A draft horse, also known as a heavy horse, or, in the UK,
a draught horse, is a large horse bred to do physically demanding
work. It is therefore unsurprising that most draft horses
are working horses. The draft horse is, however, also often
used for recreation and draft horse showing in addition to
Need for large yet quickly-moving horses became high by the
1800s, when farming expanded significantly. The draft horse
was bred and used at this time not only for farm labor, but
to transport heavy loads and passengers prior to the advent
of the railroad.
Draft horses have are tall, standing at 16 to 19 hands high
and weighing anywhere between 1,400 and 2,000 pounds. Despite
their height, draft horses are stocky in build, being very
muscular and having heavy bones and wide, short backs. When
draft horses are crossed with lighter racing horses, as is
often done, their offspring tend to be taller, consequently
weigh more, and have more power and a greater range of motion.
The great size of draft horses in fact makes the Shire horse,
a breed of draft horse, the world's largest horse. The largest
recorded Shire horse measured 21.2 hands in height and weighed
While draft horses are bred for the specific purpose of labor,
they are quite versatile and have a broad range of uses. They
are often used for farm labor, and in particular for the purpose
of plowing. Their great ability to pull heavy loads also makes
them well suited to logging, another area in which they are
employed. Crossbreeds of draft horses and lighter riding horses
are often used as sport horses, and can be ridden.
While draft horses are notable for their strength and endurance,
they are also valued for their patience and fairly relaxed,
docile nature. Beyond these qualities, characteristics vary
among draft horses by breed, of which there are several. Breeds
vary in popularity on a largely geographical basis.
Draft horses require a fairly low amount of food relative
to their size; in fact, only 0.3% of their weight is required
in food per day. However, given the large size of draft horses,
they tend to consume more food than other horses. If a draft
horse does not do much physically demanding work, high-quality
grass is adequate to feed them. However, for a more active
draft horse, feed and hay are advisable.