Belgian Draft Horse vs Clydesdale. What is the Difference?

Jessica McDaniel
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Belgian Draft Horse: History

The Belgian draft horse originated from the horses bred in Belgium. They are a large sized, heavy horse with three distinct breeds.

The first horse we know of in Belgium was in the 1500's where the painting, Velazquez's "Las Meniéras," depicts one. The large white horse in the painting was a gift from the King of Spain to King Phillip II of Spain.

In the 1500's many of the men trained their war horses to pull heavy barrels of beer. This eventually turned into pulling beer from town to town.

In 1845, Philippe Lejeune passed the registration of his Belgian draft horse, Rapido, with the Dutch Warmblood Association. This made the Belgian draft horse one of the oldest registered draught breeds in the world. At the end of WWII the breed nearly became extinct due to the harsh conditions they had to endure.

To turn things around, in 1953, Ferdinand Boets was a Belgian horseman who had been breeding draught horses for decades. He established the first association for the Belgian draft horse in 1953. In 1968, the year of Ferdinand's death a new association for the Belgian draft horse was created.

Belgian Draft Horse: Color

Temperament and Carting….

The Belgian Draft Horse is also known as the Belgian Draught Horse and comes in both bays and grays although they can also be chestnut in color.

The Belgian was developed as a draft horse for farm use in the Netherlands and Belgium. He stands between 17 and 18 hands (68 to 72 inches, 172 to 183 cm) high, and weighs between 1,800 – 2,000 pounds.

Generally speaking, the Belgian has an athletic body with a long diagonal build, large, sturdy hooves, broad, flat back and an erect mane and tail.

The head is well set, large and deep with a rounded forehead, wide-set eyes, broad flat nostrils, a wide, thick, fleshy upper lip and an under jaw which is typically thicker than the upper. Also quite characteristic is the floppy lip and Roman nose seen in some individuals.

Another physical characteristic of the breed is the well-feathered fetlocks and knees.

Like most draft breeds, the Belgian is quick out of the gates when it means a move. He moves tirelessly and also has a reserve of energy allowing him to work well into the afternoon without tiring.

Size

As a general overview, the Clydesdale is larger than his Belgian cousin.

Belgian Horse

Weight: 1400 to 1600 pounds

Height:16 to 18”

Clydesdale Horse

Weight: 1400 to 2000 pounds

Height: 18 to 24”

The Belgian horse is slimmer than the Clydesdale, and he is considered a stocky horse – most people can easily lift him. This sturdiness enables the Belgian to work all day in the fields in all kinds of weather. The Belgian will carry an average weight of about 1,400 pounds, while the Clydesdale can carry upwards of 2,000 pounds.

The Clydesdale is longer in the body than the Belgian, and has a larger head.

Size and conformation do not just distinguish these two horses. The two horses also have very different types of temperament. The Belgian horse is known for his affability, which is reflected in his nickname, Gentle Giant. The more reserved Clydesdale horse tends to be more strongly opinionated in nature.

Temperament

The Belgian Draft is generally considered to be a nicer kind of horse and will handle more work without getting old before their time.

They generally get along well with a range of other horses and geldings. Some are said to be protective over their mares and foals.

Contrary to the Clydesdale, they are fairly quiet and are not known as the breeds that "talk to you". They like to work and are easy to handle in the field.

The Belgian Draft is said to be more athletic than the Clydesdale. They love to work and have wide shoulders and a long back. The Draft is more gangly looking because of the shoulder length and ability to carry more weight.

The Clydesdale is usually wider in appearance and deeper from shoulder through the chest to the rib cage.

Disciplines

  • Belgians: Belgian Draft are used in many different horse competitions including, but not limited to, harness racing, road pulling, open shows, parades, and more.
  • Clydesdales: Clydesdales are used in competitions such as, but not limited to, horse show competitions, harness racing, road pulling, open shows, parades, and more.
  • Their Size: Clydesdale, where draft breeds are concerned, are usually bigger than Belgians, measuring in at approximately 16 hands high. Belgians range from 15.1 to 15.2 hands high.
  • Colors and Coat: The Scottish and Welsh breeds of the Clydesdale can have four different colors and several different coat patterns. These colors include bay, black, grey, and sorrel. Other colors are found only in the Belgians, which include chestnut, dun, gray, and roan.
  • Feet: Belgians tend to have smaller feet than the Clydesdale.
  • Their History: Both breeds of horses are considered British breeds.
  • Temperament: Clydesdales are known for being calm and quiet and are best for general riding purposes. Belgians originally were used as war horses for the army and as working animals for farming and agriculture. They were bred to be more spirited and bold, and have adapted well to dressage.

Conclusion

At first glance, you may be easily fooled into thinking that the Belgian Draft horses and Clydesdale are the same horse. In realty, the two breeds come from different origins and were used for very different purposes. You can even have a Belgian Draft horse cross with a Clydesdale!

What is interesting is that in North America, the Belgian Draft breed is quite popularly used as a driving horse, but its popularity comes from the fact that the breed is already known for an endurance trot and it is sometimes mistakenly classified as a Clydesdale. Around the world, the Belgian Draft horse is used in agriculture for riding and pulling carts.

The Clydesdale, on the other hand, is a breed of draft horse that was first bred in the 19th century in Scotland and is known for its docility and disposition. It is relatively lighter in build than the Belgian Draft, and also less hardy. In the U.S., the breed was used as one of the main draft breeds, and it played a very important role in the American Civil War as it provided transportation for cannons and supplies to long, far off battlefields.