Belgian Horses: All You Need To Know On This Enormous Breed

Did you know that the tallest horse in the world is actually a Belgian? These horses, though shorter than the Clydesdale (the tallest horse breed in the world on average), are built much bigger and usually can weigh much more than their other draft horse cousins.

Belgian horses are a popular breed seen used all over the world for a variety of purposes from riding, to pulling, and even a variety of farmwork.

What Is A Belgian Draft Horse?

A Belgian draft horse is a huge breed of horse that originated in the European country of Belgium. This breed is known for its impressive size and height and even the tallest horse in the world, Big Jake, is a Belgian. This breed only comes as a flaxen chestnut and any other colors are not permitted. These horses are primarily used for pulling and heavy draft work, though some people are beginning to use these horses for pleasure riding. Belgians are huge horses that usually stand between 16 and 17 hands high and weigh up to 2,200 pounds.

How Big Are Belgian Draft Horses On Average?

These horses are colossal animals that can stand between 16 and 17 hands high, though many are known to stand at over 18 and 19 hands high!

Being heavy draft horses, the dense structure and muscle of these horses makes the weigh, in most cases, well over a ton! Usually you can find Belgians weighing between 1,800 and 2,200 pounds.

What Colors Can Belgians Be?

Similar to that of a Haflinger, Belgian draft horses can ONLY be flaxen chestnuts, though some variation in the shade of chestnut can be allowed.

The most common shade of chestnut that these horses can be is sorrel with a white mane and tail.

NOTE: Just because a Belgian has a white mane and tail and has a tan-golden coat does NOT mean that they are Palomino in color. Belgians do not get their coloration from a creme gene! Their coloration is completely natural to their breed.

The History Of The Belgian Draft Horse

The history of the Belgian horse is pretty foggy and unclear like that of many breeds. It is thought that these horses are the closest descendants of a medieval type of horse known as the Great Horse. The Great Horse is thought to have carried knights into battle so a strong and heavy build was required to carry the heavy weight of a knights armor. This means that the ancestors of the Belgian were war horses.

Once the Medieval times had passed and a new era began, the Great Horse disappeared, and in its place were the early horses of a variety of different breeds, one of these being the Belgian. These horses, in the country of Belgium, were mainly used for farm work, pulling, and driving. This was the main use for these horses until the year 1866 when this breed was brought over to America.

The original Belgian horses brought to America could be seen in a variety of colors including black, bay, and gray. When this breed was further developed in America, selective breeding was used to get a horse with the most desirable traits. Because of selective breeding, the Belgian can now only be seen as a flaxen chestnut.

In the twenty or so years after the Belgian horse came to America, several Americans got together to create the first Belgian horse association. This association was known as the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America and was founded on February 25, 1887. This association is still around today.

How To Identify The Belgian


The height of these horses is one of the most striking traits that they have. These horses, because they are a draft breed, are incredibly tall and often have withers that reach over the head of the average person.


Belgians have a straight profile with a smooth strait nose and a wide forehead. Their heads are pretty large and wide and have a gentle and kind expression to them.


The eyes of a Belgian draft horse are gentle and kind which reflects their temperament and personality. These horses are known for being gentle giants with lots of patience and a mellow disposition.


As I said previously, Belgians are built heavier than even the tallest horse breed in the world. These horses are built strong with dense muscling across their hindquarters and shoulders. This heavy build is what makes them such string successful work horses.


Belgians only can be flaxen chestnut in color so a large draft horse of this color most likely will be identified as a Belgian. It is this trait that makes them the most easy to identify.

Mane & Tail

Because these horses are flaxen chestnuts, they have a white or beige colored mane and tail. If a horse is chestnut, but doesn’t carry the traits of a flaxen mane and tail, they can not be identified as a purebred Belgian.

What Is The Belgian Good At & Used For?


One of the main these these horses were bred for was for use as a carriage horse. Belgians make excellent carriage horses because of their great strength and pulling ability which is why they are most commonly seen pulling carriages, carts, coaches, and more.

Farm Work

Belgian draft horses make exceptional work horses when it comes to life on a farm. Plowing, pulling, driving, and other tasks are all things that these impressive horses can handle easily.

General Riding

Though this isn’t what these horses were bred for, general riding is beginning to become more and more common when it comes to uses for these horses. Though these horses aren’t really ridden in competitions, they are increasingly popular to see being used as pleasure riding horses.

In-Hand Classes

Today, because draft horses aren’t really needed in society, these horses are often shown in in-hand classes at horse shows. These classes test the horse’s conformation, appearance, temperament, movement, and responsiveness.

What Is The Average Lifespan Of This Breed?

Like most draft breeds, Belgians are on of those horses that don’t stick around very long as compared to other breeds. The average lifespan of these horses is between 18 and 25 years of age which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a very long life for a horse.

Fun Facts On Belgian Draft Horses

  • The tallest horse in the world is a Belgian named Big Jake. This huge horse stands at a whopping 20.3 hands high
  • Though this breed has its origins in Belgium, most of the development of this breed was done in the United States of America
  • Belgians are the MOST popular draft breed of horse found in America
  • The original Belgian horses could be several different colors, but because of selective breeding, flaxen chestnut is the only color modern-day Belgians can be

FAQs Frequently Asked About This Breed

Why are Clydesdales considered the biggest horse breed in the world if Belgians are bigger?

Clydesdales aren’t considered to be the biggest breed of horse. They are just collectively taller as a breed than Belgian horses are. The Belgian horse is in fact bigger than the Clydesdale when it comes to the horse’s build, but as a breed, the Clydesdale is taller than the Belgian.

Hailey Sipila

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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