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The Belgian Draft Horse is noted for its solid draft horse characteristics, being the widest, deepest, most compact, most massive, and lowest set of any draft breed.
The Belgian Draft Horse was originally bred in Brabant and they are known by that name although they are also referred to as race de trait Belge. The breeders of this horse produced exceptional qualities through stringent selection and occasional in-breeding, excluding foreign blood.
This breed is likely to be directly descended from the even older Ardennais and in this way also descends from the primitive foundation of European heavy draft breed, the Forest or Diluvial Horse (massive horses known to the Romans and cited by Julius Caesar as the most willing and untiring of workers).
The Belgian Draft horse, or Brabant, was called the Flanders Horse in the Middle Ages and has been of utmost importance as it was instrumental in:
1) the evolution of the English Great Horse; 2) the development of the Shire; 3) formed the basis of the Clydesdale; 4) had a large effect upon the Suffolk Punch: 5) and was also an influence on the Irish Draft horse.
Even today this breed is directly and exclusively descended from the old Flemish ancestry, indigenous to the country of its origin, with no influx of Oriental blood, and the great massiveness of the breed more nearly resembles the Flemish horse than does any other breed.
The Belgian Draft Horse Society was founded in 1866. In their native country, breeding was promoted by the governments, which annually awarded prizes and subsidies to the best animals in the various provinces. Also stallions that stood for public service had to be approved by a commission appointed by the government. Belgians were bred with great care to suit the traditional agricultural skills of the country and climate, with its rich, heavy soil and the socio-economic reliance upon the land. The action of the breed is not as high and stylish as some, but it is practical in relation to its original purpose.
THREE BLOODLINE GROUPINGS
By 1870, there were three main Belgian Draft Horse or Brabant groupings based on bloodlines rather than conformational differences.
1) The lines were Orange I, founder of the massive Gros de la Dendre line; 2) Bayard, founder of the Gris du Hainaut line which produced sorrels and red roans; 3) and Jean I who found the Colosses de la Mehaique line, particularly noted for great strength, short back and loins.
Standing between 16 and 17 hands in height the huge powerful quarter are distinctively rounded and the croup is double muscled. Mature stallions weight 1900 to 2200 pounds or more. The Belgian Draft Horse is noted for its solid draft horse characteristics, being the widest, deepest, most compact, most massive, and lowest set of any draft breed, with short but very strong legs, with feathering. The action is powerful though less springy and high than is found in the Clydesdale and Percheron. Because of their great width in front, many Belgians roll or paddle somewhat.
The expression in the eye is intelligent and kind, with a head small in proportion to the body, and somewhat square and plain. Colors vary from line to line, but sorrels and chestnuts are more plentiful, although there are certainly bays, duns, grays and red roans with black points.
The Belgian Draft Horse is extremely quiet, docile and patient. Although not fulfilling the huge past role as a farm horse, or daily performing all the many needed jobs they once did, the breed is valued in hitch at shows around the world, in parades and at local horse pulling contests. They are also cross bred to produce sport horses, and riding horses. The Gentle Giants from Belgium remain dear to the hearts of man.