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

Updated on October 4, 2017
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Anna studied psychology, law, English, and animal welfare in college. She is a mother of two and aspires to become a vet some day.

Gentle Giants

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

This is a list of my ten (which includes a "bonus breed") favorite heavy draft horses.

Shire Horse
Shire Horse

Horses Used for War and Work

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 lbs. This breed originated from England, but quickly gained popularity worldwide as an excellent working horse.

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Percheron

Percheron horses originate from Western France and are an intelligent, hard-working breed 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 1900-2600 lbs. 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.

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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 14.3-16.3 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.

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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 16-18 hands and weighing 1900-2200 lbs, this breed is an impressively strong creature characterized by friendliness and intelligence.

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Belgian Draft Horses

Belgium or "Brabent" draft horses are another sweet, amiable breed who have 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 clam, friendly, and docile. They are incredibly intelligent and are becoming more popular; their numbers are increasing to reflect this.

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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.

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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.

Latchos Tamborine: A Beautiful Gypsy Vanner Stallion Showing Off

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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, they are also used for dressage, show-jumping, endurance, and general riding.

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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.

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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.

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A Bonus Breed for Horse-Lovers

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 eleven 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.

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    • profile image

      Laurie benoit 4 months ago

      Owner breeder shire draft horses

      Love them

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 3 years ago

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

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 3 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

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

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 3 years ago from Washington KS

      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.