Name of breed: Belgian Draught Horse
Country of origin: Belgium
Breed origin: The Belgian draught horse, also known as the Belgian heavy horse, is a breed from the Brabant region of modern Belgium. The foundation stock for the Belgian was actually originally known as the Brabant, and until the 1940s, the Belgian and the Brabant were essentially the same breed. Following World War II, the Belgian was bred to be taller and lighter bodied, with the main use being as a farm horse. Today, the Belgian is the most populous breed of draft horse in the United States.
Distinguishing features: On average, the Belgian draft horse grows to weigh just over 900 kilograms. Currently the world’s tallest horse is a Belgian draught horse named Big Jake, who stands at 20.2 ¾ hands high (210cm). The world’s largest Belgian draft was named Brooklyn Supreme, weighing 1,451kg and standing at 19.2 hands high.
Belgian draught horses have a high occurrence of JEB, an inherited genetic disorder which causes newborn foals to lose large areas of skin and have other abnormalities. A study undertaken from 2001-2003 found that 17.1% of tested Belgians in the US and Canada were carriers of this disorder. If carriers are not mated, JEB can be avoided so the US Belgian breed registry now requires JEB testing.
Modern day Belgian Draught Horse: Many Belgians are still used by farmers are working animals, but the breed has also become popular in the show ring and as pleasure riding horses.
Image credit: Richard Tulloch