Last Updated on December 27, 2022
The words gentleness, power, and strength can easily describe what these majestic horses project but how much weight can a draft horse pull? The draft horse is a cold-blooded horse commonly found on farms all over Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is known to be the strongest type of horse.
History of Draft Horses
Several different breeds make up the draft, a horse that originated in Europe. From the 13th to 15th centuries, knights wore heavy armor and required larger, stronger horses to carry this weight. Smaller, native horses did not have the strength to carry a heavy rider over long distances.
These early war horses were known as the Great Horse. While not as quick as their cousins, the Great Horse suited the job of hardy weight carrier. As times changed, mounted soldiers no longer wore armor weighing as much as the rider themselves.
A sturdy, but the more athletic horse was needed to meet the needs of the calvary. Attention was turned to using the temperament and strength of the draft horse for farming. Focus on developing individual draft breeds flourished during the 1800s.
The draft horse worked the land on farms across Europe. They were also commonly used to pull heavy carts in cities. It wasn’t only their strength that made the draft suitable for city work, but their gentle, unflappable temperament.
The early 1900s saw the peak of the draft horse population in the United States, with 90 percent of farming and industry depending on them. In 1920, there were an estimated 26 million draft horses in the United States. The industrial revolution, particularly the period just after World War II, decimated the draft horse population.
Many draft breed numbers fell to just a few thousand. Since then, breed societies have worked tirelessly to preserve these special horses.
Draft Horse Breeds
There are over 20 different draft horse breeds, many of which you’ve probably never heard of. Here will touch on some of the more familiar draft horse breeds and their origins.
Draft Horses: An Owner’s Manual (Paperback)
The Clydesdale is arguably the most recognized draft horse breed in the world. These beautiful horses, with heavy leg feathering, and white markings, represent Budweiser beer around the United States. The Clydesdale originated in Scotland.
The Shire horse originated in England. The breed enjoys work and is less high-energy than the Clydesdale. They are famed for their ability to pull very heavy loads.
As the name indicates, the Belgian draft horse developed in Belgium. They are mostly chestnut in color, with many having flaxen manes and tails. The Belgian draft is famous for its patience, good work ethic, and calm personality.
How Much Weight Can a Draft Horse Pull
A draft horse can pull an immense weight. A single Belgian draft horse can pull up to 8,000 pounds! A team of two Belgian drafts can pull more than double what a single horse can; up to 22,000 pounds.
Today, draft horses work logging, as they cause less damage to the land and access locations more easily. A team of two draft horses can pull up to 8 tons of logs per day. These weight figures are similar to what most draft breeds can pull.
The total weight a draft horse can pull depends on the type of load. Pulling a dead weight, such as a plow for an entire day is less than what they can pull a short distance. If you add wheels, the weight hauled can increase significantly.
The terrain also influences how much weight a draft horse can pull. Pulling a carriage on a road is much easier than through a field. Rugged terrain, such as hills and rough ground encountered when pulling timber, is even harder.
Finally, the shoes the draft horse wears will help it access its full pulling capabilities. Shoes with studs, used in some circumstances, essentially act as cleats, providing traction. To put things into perspective, a team of draft horses can pull a loaded semi-truck!
Largest and Strongest Draft Horse Breeds
The Shire horse is the largest and strongest draft breed, with the Belgian and Percheron not far behind. A team of two Clydesdales can pull 18,000 pounds. The heavy muscles and weight of a draft horse make it physically possible for them to pull large loads.
The average draft horse weighs between 1,400 and 2,000 pounds. A single draft horse can pull up to 15 times its body weight.
Record Weights Pulled by a Draft Horse
History states that a team of two draft horses pulled 50 tons or 100,000 pounds in 1924. Some question the feat of pulling 50 tons, saying the weight was only 45 tons. Regardless of whether it was 50 or 45 tons, the weight these draft horses pulled is pretty mind-blowing.
Another report says that a single Shire horse in Liverpool, England managed to pull 29 tons or 58,000 pounds. More recently, in 2012, at the Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Pull competition, a team of two Belgian draft horses pulled 13,400 pounds, of dead weight.
How Much Does a Draft Horse Weight?
Draft horses are bred for heavy work, and they need to be heavyweights themselves to enable them to do this! When draft horses were the main form of transport, haulage, and farm labor, nobody would consider buying a horse that weighed in at less than 1,700 pounds.
Some draft horse breeds weigh less than this, but they would not be capable of carrying out such heavy work. The true giants of the draft horse world, used to haul incredible loads, can weigh 2,000 pounds or more.
How Many Hands is a Belgian Draft Horse?
Belgian draft horses are not the tallest type of draft horse, but they make up for this in terms of sheer power! The average height of a Belgian draft is 16 to 17 hands, making them several inches shorter than other draft breeds such as the Clydesdale.
However, the Belgian draft is one of the most muscular and powerful horse breeds you will come across – a working team of Belgian draft horses is an awe-inspiring sight! A Belgian draft can weigh up to 200 pounds more than taller draft breeds such as the iconic Shire horse.
Are Haflingers Considered Draft Horses?
When you think of draft horses, the beautiful Haflinger is not the first breed that springs to mind! But while they are much smaller and more refined than traditional draft horse breeds, in some circles the Haflinger is referred to as a draft horse.
The reason for this is that Haflingers were traditionally used for a range of roles as working horses, such as logging, hauling loads, and as pack horses. This has led to them being thought of as a light draft horses, albeit much smaller than the large, powerful draft breeds we are more familiar with.
How Tall Can a Draft Horse Get?
Draft horses are the giants of the equine world, and most of them stand between 16 and 18 hands tall. Their height combined with their incredibly strong, the muscular physique makes them ideal for carrying out slow, heavy work on farms and roads
Some draft horses are taller than this, and the tallest draft horse on record stood over 20 hands tall. That is an incredible 6 feet 10 inches – a true gentle giant!
Is an Appaloosa a Draft Horse?
Although the appaloosa may have had some draft bloodlines in the past, it is not considered to be a draft horse. The appaloosa breed is quite unusual in that the focus is mainly on the coat color of the horse, and the physical appearance has taken a back seat.
This has led to the appaloosa breed developing a diverse range of body shapes, but breed societies are tightening their rules on what is acceptable. So, although draft horses can be crossbred to breed a foal with appaloosa markings, it is not considered to be acceptable for registration with appaloosa breed societies.
Where to Buy Belgian Draft Horses?
Belgian draft horses are large horses that require enormous amounts of feed, so you need to think long and hard before deciding to buy one! If you’ve got your heart set on buying a Belgian draft horse, the best place to contact is the Belgian draft breed society in the country or region where you live.
They will be able to advise you of any Belgian draft horse breeders in your area, and also may know of horses for sale locally. It is a good idea to take an expert in this breed along with you when viewing a Belgian draft horse for sale, as they will know the key features and pitfalls to look out for.
How Long Does a Belgian Draft Horse Live?
Unfortunately, draft horses often do not have the long lifespan of their smaller equine counterparts. Belgian draft horses tend to live for 18 – 20 years, although some will survive for longer than this. Their huge body weight can make caring for an elderly Belgian draft a challenge, and they often develop medical conditions in their geriatric years that require long-term treatment and medication.
The build of a draft horse greatly influences its ability to pull heavyweights. They have broad bodies, short backs, and thick, muscular necks. The legs are short and heavily boned.
Finally, the hindquarters and overall size of the draft horse, which can reach 20 hands finish off these compact powerhouses.
Even though the size of a draft horse is intimidating, they are known as gentle giants. The term ‘horsepower’ was coined when trying to set a unit of measurement for machines. James Watt, a Scottish engineer, wanted to compare the power of the steam engine to draft horses.
The draft horse is the most powerful type of horse. Even if you don’t use them for pulling, draft horses make wonderful, loving additions to your family.
Read more about How Much Weight Can A Draft Horse Carry?
Any questions? Comment below.
Which is bigger Clydesdale or Shire?
Both Shire and Clydesdale are large horses with similar characteristics. Both are solid, well proportioned, with a gentle temperament. They are used as driving horses and have similar personalities. They both are also easy to groom, and both are easy to train. They both are very easy to ride. Both breeds are larger than standard horses, have similar proportions, and similar character. However Shires are normally a bit bigger than Clydesdales while Clydesdales are slightly more compact and less broad than Shires. Both breeds have excellent stamina and strength, but the Clydesdale is usually a little more athletic and quicker than the Shire.
Why are draft horses called draft horses?
The term draft is defined as the force required to pull a load or something that is pulled or drawn. That’s where the name “draft horse” came from. A draft horse is considered to be strong enough to draw something like a plow. So that’s what we call a draft horse because it has enough muscle to pull or to draw heavy loads. A draft horse is a type of horse used for farm work, such as pulling a plow, hay wagon or other heavy loads. They are also used for working in mines and to help harvest crops.
How long can a draft horse pull?
A draft horse is a form of domesticated horse that is used to haul loads. It is one of the most common farm animals in the world. A mature, healthy horse can pull a cart or a wagon of up to one and a half times its body weight over a long distance. While some breeds of horses can easily handle twice their body weight or more, others can only pull half that amount. To pull a cart over shorter distances, a draft horses can typically handle loads of up to five times their weight while some breeds (such as Shire) can pull much more.
What horse breed can pull the most weight?
Draft horses are the strongest and can pull the most weight. They are often used in agriculture, but are also used for recreational purposes. The use of a horse for draft purposes can be traced back to at least 3000 BC, and the horse was an important part of ancient civilizations. In ancient Greece and Rome, horses were used for the transport of goods, people, and even war. There are different breeds of draft horses, but the strongest one of all is considered to be Shire horse. They are known to be able to pull 10 to 15 times their body weight over short distances. A Shire horse also holds a world record in pulling heavy weight – the number stands at impressive 58,000 pounds of load pulled by a single horse.
How much weight can two draft horses pull?
Two horses, trained for this purpose, can pull four times as much as one single horse on it’s own. When they join forces, the tandem of horses is capable of pulling a load that weighs up to 32,000 pounds. This is an amazing example of the efficiency of teamwork, coordination, and collaboration.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.