Draft horse breeds
A draft horse is a large horse breed for hard, heavy tasks . There are a number of different draft 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, and other recreational uses. They are also commonly used for crossbreeding, especially to light riding breeds such as the Thoroughbred for the purpose of creating sport horses. While most draft horses are used for driving, they can be ridden and some of the lighter draft breeds are capable performers under saddle.
Draft horses are recognizable by their tall stature and extremely muscular body. They tend to have a more upright shoulder, producing more upright movement and conformation that is well-suited for pulling. They tend to have short backs with very 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. Draft breeds range from approximately 16 to 19 hands high and from 1,400 to 2,000 lb (910 kg).
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.
Draft horses may have originated with primitive ancestors such as the Forest Horse and the "draft subtype”. These wild prototypes were adapted by natural selection to the cold, damp climates of northern Europe.
Humans domesticated 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.
There also were working farm horses of more phlegmatic temperaments used for pulling military wagons or performing ordinary farm 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 probably has the closest ties to the medieval war horse.
By the nineteenth 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 to support the military effort.
Today draft horses are most often seen at shows, pulling competition and entered in competitions called "heavy horse" trials, or as exhibition animals pulling large wagons. However, they are still seen on some smaller farms in the USA and Europe. Crossbred draft horses also played a significant role in the development of a number of warmblood breeds, popular today in international FEI competition up to the Olympic Equestrian level.