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The Brabrant Draft horse was called the Flanders Horse during the Middle Ages and was instrumental in the evolution of the English great Horse and later, in the development of the Shire. It was the basis of the Clydesdale and had a large effect upon the Suffolk Punch as well as the Irish Draught Horse.
The Brabant was bred with great care to suit the traditional agricultural sills of Belgium, its climate, its rich, heavy soil and the economic and social reliance upon the land. Known as the Belgian Draft Horse in Europe, the Brabants take their name from the area of Belgium where it was developed.
The Brabant breed is ancient and likely to be directly descended from the even older Ardennais and therefore from the primitive foundation of the European heavy horse breed the Forest or Diuvial Horse. These massive horses were known to the Romans and received honorable mention in Julius Caesar’s De Bello Gallico as most willing and untiring workers.
Principally bred in Brabant, these horses have been distinguished 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, excluding foreign blood and occasionally inbreeding.
By 1870 there were three main Brabant groupings, based on bloodlines rather than differences in conformation:
1) The lines are those of Orange 1, founder of the massive Gros de la Dendre line; 2) Bayard, founder of the Gris du Hainaut, which produced sorrels and red roans; 3) and Jean 1 who founded the Colosses de la Mehaique.
The Brabant is thick set and compact. The Colosses de la Mehaique line is particularly noted for the great strength of the short back and loins. Brabants stand between 16.2 and 17 hands.
The head is small in proportion to the body, square and somewhat plain, but the expression is intelligent and kindly. The profile is straight or slightly concave, the ears small. A short, thick, powerful neck joins withers and shoulders of similar proportions making the horse ideal for every sort of heavy draft purpose.
Power is the hallmark of this massive breed and it is exemplified in the deep girth and compact body that goes with the Brabant traditional strength of constitution. The breed is noted for the extreme strength and hardness of its short limbs. Soundness of limb was a feature in all of the three principal lines.
The huge, powerful quarters of the Brabant are distinctively rounded and the croup is characteristically double muscled. The flanks are often slightly hollow. Short, extremely strong legs usually terminate in a good deal of feather. The hooves are of medium size and well formed. Colors vary from line to line. Bays, duns and grays occur, but red roan with black points, sorrels and chestnuts predominate.
SAME HORSE WITH DIFFERENT NAMES
The Brabant was bred also in Denmark, Luxembourg and Germany. While little known in Britain it has developed in America as the now famous Belgian with somewhat different conformation and is predominantly chestnut with flaxen manes and tails. The American horse is taller, more stylish and has more slope to the shoulder than does the original Brabant of Europe.
In various countries in Europe the breed is known by different names. In northern Belgium, the name is Belgisch Trekpaard, while in southern Belgium it is the Cheval de trait Belge or Brabancon. In Holland it is the Nederland Trekpaard and in France, the Cheval Trait du Nord.
In farming and in war the draft horse was indispensable. The decline of interest in large draft horses after World War II nearly meant the extinction of all draft breeds, but numbers are increasing steadily again as interest in owning and driving heavy horses continues to expand, also there is the ongoing meat production market in Europe as well as warmblood horse types based on combining old and new blood. Associations to preserve the older, established Brabant exist in Belgium and American.