Discover the Belgian Draft Horse

February 12, 2020
Draft horses are hardy animals that have been specially bred for their strength and endurance. Today, we'll be taking a closer look at the Belgian draft horse.

The Belgian draft horse is an ancient breed that originates from Belgium. There, they’re bred according to strict guidelines that have been passed down for generations.

These specialist breeding techniques have meant that Belgium has gained global recognition in the equine world.

In the past, draft horses typically served as a means of transport. However, they were also used for agricultural work, helping to plow the fields.

Belgian draft horses require expert care, especially when it comes to their diet, as they need to consume large amounts of calories when working. Plus, it’s important to protect their cannon bones (or shins) to prevent any accidents and injuries.

The origins of the Belgian draft horse

Also known as the Brabant or Brabander, the Belgian draft horse dates back to the 17th Century. At first, it’s thought that there may have been three distinct types of Belgian horses.

Due to their similarities, experts believe they’re a descendant of the Ardennes horse. Like the Brabant, the Ardennes is a robust, hardy breed, which we can trace all the way back to the time of the Roman empire.

In the Middle Ages, the Belgian draft horse was known as the Flanders horse. It was the predecessor of the English Warhorse, as well as a number of other British heavy horse breeds alive today.

The Belgian draft horse was officially recognized in 1886. From then on, the quality of these animals improved dramatically. Their new-found prestige meant that people quickly began to export the breed worldwide.

Modern-day breeders are making efforts to conserve the breed, making sure to maintain birth rates and keep the bloodlines pure.

Plus, the Belgian draft horse also plays an important role in strengthening and improving other breeds.

Characteristics

  • The Belgian draft horse can measure between 5 ft 4″ and 5 ft 6″ in height. They have a large square jaw and a straight profile or Roman nose. They have relatively small heads, and short, arched necks.
  • Their eyes and ears are also relatively small. In some cases, it may seem as if they’re almost out of proportion with their large size.
  • These are generally muscular animals, which can be clearly seen in their strong limbs and necks. Their legs are well-defined, and in proportion with the size of their body.
  • The Belgian draft horse has a broad, short back.
  • They have powerful hindquarters which give them a regular, energetic gait, and a proud, almost haughty appearance.
  • Their cannon bones (the bones between the knee and fetlock joint) are short but strong.
  • Their coat is thick and long, a characteristic typical of animals bred in cold, wet climates. This trait allows them to stay dry at all times. Only the top-most layer of fur gets wet, while the fur underneath stays completely dry.
  • In the winter, their coat gets thicker, allowing them to withstand freezing temperatures.
  • The most common coat color is chestnut. However, their coats can range from chestnut to bay, blue roan, chestnut roan and gray.
  • While they’re considered large, robust horses, they have a laid back temperament, and are known for being gentle and sensible.
  • These draft horses are intelligent and always on the alert. They’re also famous for their great bravery.

Care

As well as physical care, the Belgian draft horse is a breed that requires great attention and dedication. Due to their sensitive personality, they require an understanding, sympathetic attitude from their owners. In return, these animals offer their loyalty and goodwill.

When it comes to their diet, the Brabant is known for its huge appetite. When not working, they can usually eat a basic diet of grass and hay.

Working horses, on the other hand, will require an extra daily portion of food. If necessary, owners can supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals.

Superficial wounds are very common in draft horses. If not treated quickly or effectively, these injuries can cause serious long-term damage.

If you notice your horse has any kind of injury, you should treat them immediately with healing and antiseptic creams. These should be able to stick to the skin regardless of the weather or any physical activity they might do. If you’re in any doubt, always consult with your vet.