Draft horse

Draft horse

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A draft horse draught horse (UK) or dray horse (from the Old English dragan meaning to draw or haul; compare Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 dragen meaning to carry), less often called a work horse or heavy horse, is a large horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 bred for hard, heavy tasks such as ploughing and farm
Farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

 labour. There are a number of different breeds, with varying characteristics but all share common traits of strength, patience, and a docile temperament which made them indispensable to generations of pre-industrial farmers.

Draft horses and draft crossbreds are versatile breeds used today for a multitude of purposes, including farming, show
Draft horse showing
Draft horse showing refers to horse shows exclusively for horses of the draft horse breeds. In North America, though a small number of draft horses are also shown under saddle, the term "Draft horse showing" refers to a specific horse show competition that primarily features driving exhibitors...

, logging, recreation, and other uses. They are also commonly used for crossbreeding, especially to light riding breeds such as the Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

 for the purpose of creating sport horse
Sport horse
Sport horse, or Sporthorse, is a term used to describe a type of horse, rather than any particular breed. The term generally refers to horses bred for the traditional Olympic equestrian sporting events of dressage, eventing, show jumping, and combined driving. The precise definition varies...

s. While most draft horses are used for driving
Driving (horse)
Driving, when applied to horses, ponies, mules, or donkeys, is a broad term for hitching equines to a wagon, carriage, cart, sleigh, or other horse-drawn vehicle by means of a harness and working them in this way...

, they can be ridden and some of the lighter draft breeds are capable performers under saddle.

Characteristics



Draft horses are recognizable by their tall stature and extremely muscular build. In general, they tend to have a more upright shoulder, producing more upright movement and conformation
Equine conformation
Equine conformation evaluates the degree of correctness of a horse's bone structure, musculature, and its body proportions in relation to each other. Undesirable conformation can limit the ability to perform a specific task. Although there are several universal "faults," a horse's conformation is...

 that is well-suited for pulling. They tend to have broad, short backs with powerful hindquarters, again best suited for the purpose of pulling. Additionally, the draft breeds usually have heavy bone, and a good deal of feathering on their lower legs. Many have a straight profile or "Roman nose" (a convex profile). Draft breeds range from approximately 16 to 19 hands high and from 1400 pound.

Draft horses crossbred on light riding horses adds height and weight to the ensuing offspring, and may increase the power and "scope" of the animal's movement.

History


Humans domesticated
Domestication of the horse
There are a number of hypotheses on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were truly wild horses and were probably hunted for meat. How and when horses became domesticated is disputed...

 horses and needed them to perform a variety of duties. One type of horse-powered work was the hauling of heavy loads, plowing fields, and other tasks that required pulling ability. A heavy, calm, patient, well-muscled animal was desired for this work. Conversely, a light, more energetic horse was needed for riding
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 and rapid transport. Thus, to the extent possible, a certain amount of selective breeding
Selective breeding
Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular genetic traits. Typically, strains that are selectively bred are domesticated, and the breeding is sometimes done by a professional breeder. Bred animals are known as breeds, while bred plants are known as varieties,...

 was used to develop different types of horse for different types of work.
While it is a common misunderstanding that the Destrier
Destrier
The destrier is the best-known war horse of the medieval era. It carried knights in battles, tournaments, and jousts. It was described by contemporary sources as the Great Horse, due to its size and reputation....

 that carried the armoured knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 had the size and conformation of a modern draft horse, and some of these Medieval war horses
Horses in the Middle Ages
Horses in the Middle Ages differed in size, build and breed from the modern horse, and were, on average, smaller. They were also more central to society than their modern counterparts, being essential for war, agriculture, and transport....

 may have provided some bloodlines for some of the modern draft breeds, the reality was that the high-spirited, quick-moving Destrier was closer to the size, build, and temperament of a modern Andalusian
Andalusian horse
The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE , is a horse breed developed in the Iberian Peninsula. Its ancestors have been present on the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years. The Andalusian has been recognized as an individual breed since the 15th century, and its conformation...

 or Friesian
Friesian horse
The Friesian is a horse breed originating in Friesland, Netherlands. Although the breed's conformation resembles that of a light draft horse, Friesians are graceful and nimble for their size. During the Middle Ages, it is believed that the ancestors of Friesian horses were in great demand as war...

. There also were working farm horses
Working animal
A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide or service dogs, or they may be animals trained strictly to perform a job, such as logging elephants. They may also be used for milk, a...

 of more phlegmatic temperaments used for pulling military wagons or performing ordinary farm
Farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

 work also provided bloodlines of the modern draft horse. Records indicate that even medieval drafts were not as large as those today. Of the modern draft breeds, the Percheron
Percheron
The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Perche valley in northern France. Percherons are usually gray or black in color. They are well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work. Although their exact origins are unknown, the ancestors of the breed were...

 probably has the closest ties to the medieval war horse.
By the 19th century, horses weighing more than 1600 pounds that also moved at a quick pace were in demand. Tall stature, muscular backs, and powerful hindquarters made the draft horse a source of “horsepower” for farming, hauling freight and moving passengers, particularly before railroads came on the scene. Even in the 20th century, draft horses were used for practical work, including over half a million used during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 to support the military effort.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, thousands of draft horses were imported from Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 into the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Percheron
Percheron
The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Perche valley in northern France. Percherons are usually gray or black in color. They are well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work. Although their exact origins are unknown, the ancestors of the breed were...

s came from France, Belgians
Belgian (horse)
The Belgian Draft horse or Belgian, also known as Belgian Heavy Horse, Brabançon, or Brabant, is a draft horse breed from the Brabant region of modern Belgium, where it is called the or Flemish: . It is one of the strongest of the heavy breeds...

 from Belgium, Shires
Shire horse
The Shire horse is a breed of draught horse or draft horse . The breed comes in many colours, including black, bay and grey. They are a tall breed, with mares standing and over and stallions standing and over. The breed has an enormous capacity for weight pulling, and Shires have held the world...

 from England, Clydesdales from Scotland. Many American draft registries
Breed registry
A breed registry, also known as a stud book or register, in animal husbandry and the hobby of animal fancy, is an official list of animals within a specific breed whose parents are known. Animals are usually registered by their breeders when they are still young...

 were founded in the late 19th century. The Percheron, with 40,000 broodmares registered as of 1915, was America’s most numerous draft breed at the turn of the 20th century. A breed developed exclusively in the U.S. was the American Cream Draft
American Cream Draft
The American Cream Draft is a rare draft horse breed, the only such breed developed in the United States that is still in existence. It is known for its cream color and amber eyes, produced by the champagne gene. The only other color found in the breed is chestnut, and the cream color produced by...

, which had a stud book established by the 1930s.

Beginning in the late 19th century, and with increasing mechanization in the 20th century, especially following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 in the USA and after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in Europe, the popularity of the internal combustion engine, and particularly the tractor
Tractor
A tractor is a vehicle specifically designed to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, for the purposes of hauling a trailer or machinery used in agriculture or construction...

, reduced the need for the draft horse. Many were sold to slaughter for horsemeat and a number of breeds went into significant decline.

Today draft horses are most often seen at shows
Draft horse showing
Draft horse showing refers to horse shows exclusively for horses of the draft horse breeds. In North America, though a small number of draft horses are also shown under saddle, the term "Draft horse showing" refers to a specific horse show competition that primarily features driving exhibitors...

, pulling competition
Horse pulling
Horse pulling is a draft horse competition where horses in harness, usually one or two animals, pull a stone-boat or weighted sled and the winner is the team or animal that can pull the most weight for a short distance....

 and entered in competitions called "heavy horse" trials, or as exhibition animals pulling large wagon
Wagon
A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals; it was formerly often called a wain, and if low and sideless may be called a dray, trolley or float....

s. However, they are still seen on some smaller farms in the USA and Europe. They are particularly popular with groups such as Amish
Amish
The Amish , sometimes referred to as Amish Mennonites, are a group of Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches...

 and Mennonite
Mennonite
The Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after the Frisian Menno Simons , who, through his writings, articulated and thereby formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders...

 farmers, as well as those individuals who wish to farm with a renewable source of power. Crossbred draft horses also played a significant role in the development of a number of warmblood
Warmblood
Warmbloods are a group of middle-weight horse types and breeds, primarily originating in Europe, registered with organizations that are characterized by open studbook policy, studbook selection, and the aim of breeding for equestrian sport...

 breeds, popular today in international FEI
FEI
FEI may refer to:* Financial Executives International , an American organization for senior-level financial executives* FEI Company, a supplier of electron microscopy tools...

 competition up to the Olympic Equestrian
Equestrian at the Summer Olympics
Equestrianism made its Summer Olympics debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. It disappeared until 1912, but has appeared at every Summer Olympic Games since. The current Olympic equestrian disciplines are Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping...

 level.

Mackinac Island


In America's Upper Midwest, Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is an island and resort area covering in land area, part of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located in Lake Huron, at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, between the state's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The island was home to a Native American settlement before European...

 banned the personal motorized vehicle in order to protect the draft horses in the late 19th century and again in the 1920s. Today, the ban is still in effect and Belgians, Percherons, Hackneys and other large breeds continue to serve the community and the tourists who visit each season. Everything is moved by drays and people get around on horse drawn taxis, elaborate private carriages and also by bicycle.

Care of draft horses


Feeding, caring for and shoeing
Horseshoe
A horseshoe, is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse's hoof from wear and tear. Shoes are attached on the palmar surface of the hooves, usually nailed through the insensitive hoof wall...

 a one-ton purebred draft is costly. The draft horse’s metabolism is often similar to that of ponies
Pony
A pony is a small horse . Depending on context, a pony may be a horse that is under an approximate or exact height at the withers, or a small horse with a specific conformation and temperament. There are many different breeds...

 in that draft horses have lower needs per bodyweight than light horse breeds, but because of their size, most are fed a significant amount of feed and hay per day. A grain feeding of only 0.3% of body weight is all drafts need. Drafts not subjected to extreme energy demands can do well on good quality grass.

World record


The Shire horse
Shire horse
The Shire horse is a breed of draught horse or draft horse . The breed comes in many colours, including black, bay and grey. They are a tall breed, with mares standing and over and stallions standing and over. The breed has an enormous capacity for weight pulling, and Shires have held the world...

 holds the record for the world's biggest horse; Sampson, foaled in 1846 in Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.It borders Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the south-east....

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, stood 21.2½ hands high
Hand (unit)
The hand is a non-SI unit of measurement of length, now used only for the measurement of the height of horses in some English-speaking countries, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. With origins in ancient Egypt, it was originally based on the breadth of a human hand...

 (i.e. 7 ft 2½in or approx 2.2m at his withers, and weighed approx 3300 lb (1,496.9 kg) or over 1.5 tons.

Breeds



A number of horse breeds are used as draft horses, with the popularity of a given breed often closely linked to geographic location.

Harness Horses


The terms harness horse and light harness horse refer to horses of a lighter build, such as traditional carriage
Carriage
A carriage is a wheeled vehicle for people, usually horse-drawn; litters and sedan chairs are excluded, since they are wheelless vehicles. The carriage is especially designed for private passenger use and for comfort or elegance, though some are also used to transport goods. It may be light,...

 horses and show horses
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

, and are not terms generally used to denote "heavy" or draught horses. Harness horse breeds include Heavy warmblood
Heavy warmblood
The Heavy Warmbloods are a group of horse breeds primarily from continental Europe. The title includes the Ostfriesen and Alt-Oldenburger , Groningen, and similar horses from Silesia, Saxony-Thuringia, and Bavaria...

 breeds such as the Oldenburg
Oldenburg (horse)
The Oldenburg is a warmblood horse from the north-western corner of Lower Saxony, what was formerly the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. The breed was built on a mare base of all-purpose farm and carriage horses, today called the Alt-Oldenburger...

 and Cleveland Bay
Cleveland Bay
The Cleveland Bay is a breed of horse that originated in England during the 17th century, named after its colouring and the Cleveland district of Yorkshire. It is a well-muscled horse, with legs that are strong but short in relation to the body. The horses are always bay in colour, although a...

, as well as lighter breeds such as the Hackney
Hackney (horse)
The Hackney Horse is a recognized breed of horse that was developed in Great Britain. In recent decades, the breeding of the Hackney has been directed toward producing horses that are ideal for carriage driving. They are an elegant high stepping breed of carriage horse that is popular for showing...

, and in some disciplines, such as combined driving
Combined driving
Combined driving also known as Horse Driving Trials is an equestrian sport involving carriage driving. In this discipline the driver sits on a vehicle drawn by a single horse, a pair or a team of four. The sport has three phases: Dressage, Cross-country Marathon and Obstacle Cone Driving and is...

, light riding breeds such as the Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

 or Morgan
Morgan horse
The Morgan is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to the stallion Figure, later named Justin Morgan after his best-known owner, the breed excels in many disciplines, and is known for its versatility....

may be seen.

External links