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10+ of the World's Most Beautiful Draft Horse Breeds and Heavy Horses

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Anna studied psychology, law, English, and animal welfare in college. She is a mother of two and a 2019 bride!

10 Beautiful Heavy Draft Horses

There is something incredibly sweet and endearing about heavy draft horses—they are docile, calm, and affectionate animals, and their size and weight seem to make their wonderful temperaments even more charming.

This is a list of my 10 favorite heavy draft horses, with a "bonus breed" at the bottom.

1. Shire Horses

It is such a shame that these amazingly gentle, calm, and sweet-natured horses have been bred for purposes such as pulling heavy artillery in warfare and hard laborious tasks such as haulage, forestry, and agricultural work. It is mentionable, however, that many of the breeds below would not exist if they had not been required for such things.

There are few people who can honestly say they don't like Shire horses. A breed that has become infamous for their incredible strength and size, coupled with their beauty and steady, docile, and friendly personalities, has won the hearts of many equine enthusiasts.

The tallest horse ever recorded is a Shire horse called Noddy, who stands at 20.2 hands, though normally Shires stand between 16 and 17 hands and weigh around 2000–2400 pounds. This breed originated from England, but quickly gained popularity worldwide as an excellent working horse.

2. Percheron

Percheron horses originate from Western France and are an intelligent, hard-working type who have the tranquil nature of most heavy breeds. They vary in size, ranging from 15.1 and 18.1 hands and weighing anywhere from 1900 to 2600 pounds. The exact ancestry of this breed is unknown, but it has been suggested that Arabian and Boulonnais horses were bred to create the Percheron. Percherons first came to the U.S.A. in 1839 where they have been used for a wide range of work tasks.


3. Boulonnais

Boulonnais, or "white marble" horses, are so-called for their white and gray coats, though colours do vary. This breed was known even before the crusades and has traces of many other breeds including the Spanish Barb, Andalusian, and Arabian. The Boulonnais has also influenced many other breeds, including the Percheron, as described above.

They stand between 14.3 and 16.3 hands and have little or no feathering. Although this breed is stocky, well-muscled, and remarkably strong, they are also graceful and elegant and have drawn many admirers.


4. Clydesdale

Clydesdale horses originated from Scotland, where they are still commonly used as haulage and agricultural workhorses. As well as being used to create other breeds, Clydesdale horses have been used as drum horses by the British cavalry, as they have an unfailingly strong bond to their owners and will obey demands to their last breath.

Tragically, numbers declined heavily after WWI, and numbers today are still low. As of 2010, only 5,000 Clydesdale exist. Standing between 16 and 18 hands and weighing 1900–2200 lbs, this breed is an impressively strong creature characterized by friendliness and intelligence.


5. Belgian Draft Horses

Belgian or "Brabant" draft horses are another sweet, amiable breed that has been used for purposes including war, agricultural, haulage, and mine horses. In 1950 there were 200,000 of this breed registered, and just 30 years later, only 6,000 remained. The breed is known to be stubborn, but also calm, friendly, and docile. They are incredibly intelligent and are becoming more popular; their numbers are increasing to reflect this.


6. Suffolk Punch

The Suffolk Punch is a beautiful, intelligent, and amiable breed that is sadly currently listed as endangered. In appearance, it is similar to a large, more heavily built Haflinger horse, to which it is closely related. It is also one of the oldest breeds in existence and has been documented in the early 16th Century. They generally stand around 16.1–17.2 hands in height and weigh between 1980 and 2200 lbs.


7. The Gypsy Vanner

Gypsy Vanners, also known as "Gypsy Cobs" are one of my all-time favourite breeds. They were used by the Romanichal people of Great Britain to pull the "caravans" in which they lived. They are extremely intelligent and docile animals, who are renowned for their pie-bald, pinto pattern, and heavy feathering on their legs from the knees down. They usually stand at 13–16.2 hands and are very popular for their willingness to help and wonderful temperament.

A Beautiful Gypsy Vanner Stallion Showing Off


8. Vladimir Draft Horses

Vladimir horses, as you may be able to guess, originated from Russia, and were created through the breeding of heavy draft breeds such as Percheron and Clydesdale horses. Although this breed usually weighs around 1870 lbs and stands about 15.1–16.1 hands, these horses are incredibly fast and athletic, despite their size and weight.

They are known to have a remarkably wonderful temperament as well as being intelligent, friendly, and inquisitive. Not only are they workhorses, but they are also used for dressage, show-jumping, endurance, and general riding.


9. Australian Draft Horse

Australian draft horses are a mix of Clydesdale, Shire, Suffolk Punch, and Percheron horses. They are admired for their strength and willingness to work. Although less popular than the better-known breeds mentioned above, Australian draft horses have been noted as strong, hardy and intelligent animals who make great companions and date back to around 1854. They measure up to 17.2 hands and weigh around 1980 lbs, being lighter and smaller generally than the pure Shire horses, but no less friendly or calm in their nature.


10. Dutch Draft

Dutch draft horses were developed in 1918 and are the result of crossing Brabant and Ardennes horses, in the hopes of capturing the best of both breeds. These horses can shift astonishingly heavy loads, whilst maintaining an elegant, calm nature. Although sturdy and well-muscled, as the heaviest of all Dutch breeds, Dutch horses are energetic and intelligent, full of personality, with a good temperament. They stand about 16 hands in height and weigh about 1700 lbs.


Here is a "bonus breed," one which many people haven't heard of and do not know exists. It is one of the most critically endangered animals in the world today, and a great amount of care is being taken to sustain the purity of the breed.

The entire species is made up of only 12 individual horses—just one stallion and 11 females exist. The breed is known as the "Sugarbush" horse, and resulted from Appaloosa horses being crossed with Percherons. They have the leopard complex (a genetic mechanism that gives them the spotted appearance), and are pure white, with black spots all over their bodies.

They are brilliantly intelligent, lively, bright, and stunningly beautiful horses. It is strongly hoped that this breed will not be lost forever. They are smaller than most heavy draft breeds, standing at 15.2–16.2 hands and weighing roughly 1700 lbs.

Do you love large horse breeds?

Gipsy on July 13, 2020:

My Favourite:

Gyspy vanner

vladimir russian draft


Nacey on July 10, 2020:

French Canadian horses is a good breed as well

The Shire is the horse bred they used in the movie brave!!

Julie Luedke on June 14, 2020:

Love All horses

megan on January 21, 2020:

the Gypsy vanner

riley on December 18, 2019:

did you know that the Friesian is a draft horse as well

Riley 1348 on December 13, 2019:

In my opinion pintalosas a cross between appolosas and paints are one of the prettiest horses

Jerry on October 04, 2019:

I grew up near Kingman, KS. We farmed with a great team of Percheron mares during 1943-1950. Great dispositions. We called them "BIRD" and "BABE". on September 25, 2019:

I love the big Belgians. I was amazed just how big they are though.

CE Rierson on August 03, 2019:

You left out the only draft breed originated in America, the American Cream Draft Horse.

Joan martin on July 16, 2019:

I love these draft horses, used to ride on the rag and bone man's cart as a kid cause he knew I loved his draft horse.

Tracy Brown on July 09, 2019:

Drafts are amazing, i have a slezsky (silesian) noriker

Maria Stutz on June 02, 2019:

I love them. I have ridden Shires before

Horses are amazing! on March 05, 2019:

I love draft horses. They are sooo pretty. I want one now!!!!!!!!!!(I've always wanted one)

Clair Rierson on February 05, 2019:

You left out the American Cream draft horse. The only draft breed originated in America.

Christy on December 25, 2018:

There are more the 200 sugarbush Drafts registered with the American Harlequin Sugar Bush Draft Association as of 2018.

hi on November 21, 2018:

i love drafts

Hey this is bailed love decade horses on October 20, 2018:

Hey this is bailea ilove drafes horses

Susan Lambert on October 04, 2018:

These are absolutely my favorite horses. They are so majestic and powerful.

Anna (author) from chichester on May 30, 2018:

Wow 5!? Thats impressive - you must be very dedicated :) Shires are by far one of my favourite breeds

Eva horselover on May 28, 2018:

I love shires,and I have 5 of them.

bookpaw on March 28, 2018:

i love gypsy vanners

Linda on February 06, 2018:

They are so big and powerful but gentle

Laurie benoit on June 24, 2017:

Owner breeder shire draft horses

Love them

VspaBotanicals on April 28, 2014:

I love this lens and learned so much about breeds. Thank you!

Miha Gasper from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU on April 26, 2014:

They are fascinating animals. Strong, powerful and gentle and elegant at the same time.

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on April 25, 2014:

I LOVE draft horses!! A friend of ours used to raise Belgians and I could spend hours watching them frolic and graze. Beautiful animals. Loved the lens.