Belgian Draft Horse

This popular heavy horse has a solid work ethic and a friendly heart.

Belgian Draft Horses
Belgian Horses by Matthew Bellemare on flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Bred for farm work and heavy carriage deliveries, Belgium’s native Belgian draft horse is more commonly seen in show and recreational pursuits today: weight-pulling competitions, in-hand performance or carriage driving. However, some agriculturalists are returning to horses like the Belgian as a more ecologically friendly method of cultivation.

The Belgian is a descendant of a medieval war mount, the Flemish horse, also known as the Great Horse. Later, stallions were exported to countries throughout Europe to add height and substance to other draft-type breeds for industrial and farm work.

American Story

The United States imported the first Belgians in the 1860s, and the Association of Importers and Breeders of Belgian Draft Horses was established in 1887 to promote the breed. The Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America grew from this organization in 1937 and remains the registry for the breed today.

In 1903, the Belgian’s powerful look and skills garnered much positive attention at the St. Louis World’s Fair and International Livestock Exposition in Chicago. Despite declines in numbers during World War II and the switch to mechanized farm equipment, the Belgian survived to become one of most popular draft breeds. Besides their strength, Belgians are loved for being docile, hard-working and hardy.

Belgian Draft Horses
Belgian by Jean on flickr/CC BY 2.0

Fast Facts

Height: 16 to 18 hands.

Weight: Belgians can weigh more than 1 ton (2,000 pounds).

Color: Acceptable colors include blonde, sorrel and roan with light points, and chestnut. White manes and tails, as well as a white stripe on the face, are preferred.

Overall appearance: Belgians have well-defined musculature, a level back, large hooves and a deep girth.

To learn more about the Belgian, visit the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America at

KIM KLIMEK is a freelance writer based in Kentucky.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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Kim Abbott Klimek first got involved with horses as a junior in high school, then went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in equine studies with a concentration in communications from Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., in 2005. After college, Kim worked for model horse company Breyer Animal Creations, writing copy for products and helping to write and edit for Just About Horses magazine. In the fall of 2007, she joined the Horse Illustrated team.


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