What is a Draft Horse?

A draft horse was bred to be strong.

A draft horse is a horse that has been bred to be extremely strong, allowing the horse to handle heavy work, such as pulling a plow or a fully loaded cart, a type of large open cart used to transport things like barrels of beer and wine. Draft horses are quite recognizable because they tend to be extremely large; some famous draft horse breeds include Shires, Percherons, Vanner Horses, Belgians and Clydesdales. Americans may be very familiar with Clydesdales because these draft horses are famous for being used in Budweiser beer advertising.

The draft horse probably originated in Europe.

The draft horse appears to have originated in Europe, and many draft horse breeds are hundreds of years old. Some biologists support the “four fundamentals” theory of horse breeding, which suggests that modern horses evolved from four different populations of horses, in which case draft horses are likely descended from the imaginatively named draft horse type. These horses have been used in a wide variety of environments, from farms to urban environments, for hundreds of years, and were once the main source of energy for humans, before the advent of the motor.

A horse’s physical constitution is known as its “conformation”. A number of things about a draft horse’s conformation set it apart from other horses. Draft horses are quite large, of course, and tend to have short bodies with very muscular hindquarters designed for pulling. They tend to have a Roman nose, with broad, flat faces that some people find endearing, and draft horses also have very strong shoulders and front legs.

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In addition to being bred to be strong, the draft horse was also bred to have an ideal temperament for the job. Draft horses are extremely kind and very friendly; children can ride them and play around their feet without fear, for example. They are also docile and very patient; some well-trained draft horses will resist when warned without needing to be tethered, for example, a very useful feature on horses used for deliveries.

Despite their heavy build, many draft horses are very graceful and beautiful. Many breeds have feathered feet, meaning they have tufts of long hair above their hooves, and are often something to see in action, as many breeds have a high, flowing gait. These gentle giants continue to be used for agricultural work in many regions of the world, and some become beloved pets as well as revered work animals.

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