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The 15 Best Work & Draft Horse Breeds

By Alex Verwest


Updated on

While the world has changed a lot over the past hundred years or so, one thing that has remained a constant within our history is our close relationship with our horses.

Regardless of whether you want a pet horse or if you want one to win a competition of any kind, you will need to pick out your breed properly so that you don’t end up regretting your choice later on.

While you can still get a loveable pet horse no matter the breed you picked out for yourself though, one thing that you need to keep in mind is that if you are looking for a work horse you will need to get one that can properly get the job done.

As such, when looking to get yourself a good work horse, you will need to opt for a good draft horse breed, that can push and pull anything that you need moved around for you.

So, in this short guide we will offer you our very own top 15 list of the absolute best draft horse breeds out there that can really elevate your homestead to the next level.

Why You Should Get a Draft Horse

Draft Horse Breeds
Draft horses / Photo by Jessica Rockeman / pixabay.com

We should give you a brief disclaimer here though, that while most farmhouses out there prefer to rely on mechanized power instead of actually using horses, there are still plenty of advantages that come from using real “horsepower” too.

One such advantage is the fact that draft horses aren’t just meant to be used for work alone, they can also be ridden around in show rings, or they can even be used for hunter / jumper events every now and then.

In order to pull those massive weights, the horses will also need to be properly massive, and luckily size is everything when purchasing yourself a draft horse.

You may think that they look like giants on their own, but what really separates horses from most other animals out there is that they can easily pull more than twice their own weight, making them quite proficient at getting the job done.

So, regardless of whether you need your horse for tilling, plowing, or just pulling stuff around, a proper draft horse will do it all with ease no matter the task at hand.

Another great advantage that we can’t skip out on is the fact that machineries will always be heavier than the horse itself, meaning that if you want to travel through the forest, or over your own fields, you will need to watch out so that you don’t tear up or just compact the soil around while doing so.

Horses may look massive and while the great majority of them are fairly large gentle giants, you also have a few draft horse breeds that are on the smaller side, which makes them perfect for the aforementioned job.

“Gentle giants” is the perfect term to refer to them by, and as such we just can’t help but recommend them any day of the week, to anyone looking for a good work horse out there. But anyways, without further ado, let’s just jump right into the first breed we have in store for you today, aka:

15. Norwegian Fjord Horse

Norwegian Fjord Horse
Norwegian Fjord Horse / Photo by Tomasz Sienicki / wikipedia.org

Being one of the top Scandinavian horse breeds right here, the Fjord horse is pretty much reigning supreme over most of its competition, due to its versatility and overall power, despite being quite small for a draft horse.

You are looking at a horse breed that is only around 13.1 to 14.3 hands in height, but when it comes to its overall strength, we would argue that it is actually anything but modest, considering the fact that it can easily pull as much as two times his weight.

Color wise you are looking at a brown dun horse, and while there are multiple other colored variations you could go for, none of them are officially recognized so you won’t be able to enter any competition with them.

14. Russian Heavy Draft Horse

Russian Heavy Draft Horse
Russian Heavy Draft Horse / stableexpress.com

This is yet another small yet strong competitor, that was first bred in Russia around the 19th century or so. The Russian Heavy Draft was originally meant to be a simple working horse, but soon after the breeders realized the fact that the milk from the mares is very delicious and easy to come by. This was very good for them because of the high demand for milk on the open market.

Considering just how important mare’s milk is for multiple different diets, it’s no wonder that the breed became very popular across Central Asia, becoming a staple of their cuisine to this day.

One thing we should mention here too is the fact that they are also quite popular for their meat, and while this is a bit of a taboo subject in most places around the world, it is still a good way for you to make a profit if you want to do so.

13. Haflinger Horse

Haflinger Horse
Haflinger Horse / Photo by Fernances Creek Haflinger Stallions / facebook.com

Being a light work horse breed, the Haflinger is actually quite popular around Austria and Northern Italy thanks to its overall use value there.

Depending on who you ask, you will also get to choose one of two different types of Haflingers out there. The first of these is known for being way shorter and stockier. This one is meant for heavier work and is mostly owned by farmers that need a helping hand around the farmhouse.

The second type that you may come across here is known for being a lot taller and lighter. As such it is also a bit weaker, but this makes it the perfect horse breed to ride around on, especially so for new riders.

Looks wise you can instantly tell that all Haflingers have a very distinct chestnut coal with a flaxen tail and mane. They are perfect for light work and they excel under the saddle, overall, this is a very versatile breed that you just can’t go wrong with.

12. Irish Draught Horse

Irish Draft Horse
Dunsandle Diamond / Photo by Irish Draught Horse Society / facebook.com

The Irish Draught horse is actually one of the best all-around breeds that you can get, simply due to how good it is at pretty much everything under the sun.

It is perfect for farm work due to its fairly large size and its overall strength, and when it comes to riding around on it, the Irish Draught (or Draft) horse is great for both beginners and experienced riders alike.

While there are quite a lot of other breeds that appear to have outclassed it, at least when it comes to its sheer strength alone, it has actually started to gain quite a lot of traction as of late as a hunter, show and even a police horse, in the UK especially.

It is a very athletic horse that is also very friendly and easy to train. It is considered to be a high-quality competition breed and while there are definitely stronger and faster options out there, very few can match the versatility of this breed right here.

11. Dutch Draft Horse

Dutch Draft Horse
Dutch Draft Horses / Photo by Amanda Slater / wikipedia.org

The Dutch Draft Horse first came about in 1918, when a team of breeders decided to see what would happen if they were to take a Brabant and an Ardennes horse and combine both breeds.

The result was quite a shock to everyone involved as the lovechild of that mixture ended up taking on the best traits from both of the breeds, disregarding all of the negatives.

As such you can see that the Dutch Draft horse is a very well-built horse with quite a handful of muscle to say the least.

It is actually the heaviest breed to have ever come out of Holland, and as is custom for all Dutch horses, it is a very intelligent and energetic breed that can outrun most other horse breeds out there, even the ones that are half of its size.

10. Vladimir Draft Horse

Vladimir Draft Horse
Vladimir Draft Horse / horsebreedspictures.com

As the name implies, the Vladimir Draft Horse breed came directly from Russia, where it was created when a team of experts decided to crossbreed Percheron horses with the Clydesdale breed.

The result was a fairly large breed that can easily weigh as much as 1,870 lbs. The strange thing about it though is the fact that it is fairly short, standing at around 15.1 to 16.1 hands in total.

Despite their robustness, the Vladimir Draft Horse breed is very athletic and quick on its feet, and on top of that it is also a very friendly breed that can be used for most events out there while also pulling its weight around the farm too.

9. Brabant Draft Horse

Brabant Draft Horse
Brabant Draft Horse / Photo by The American Brabant Association / facebook.com

Despite being Belgian draft horses, we should mention right here and now that not all of the Belgians you see out there are also Brabant horses.

The true Brabant horse breed is known for being quite stocky and thick-bodied, and considering how much labor it can do on its own, it’s no wonder that its legs are quite muscular and athletic.

It is quite hard to come by considering just how expensive it can really get, but if you want a good homestead horse breed that looks quite menacing while also being very friendly, this one might be the perfect choice for you.

8. Shire Horse

Shire Horse
Shire Horse / pixabay.com

Being the largest draft breeds out there, you are looking at a horse that can easily grow up to be around 19 hands tall, and on top of that it is also one of the most beautiful and majestic horse breeds that your money could buy.

There is a reason as to why Shire horses are very popular out there, and you can instantly tell why this is, especially so when you realize just how many shows this breed has won so far on its own.

7. Gypsy Vanner Horse

Gypsy Vanner Horse
Gypsy Vanner Horse / Photo by Mark J. Barrett / facebook.com

Commonly referred to as the “Gypsy Cobs”, this is actually one of the most underrated draft horse breeds out there and we would definitely say that it is well worth the investment regardless of who you are or what your general needs even are in the first place.

They are very smart and adaptable creatures, and on top of that, while not the largest horse breed you could go for, it can still more than pull its weight around your farm if needed.

6. Suffolk Punch Horse

Suffolk Punch Horse
Suffolk Punch Horse / yourhorse.co.uk

This may actually be one of the most beautiful and amiable breeds that you could get, and that’s no exaggeration. The typical Suffolk Punch Horse is fairly large, towering over most other breeds out there, even the Haflinger breed for that matter.

It is also a very culturally and historically important animal, as it is believed to have first come about around the early 16th century or so.

The typical Suffolk Punch horse stands tall at around 16.1 to 17.1 hands in height, and as you can already expect from such a massive breed, it usually weighs anywhere between 1,980 and 2,200 lbs.

5. Percheron Horse

Percheron Horse
Percheron Horse / Photo by Percheron Horse Association of America / percheronhorse.org

This French draft horse breed used to be very popular back in the day in the US, although it really started to lose its footing when the Belgian draft horse started to make a comeback during World War I.

Nowadays, the Percheron horse breed is still quite a popular choice, and while it is nowhere near as widespread as it used to be in the past, it is still a great choice for anyone looking for a great horse breed that can really pull its weight around your farmhouse.

You can also get one in different color varieties which is always great to see. The black or dapple gray are very beautiful on their own, and although other colors are not officially recognized, you can still get a beautiful working horse even if its genes are not perfect per se.

4. Friesian Horse

Friesian Horse
Friesian Horse / horseracingsense.com

Despite being one of the lighter draft horses out there, the Friesian horse breed is still very popular for most farm owners out there, especially so due to its graceful nature. While most of them are black colored, you can also come across the occasional oddball chestnut and bay specimens every now and then.

The standard Friesian horse sits comfortably at around 15.3 hands tall, although you will get the occasional 17 hands tall behemoth if you’re lucky enough.

It is a very versatile horse breed that can easily pull its weight no matter the carrying load, and what sets it apart from other breeds is the fact that it is a fairly quick horse breed, making it a great option under the saddle also.

3. Ardennes Horse

Ardennes Horse
Ardennes Horse / Photo by Vassil / wikipedia.org

The original Ardennais or Ardennes horse breed dates all the way back to Ancient Rome, and while that may not sound like much to some people, this is worth noting due to how important this breed has been to us over the years.

Back in the day it was used as a heavy cavalry and artillery horse, and when the time came for it, it also doubled down as a great agricultural or draft work horse, making this a very versatile horse breed overall.

Thanks to its muscular frame and overall power, this breed is perfect for hard labor, and while it may not be as popular as the Russian Heavy Draft or the Sokolsky horse breeds, it did play a major part in their creation and refinement which is always worth mentioning.

2. Boulonnais Horse

Boulonnais Horse
Boulonnais Horse / Photo by Amélie Tsaag Valren / wikipedia.org

Commonly referred to as the white marble horse breed, the Boulonnais horse is quite famous for its time in the crusades where it was the most popular choice for the knights.

The reason as to why we placed it so high up on our list though is the fact that it helped influence a lot of other breeds out there, pretty much changing the game with its superior genes for most of the heavy draft breeds you see these days.

1. Clydesdale Horse

Clydesdale Horse
Clydesdale Horse / Photo by Performance Unlimited Clydesdales / facebook.com

This breed may very well be the most popular species of draft horses out there, and while this may be attributed to the Anheuser-Busch and its marketing campaign, we still believe that this breed more than deserves its popularity due to how overall versatile it really is.

The typical Clydesdale horse is quite large and majestic, and while it can come in all sorts of different colors and sizes, most breeders out there will opt for a simple brown, black or chestnut colored horse.


Most of these horse breeds have really earned their spot on our list simply due to their historic and cultural significance.

After World War I we needed the horsepower (no pun intended) to do our job right, and thus most of these breeds came about. They all did their best to help us and as such we do believe that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for them.

So, regardless of whether you’re looking to get your hands on one of these or not, just remember that if it weren’t for them, the world we see today would be quite different to say the least.

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About Alex Verwest

Alex is an equestrian consultant who has co-founded several successful start-up companies and worked with various international equestrian businesses. Using his experience and connections in this field, he loves to introduce readers to many outstanding small equestrian brands, sharing stories about equestrian lifestyle and trends. Learn more about Seriously Equestrian's Editorial Process.