Belgian Draft Horse vs Clydesdale. What is the Difference?

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Two of the equestrian world’s most famous gentle giants are the Belgian Draft horse and the Clydesdale.  Both draft breeds have qualities in common and qualities that are unique to themselves. 

Thus in this article, I will explore the similarities and differences in these breeds in terms of coloring and patterns, size, temperament, and more.  Who would win in the battles, the Belgian Draft Horse Vs. Clydesdale?  

Belgian Draft Horse: History

One way that these two breeds obviously differ is in their origins. The Clydesdale is originally from Scotland, where it was named after the River Clyde, and the old district of Clydesdale in Lanarkshire. Similar to other draft breeds, such as the Shire and the Percheron, the Clydesdale was used for both agriculture and war in the 1800’s.  

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On the other hand, the Belgian Draft obviously originated in Belgium, and, similar to the Clydesdale, was used for battles and farming in its early days. Thus the similarity between these two breeds is in the purpose they served at their origin, and the difference is in the location of their origin. 

Belgian Draft Horse: Color

Clydesdales and Belgians can vary greatly in color because Clydesdales are famously rich bay color with flashy white feathers.  Clydesdales are acceptable in solid bay colors and are also acceptable in sabino pinto bay colors. These markings often appear to be extensions of their tall socks and feathers, and the spots often extend up to their legs and onto their bellies. 

Belgians, however, only come in solid colors. These can include any variation of bay, gray, or black.  But, the Belgian is most famous for its “blonde” coloring, which, in more technical terms, is called sorrel. 

Belgian Draft Horse: Color

Not only do Belgians have a chestnut coat (ranging in hues) with a very light, blonde-like mane and tail, they often frequently carry the “mealy gene,” which causes their noses to be significantly lighter than normal. 

To you and I, their nose would look similar to that of a mule or donkey, with a much lighter gray or tan coloring than the average horse. 

Size

Size is also a distinguishing factor between the Clydesdale and the Belgian.  On average, a Belgian Draft will stand between 16-18 hands tall. This is about the height of a normal riding horse.  Clydesdales, however, can stand taller than 18 hands. In fact, in 2009, there was a Clydesdale horse named Poe who stood 20.2 hands. Poe’s photograph can be seen below.  

Temperament

I have often used the phrase “gentle giants” to describe the draft horses I write about, the Clydesdale and the Belgian inclusive.  This is because they are, indeed, very gentle, and calm breeds. They both have a fantastic temperament that makes them extremely easy to work with.  Both the Clydesdale and the Belgian are very willing horses with great work ethics. 

Draft horses are known for being gentle and calm because the only thing they really fear are animals their own size.  This eliminates the “spooking” issue that many riding horses have. Belgians and Clydesdales aren’t afraid of much, and are always willing to do what is asked of them.

Temperament

One notable difference in temperament between the Clydesdale and the Belgian Draft is the importance of respect.  Belgian draft horse is willing to listen, no matter who is handling them. Clydesdales can be a little more picky; Clydesdales will respond better to someone that they are familiar with and that they trust.

Clydesdales can also be more spirited than Belgians.  While both breeds are typically very easy-going, certain circumstances can excite Clydesdales, as they remain gentle and easy to handle, but can get excited, if the situation presents itself.

Disciplines 

When Clydesdales and Belgian Drafts originated, they served a similar purpose.  They were war animals and they were farmers; they carried soldiers into war and also plowed fields.  Today, both of those jobs are done by machines, and the two breeds have found new jobs.

Today, for instance, the Belgian Draft Horse is most commonly used for driving.  If you have ever ridden in a horse-drawn carriage on vacation, there’s a good chance your horse was a Belgian Draft. Belgians are great carriage horses and can pull extremely heavy loads.  Sometimes they are even used in pulling competitions, where teams of horses are judged on the heavy loads they can pull.

Belgians, along with the Percheron, are also used as police or security horses.  This is because, First-responder groups need horses that aren’t fearful of stressful, crowded, or noisy situations.  They also need horses that are steady on their feet enough to balance on cement and, in some cases, resist physical pressures.  It’s no surprise that their first choice for the job is a draft horse, frequently a Belgian or a Belgian cross. 

Belgians also cross with thoroughbreds and warmbloods to produce various types of sport horses.  These Belgian crosses can excel at eventing, foxhunting, dressage, and more.

Today, Clydesdales are often used in parades and exhibits, where the Clydesdale breed shows are gaining popularity.  Clydesdales that compete in these shows are judged on conformation, color, and other characteristics that contribute to the breed standard.

Conclusion

Clydesdales and Belgian Draft horses are both beautiful, gentle giants of the horse world.  But, they have many differences. Just like cats or dogs, all breeds are different. Even though most people try to interchange their similarities, they will always be a little bit of difference.  

I hope this article helped solve the mystery behind Belgian Draft Horse Vs. Clydesdale for you! If it did, or if you have any questions, please feel free to comment and share your draft horse stories with us!


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