Popular Draft Horse Breeds

The Draft breeds popular in America are commonly listed as: Clydesdales, Belgians, Percherons, Suffolk or Suffolk Punch, and the great Shire.

Probably the most recognized by non-draft folks is the Clydesdale — from the publicity the famous Annheiser-Busch teams generate. Belgians are probably the most numerous in the United States, at work in the field, in Draft shows and in pulling contests. Percherons show up wherever workhorses do — they pull, show, work, and jump! I have seen the Shire in show and ridden dressage. Less numerous in the United States are the Suffolk and American Cream Draft.


This horse traces back to the 1st-2nd century A.D., in Northwest France.  An apparent cross of Old Forest horse, Spanish, and Arab breeds, the Boulonnais may also be a Numidian descendant.

Belgian, or Brabant

The Belgian is often described as the ‘docile’ draft horse.


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The Clyde excels at its intended function, pulling drayage in city streets. Lighter than other draft breeds, the Clydesdale’s height gives it good leverage in controlling the delivery wagon. With its flashy way of going and abundant feathers taken from its Shire origins, the Clyde is popular in parades, shows, and at work.


Compared to the Belgian, the Percheron has been said to have more ‘personality’ … or more ‘attitude’, depending on the day.


In its native UK, the Shire is the big draft, between 2200 and 2600 pounds. Americans may be more familiar with a lighter type, from 1400 to 2000 pounds. The Shire has an abundance of feather with a flashy way of going that serves well in parade or show, or to pull its feet from soft ground at work.

Spotted Draft

These draft horses with pinto spotting descend from any of the draft breeds, crosses with any of the spotted light or draft breeds.

Norwegian Fjord


This small horse from the Hafling region of Austria was raised to be useful in the small work areas, and thrifty in winter. The Haflinger is a crowd pleaser at draft auctions.

Irish Draught

    This was “the horse of the countryside”, used for every type of work on small Irish farms. Not a fast horse, it developed the ability to negotiate tricky crosscountry obstacles. Often crossed with the Thoroughbred to produce the world’s best crosscountry horse, the Irish Hunter.

American Cream Draft

“An Iowa Treasure ‘Old Granny’ the first known American Cream, appeared at a farm sale in Story County, Iowa, in 1911. By approximation, her foaling date, lay somewhere between 1900 and 1905.” (according to Olkahoma State Horse Breeds information).


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