail.

Their conformation and physical appearance are due to the influence of other European breeds, as well as Arabian bloodlines, into the original Tyrolean ponies. 

What Is This Horse Used For?

These horses are suitable for farm work and are also sometimes used in show jumping competitions.  

Clydesdale (Most Popular Draft Horse)


Where Did The Clydesdale Originate?

Possibly the most well-known of the draft horses, the Clydesdale breed originated in Scotland. 

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Clydesdale Breed?

These gentle giants reach 18 hands tall, and are usually bay-colored with white feathering; but can also be roan, chestnut, brown, or black. Clydesdales are intelligent and are easy to train. 

But this gentle-natured breed, unfortunately, carries a high risk for chronic progressive lymphedema. This is a debilitating equine disorder that affects many draft horse breeds. It can cause severe disfigurement of the lower limbs. 

What Is This Horse Used For?

This breed of draft horse has always been used for farm work and freight hauling and is also sometimes used to create other breeds. The Budweiser Clydesdales are probably the most famous examples of this breed. Clydesdales are also used as drum horses by the British Cavalry. 

American Cream Draft (Born In The USA)

american cream draft

Where Did The American Cream Originate?

Originally bred for agricultural work, the American Cream draft horse originated in Iowa in the early 20th century.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The American Cream Draft Horse?

This draft breed stands on average 15-16.3 hands tall. The American cream is named for its beautiful cream coat. This horse has pink skin and a light, medium, or dark cream coat, with a white mane and tail. It typically has beautiful amber or hazel eyes.

What Is The American Cream Draft Horse Used For?

This powerful and versatile horse is commonly used for horseback riding, show jumping, farm work, and driving carts. The American Cream has been identified as one of a number of critically threatened horse breeds, by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Ardennes (Ancient European Crusader)


Where Did The Ardennes Originate?

The Ardennes is one of the oldest draft horses in existence. This breed originated in the Ardennes area in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France in the days of  Ancient Rome, and was used as war horses in the Crusades in the 11th century. The breed was much smaller then, though.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Ardennes Draft Horse?

This is a true cold-blooded draft breed and is one of the primary draft horse breeds in the world today. Ardennes are heavy-boned with short, thick legs; strong joints; and compact, muscular bodies. They grow to between 15.3 and 16 hands.

This heavy draft horse has a large head, and a slightly concave, broad face. It has a long, thick mane and tail with heavy feathering at the fetlock joint and bellow. This breed can be roan, bay, chestnut, gray, or palomino.

What Is This Horse Used For?

Because of their strength and size, these horses are suitable for farm work. This horse is a very docile breed. 

Percheron (French War Veteran)


Where Did The Percheron Originate?

The Percheron is a French breed native to La Perche, near Normandy. It was one of the first draft breeds to be introduced to the US and remained a favorite until the Belgian draft horse overtook its popularity in World War I.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Percheron Breed?

The Percheron is a large and muscular breed with a strong neck and shoulders, a broad chest, and wide ribs. The head has a straight profile, a broad forehead, and strong jaws. These horses are usually black or dappled gray and can reach a height of between 15.1 and 18.1 hands.

What Is This Horse Used For?

This powerfully built horse is popular with farmers and loggers, this breed is sometimes used for parades and sleigh rides. The Percheron is also often used as a carriage horse. 

Belgian (Belgian War Veteran)


Where Did The Belgian Draft Horse Originate?

Belgian draft horses originated in Belgium and became popular during the First World War.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Belgian Horse?

These are heavy horses weighing about a ton, and measuring up to 17 hands tall. They are chestnut-colored with a white mane and tail. 

There is a Belgian named Big Jake, that at 20 hands is the tallest horse. It has a docile temperament,  is very strong, and is usually used as a workhorse. These draft horses are also sometimes used in horse shows and for pleasure riding.

What Is This Horse Used For?

The Belgian is easy to handle and is still used for plowing fields, logging, and for pulling carriages and sleighs.

Brabant (Belgian Baby Boomer)


Where Did The Brabant Originate?

Bred in Europe in the years following the Second World War, the Brabant is a type of Belgian draft horse. But while closely related, it is not the same breed. Not all Belgian horses are Brabants. 

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Brabant?

A strong, thick-bodied Belgian draft horse with heavy leg feathering. The height varies between 15.3 and 18 hands, and the weight between 1800 and 2200 Ib.

What Is This Horse Used For?

Brabant horses are suitable for working on farms and homesteads and are used worldwide for farming, logging, and pulling sleighs and wagons. They are also sometimes used in horse shows. 

Dutch Draft Horse (Dutch Farmer)

dutch draft

Where Did The Dutch Draft Horse Originate?

Also known as the ‘Nederlands Trekpaard’, this heavy workhorse was first bred in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands, after the end of WW1. Its popularity waned as agriculture became more mechanized after WW2.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Dutch Draft Horse?

The Dutch Draft is a powerful and muscular horse with an average height of 15.2 to 16 hands. It is usually chestnut, gray, or bay colored’ but sometimes black. 

Weighing in at 1300 lbs or more, this horse has heavy lower leg feathering, and a thick mane and tail. It is a cold-blood breed with a calm temperament and excellent stamina. 

What Is This Breed Used For?

Dutch Drafts are used for farm and driving work, recreational riding, and sometimes dressage.

Friesian (Movie Star Horses)


Where Did The Friesian Originate?

This breed originated in Friesland in the Netherlands in the early 1500s. In the Middle ages, this magnificent animal was prized as a warhorse and carried knights into battle.

What Are The Physical Characteristics Of The Friesian?

They stand between 14.2-17 hands tall, but the average is 15.3 hands. Friesians are famous for their stunning black coats, but they are occasionally chestnut or bay-colored. They have long flowing manes and tails, and feathered legs.

There are two conformation types. The “baroque”, which is a more robust build, and the “sport horse”, which is a much finer-boned conformation. The latter is more popular in events.

What Is The Friesian Used For?

Despite their history of being used to wage war, these are sociable horses with a calm demeanor. They are a versatile breed, used for pleasure riding or for dressage, but also light farm work. 

These beautiful horses are often used in fantasy series and movies, such as The Hunger Games (2012), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Once Upon a Time (2011-2018), and Game of Thrones (2011-2019)  to name a few.

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