Best Big, Heavy Draft Horse Breeds in the World 2022 [facts & Physical Characteristics]


Rhenish Horse Breed

The Rhenish horse comes from the Rhein Province and represents a heavy-draught type of horse. It is a deep, broad horse, very powerful, of good conformation and bone, with quite a good action for a heavy horse, and is easily fed. It stands some 16 to 16.2 hands, and is most often sorrel colored, then sorrel roan and brown and sometimes brown roan. Mane and tail are light. About 60 years ago the Germans founded the Rhenish Studbook, and the sires which established the most successful bloodlines are: ‘Lothar III’, ‘Albion d’Hor’ and ‘Indien de Biévene’.

This breed may be quoted as another example of a type being developed to meet the requirements of a locality, for it does not differ materially from many other heavy-draught horses. It has a good reputation for character and service.

Highland Horse Breed

The largest and strongest of the mountain and moorland group of breeds of Great Britain, the Highland pony is to be found in the highlands of Scotland and certain adjacent islands. The Highland is of great antiquity. It is said that after the Ice Age in Europe there was a movement of ponies towards the west from Northern Asia, the larger ones keeping to the north, now represented by the Scandinavian and Highland ponies, and the smaller going to the south, becoming known by the general term of Eastern breeds.

Today the Highland pony may be divided into three types: the smaller ponies of Barra and the outer islands standing from 12.2 to 13.2 hands; the second class is the well-known riding-pony of some 13.2 to 14.2 hands; the largest and strongest are known as ‘Mainland’ ponies, and stand about 14.2 hands. Highlands ponies have had an infusion of alien blood, mostly Arabian.

As a worker, the Highlander is immensely strong and very docile. He has always been used to carrying the deer for stalkers in the Highlands and has been a great stand-by for the crofters in those parts. The pony is first-class for hill work on account of its sure-footedness and is a well-balanced walker. It is pleasant to ride at its natural paces, which are walking and trotting, but many tend to be on the ‘forehand’.

Description: Head, well carried, attractive, and broad between prominent, bright eyes; short between eyes and muzzle, with wide nostrils. Ears short and well set. In profile, the breadth, rather than the length, of the head and jawbone should be pronounced. Neck, strong and not short, crest arched, with flowing mane; throat clean, not too fleshy. Shoulders well set back; withers not too pronounced. Body: back short, with slight natural curve; chest-deep; ribs deep, well sprung, carried well back. Quarters and loins powerful, thighs short and strong. Tall, strong, and well set on, carried gaily, with a plentiful covering of hair almost to the ground. Legs, flat in the bone, flinty to the touch, with a slight fringe of straight silken feather ending in a prominent tuft at the fetlock joint. Forelegs placed well under the weight of the body; forearm strong and knee broad. Oblique pasterns, not too short; and broad, firm, horny hoofs. Hocks, broad, clean, flat, and closely set. Action-free and straight. Colour, black, brown, fox color, with silver mane and tail; varying dun or grey with no white markings. The eel stripe along the back is typical, but not always present.

Clydesdale Horse Breed

The history of the breed of Clydesdale Horses dates from the middle of the 18th century when the hardy native breed found in Lanarkshire (Clydesdale being the old name for Lanarkshire) was being graded up to produce greater weight and substance by the use of imported Flemish stallions. The evolution of the breed was the direct result of the efforts of farmers of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire to meet the demands of commerce, when, following the rapid developments of the surrounding coalfields causing road surfaces to be improved, shoulder haulage was substituted for pack-carrying.

The numbers of the Clydesdale breed seem to have been fairly progressive throughout the period, and in 1877 the Clydesdale Horse Society was formed and almost immediately published its first Studbook. Since that first publication, a very large number of stallions and mares have been registered. The breed has, beyond doubt, proved itself to be very popular and its adherents boast of the great numbers that have been exported as clear evidence of this. Quite spectacular prices have been obtained for big winners in the show ring and for export.

The outstanding characteristics of the Clydesdale are a combination of weight, size, and activity, and what is looked for first and last by a Clydesdale man is exceptional wearing qualities of feet and limbs. The former must be round and open with hoof heads wide and springy, for any suspicion of contraction might lead to sidebones or ringbone. To some extent, the further requirements of this breed vary somewhat from the orthodox and should be noted. The horse must have action, but not exaggerated, the inside of every shoe being made visible to anyone walking behind. The forelegs must be well under the shoulders, not carried bull-dog fashion – the legs, in fact, must hang straight from shoulder to fetlock joint with no openness at the knee, yet with no inclination to knock. The hind legs must be similar, with the points of the hocks turned inwards rather than outwards and the pasterns must be long.

The head must have an open forehead, broad across the eyes, the front of the face must be flat, neither dished nor roman, wide muzzle, large nostrils, and a bright, clear, intelligent eye. A well-arched and long neck must spring out of an oblique shoulder with high withers; the back should be short with well-sprung ribs; and, as befits a draught horse, the thighs must be packed with muscle and sinew. The color is bay, brown or black, with much white on the face and legs, often running into the body, and it should be noted that chestnuts are rarely seen.

It is interesting to note that of the heavy breeds of horses in the British Isles, any white is strictly forbidden in the Suffolk, is obviously permitted in the case of the grey Percheron, allowed though contested in the Shire, whilst in the Clydesdale, it is splashed about in a most generous fashion. White-legged horses are never particularly favored by the conscientious groom.

It is claimed of the Clydesdales that they are possessed of quality and weight without displaying grossness of bulk, and this is largely true. They are certainly active movers for their size and weight and in consequence are very popular in many cities and on numerous farms, especially in the north of England.

What the future of this breed as an agricultural horse may be is entirely problematical. From time to time those concerned in the breeding of agricultural horses are heartened by statements to the effect that farms are over-mechanized and that prosperity will return to the breeder of agricultural horses and indeed of horses required for town work. But it is only fair to say that no particular evidence of this suggested trend is shown. The Clydesdale in spite of its great size and consequent weight shows perhaps as much quality as, or even more than, any of the heavy breeds and to the lover of the draught horse, its extinction would bring great sorrow.

Zeeland Horse Breed

The prototype of the Zeeland horse, a product of the Netherlands, goes back to the earliest times, and similar types are found in Brabant and Limburg.

In the days of the invasion by Julius Caesar, the Romans in ‘the Low Lands on the Sea’ came across a horse that was very strong and massive; speaking of those fertile lands, so rich in the pasture, the monk Drogon de Bergues Saint Winnoq said ‘There is an island, called Walcheren, which is very rich in foodstuffs and population, where a breed of horses is found, big-sized and of remarkable spirit and strength’. Thus the Zeeland horse became well known at a very early date, and in the Middle Ages, it was used by adventurous knights in the wars they were waging and was exported to England, Germany, and the western parts of France.

From that time onwards these horses have been in great demand; in the Low Lands as draught horses; as horses of much use to the farmer in cultivating the land; as animals that could be equally useful in the army for horse artillery.
Since the beginning of the last century, this horse has been registered in the Studbook for the Dutch draught-horse, The Hague, so that each one has a number of its own. Breeders give the following details of this type:

Snub-nosed head with straight-lined profile; slightly projecting orbit; flat forehead; large, intelligent eyes; short ears, pointing forward; wide, open nostrils; broad, deep chest; close to the ground; very muscular loins, flanks wide apart; very muscular rumps and legs; strong neck of moderate length; plenty of bone with excellent feet and good carriage.

This combination, although sounding unwieldy, is, in reality, one of some elegance, and on the whole, this horse differs from the Belgian by greater elegance and a more lively carriage, while at the same time it is bigger than the horse from the Ardennes. In this way, people in Holland try to breed a horse, which, though big and heavy, is supple in its movements. It is claimed that the Zeeland Horse can bear cold and heat, possessing great adaptability under all circumstances. In character it is very suitable for work in the field, being quiet and possessed of much stamina and strength, It is a horse full of spirit, yet very easy to handle.

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