Average Height of A Belgian Horse

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Draft horses, the gentle giants, they must be the tallest of all horses! Right? Surprisingly, not quite.  While gentle giants they are, draft horses are not always the tallest of all horse breeds. How about belgian horse height? While specifics are entirely dependent on individual horses, many draft horses are the same height as an average riding horse. 

The difference between draft horses and riding horses comes more in structure and shape than it does in height.  That being said, there are extremely tall draft horses, and sometimes breed averages for drafts do end up a little higher than that of normal riding horses.

The Belgian horse is no exception to these commonalities.  Belgians can range from “average horse” height to towering 18 and sometimes 19 hands tall.  So, how do we define the average height for draft horses, especially Belgian horses? I hope to answer that in the following paragraphs.

Average Horse Height

The smallest a horse can be is 14.2 hands tall, and it’s onwards and upwards from there! The title of the “tallest horse in the world” is heavily debated and overall unclear, but horses have been recorded as at least 20 hands tall in the past.

That being said, the average horse stands between 15 and 16 hands tall. Personally, I would argue more for the 16 hand mark. Most highly populated breeds, like the Thoroughbred and the Quarter Horse, average at about 15 or 16 hands, contributing to this standard.

Average Horse Height

Average Draft Horse Height

The average height for a draft horse is between 16 and 17 hands.  So, sure, a little bit taller, but arguably not so much as would be expected by a nickname like “gentle giants.”  But, not all draft horses fall into this 16-17 hand range.

While it is rare for a draft horse to be found at below 16 hands, it is relatively common for draft horses to measure 18 or even 19 hands tall.  Breeds such as Clydesdales and Shires are sticked (horse slang for “measured”) at 19 hands tall all the time.

So, maybe draft horses are a little bit taller, on average than a typical riding horse. But, not as much as could be expected.  So why do they feel so big? And why are they called gentle giants?

Reasons for Height Differences and Similarities

Draft horses, including Belgian horses, are built differently than riding or “light” horses.  Think of a St. Bernard dog versus a greyhound, or a Maine Coon cat versus an average housecat.  Greyhounds and average house cats can stand just as tall as these “larger” breeds. But, they differ in structure.

A great example of this is to look at a Belgian or other draft’s hooves, compared to riding horse hooves.  I’d bet that a Belgians hoof is three times the size of my Thoroughbred’s hoof! Everything about Belgians and drafts is bigger, not necessarily taller.

Reasons for Height Differences and Similarities

A draft horses’ bones are bigger, thicker, and wider than a riding horse’s bones.  Their heads are bigger and longer, their chests are wider, their haunches are thicker; everything is magnified, but this doesn’t have to mean that they are taller.

So, yes, Belgian horses are “gentle giants,” but this might not be reflected in their average height.

Average Belgian Horse Height 

The average height of a Belgian horse is about 16 hands. The range of heights of the Belgian breed is 15.3 hands- approximately 18 hands. The breed is a perfect example of draft horses not needing to be massively tall in order to be “giants.”

Belgians are historically known for being plow horses, used in agriculture.  So, naturally, they were bred to be big-boned and wide enough to wield a yoke.  This didn’t mean they needed to be necessarily tall.

But, that doesn’t mean they can’t be! The upper end of their height range is about 18 hands, which will make for a pretty tall horse.  Thankfully, Belgians aren’t just giants, they’re also gentle; so, when they are found at these taller heights, it doesn’t make them any more difficult to handle than their shorter relatives.

Average Belgian Horse Height 

Realistically, you could stand an average-sized Thoroughbred next to an average-sized Belgian and likely have horses of the exact same height.  There will always be outliers to these averages, on both ends of the averages, but it’s safe to assume you’ll find most Belgian horses will stick at about 16 hands.

Draft horses, including Belgian horses, are built differently than riding or “light” horses.  Think of a St. Bernard dog versus a greyhound, or a Maine Coon cat versus an average housecat.  Greyhounds and average house cats can stand just as tall as these “larger” breeds. But, they differ in structure.

A great example of this is to look at a Belgian or other draft’s hooves, compared to riding horse hooves.  I’d bet that a Belgians hoof is three times the size of my Thoroughbred’s hoof! Everything about Belgians and drafts is bigger, not necessarily taller.

A draft horses‘ bones are bigger, thicker, and wider than a riding horse’s bones.  Their heads are bigger and longer, their chests are wider, their haunches are thicker; everything is magnified, but this doesn’t have to mean that they are taller.

So, yes, Belgian horses are “gentle giants,” but this might not be reflected in their average height.

Variations in Belgian Horse Height

The biggest reason for the variants in Belgians’ heights is breeding.  Different Belgian breeders want to use their horses for different things or sell their horses to people who want to use them for different things.  So, naturally, they try to produce horses of different heights for different purposes.

This concept in horse breeding is relatively simple.  Think of your parents: do you have two tall parents? Two short parents? One of each?  There’s a better than average chance that you get your height from your parents, and the same is true of horses.

The same odds and breeding techniques are used for Belgian horses.  Thus, you get some Belgians that are barely 15 hands, and some who push 19 or 20 hands.  It all depends on the heights and builds of their dams and sires. But, again, a safe average is around 16 hands.

Conclusion

Gentle giants? Absolutely. Tall giants? Maybe sometimes. Belgian horses are some of the favorites of the draft breeds for their kind temperaments and docile personalities. They are also on the shorter end of the draft horse spectrum.  If this article helped you learn more about Belgians and their average height and size, please give it a share, and share with us your experiences with Belgians and other draft horses! 

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