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 a 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.
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 mane 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, dead weight.
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.
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