Draft Horses & Mules
All heavy draft breeds trace their origins from northern Europe where for the most part they were bred for warfare. They were the heavy chargers that carried armored knights into battle until the British long bow and later gunpowder made that type of combat obsolete. With massive bulk and strength it was a natural transition to use them on farms and docks. Five of the breeds gained popularity in North America following the Civil War.
The Belgian is one of the heaviest draft horses originating in Belgium where the government promotes their breeding and development. The stallions which stand for public service must be approved by a commission appointed by the government. In this country the Belgian sire has been valuable in improving the draft conformation of our horse stock.
Belgians are the most compact of all breeds, their bodies being short, wide and deep. They average 17 hands in height and their temperment is docile and easily handled. Colors that are common to the Belgian are bay, chestnut, sorrel and roan, but browns, grays and blacks are occasionally seen. A color that is very popular is the light sorrel known as the blond. They often have white marking on the face and feet.
The Clydesdale originated in Scotland and takes its name from the river Clyde which flows through the district from which they came.
No other draft breed equals the Clydesdale in style and action. The prompt walk with a good, long, snappy stride and a sharp trot with hocks well flexed and carried close together are characteristic of this breed. Other characteristic features of the Clydesdale are the fine feathers at the back of the legs below the knees and hocks, and the white markings on the face, feet and legs. Clydesdales are not as heavy as other breeds of draft horses. They average about 16.3 hands in height.The most common colors are bay and brown with white markings, but blacks, grays, chestnuts and roans are occasionally seen.
The Percheron originated in France and has been developed in a small district in the northwestern part of that country known as Perche. They were originally bred as war horses; but are now used for heavy draft work.
Percheron horses were introduced into the United States in the 1800's. One of the early stallions was imported in 1851 by an Ohio firm.
The Percheron ranks second in popularity in the United States. They have good action in both the trot and walk. The trot is characterized by a snap and boldness not ordinarily displayed by most of the other draft breeds.
The colors most common to Percherons are black and gray with dapple, although bays, browns, chestnuts and roans are occasionally seen.
The Shire was developed in the country known as "the fens" in the east of England. Today the Shire is being bred throughtout most of England and the United States.
The Shire is a massive horse with a wide, deep and long body. They are known to be the tallest of all draft breeds. Shire stallions in fair condition weighing 2000 pounds or over are relatively common and their height can range from 16.1 to 19 hands.
The most common colors are bay and brown with white markings, although blacks, grays, chestnuts and roans are occasionally seen.
Shires and Clydesdales are often easily confused, but there are clear differences. The Shire is more massive, heavier boned throughout, and the feather or long hair on the legs is more abundant and course than that of the Clydesdale.
The Suffolk is the least numerous of the five draft breeds in the United States. This breed was developed in East Anglia, the counties of Norwich and Suffolk England.
There is much that is unique in the Suffolk. It is the only breed that is without exception, true to one color. All Suffolks are chestnut. Usually there is little or no white markings.
The Suffolk is also unique in that it is the only one of the five breeds that was developed expressly for farm work.
Characteristically the whole appearance of the Suffolk is a pleasant, roundly modeled whole that pertains, like the singleness of color, to no other breed. The average height of the Suffolk is about 16 hands.
The American Cream is the only draft breed to originate in the United States. The breed descended from a draft type mare with an outstanding cream color. The ideal American Cream is a medium cream color with white mane and tail, pink skin and amber eyes. Some white markings are also very desirable. Pink skin is the determining factor in securing this rich cream color. Dark-skinned Creams often do not have a satisfactory color. Further when mated with other Creams, they generally produce too light or nearly white offspring. Therefore, the most sought after strain of American Creams has always carried the pink skin trait. These vary but little in color throughout the year and the white markings contrast beautifully with their rich cream color.
The amber eyes are also an unusual and distinguishing trait of the American Creams. The colts are foaled with nearly white eyes. In a short time they begin to darken and by maturity have turned to an amber color.
The American Cream draft horse may be classified as a medium draft type. In the beginning, American Creams weighed perhaps less than 1,400 pounds, but their weight increased until by 1950 some mares weighed 1,600 to 1,800 pounds and some stallions weighed a ton or more. Early breeders attributed this size increased to selective breeding of the most promising American Creams to outstanding animals of other breeds. Height ranges from 15.1 to 16.3 hands. With their type and action, they make good show horses and also are of a size that fits into the average person’s plans.
A characteristic of these horses, which makes a lasting impression on those who have handled them, is their good disposition. The person who keeps a team wants one not only trustworthy, but one in which they can take pride as well. They will, therefore, be pleased to note the uniformity in color and type of the American Creams, making for easily matched teams.
The mule is a hybrid, resulting from the mating of a mare and a jack.
The mule is longer and narrower in the body, has lighter bone, and smaller, more narrow feet than the draft horse. He is less nervous in temperament than the horse, is tougher, stands hot weather better, and endures hardship and rough treatment better than the horse.
The draft mule needs to maintain a basic pleasing drafty appearance with the body parts put together to indicate as much quality and smoothness as possible. His body may appear a little higher off the ground than we ordinarily associate with the draft animal. The draft mule will stand anywhere from 15 to 17 hands in height, and weigh from 1200 to 1600 pounds.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 15 November 2011 11:08)
Are you new to horses? If so, you may wonder what all those terms mean. Here is an attempt to define some of them.
Sex and Age
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Last Updated (Tuesday, 15 November 2011 11:12)