Belgian Draught Horse Vs Clydesdale Horse

Belgian Draught Horse Vs Clydesdale Horse

The Belgian draught horse and the Clydesdale horse are two well-known gentle giants in the horse world. While the two horse breeds certainly have several similarities, they aren’t quite the same in all aspects.

We’re going to take you through all the details of these magnificent two breeds of horses and what makes each one unique.

The History Of The Belgian Horse Vs Clydesdale Horse

Belgian Draught Horse History

The Belgian draught horse (a.k.a the Belgian draft horse and the American Brabant) originated in Belgium and is believed to be a descendant of the “Great Horse” from the middle ages, which was used as a war horse.

Belgian draught horses were also used in war but were later used for farm work and to pull heavy loads. The breed can be traced back to the 17th century but only started being exported to the United States and other areas of Europe much later on. The official studbook was also only founded in 1886.

These days, the Belgian horse is the most common draught horse breed in the United States.

Belgian Draft horse

Clydesdale Horse History

Clydesdale horses originated in Scotland in the early 18th century when two breeders mixed Flemish stallions and local mares in the Clydesdale district of Lanarkshire.

They were originally used as war horses due to their ability to stay calm in intense situations. However, when lighter horse breeds were needed, Clydesdale horses were more commonly used on farms and for other heavy work.

In more modern times, Clydesdales are used for more than just farm work. You can see them being used for pleasure riding or trail riding, as parade horses, and in horse shows too. They are, however, listed as a vulnerable species by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, as there are only 500 to 900 remaining.

Clydesdale horse

What Are Draught Horses?

So, now that you know that both Belgian horses and Clydesdales are draught horses, you should probably know what a draught horse is exactly.

Draught horses are heavier, muscular horses that are well-equipped to handle heavy loads. This is why they are frequently used on farms, to pull carriages, and in pulling competitions.

Pair of Clydesdales being driven by Geroge Skinner

The Characteristics Of Belgian And Clydesdale Horses

When comparing Belgian and Clydesdale horses, you’ll ultimately need to look at their characteristics to determine the true similarities and differences. Let’s take a look at some of these characteristics below.


When it comes to their size, there are two main differences between a Belgian horse and a Clydesdale horse – the height and the weight of each.

Starting with height, the Clydesdale horse is a little bit taller than a Belgian. Clydesdale horses stand 16 to 18 hands tall (163 cm to 183 cm) and sometimes even taller. Belgians, on the other hand, usually stand around 16 to 17 hands tall (163 cm to 173 cm).

Although, both the Clydesdale and Belgian are among the tallest horse breeds in the world – so it’s no wonder they’re both lovingly called a gentle giant.

When it comes to their weight, the Belgian breed is a bit heavier than the Clydesdale. A Belgian horse will generally weigh from 950 kg to 1,050 kg, while Clydesdales usually weigh from 700 kg to 1000kg. More often than not, you’ll find that Clydesdales will be about 100 kg lighter than Belgian horses.


Clydesdales usually have a bay coat with white markings on their face, lower legs, and underbelly. They also have feathered legs, which is one of their standout features. You can also find Clydesdales that are grey, black, chestnut, and roan, but the bay colour is the most sought-after and is therefore seen more regularly.

You can also find Clydesdales without the white markings on their lower legs (or socks), but it isn’t very common.

The Belgian horse breed can be chestnut, grey, bay, roan and sorrel. Sorrel and roan are the more common modern colours. While white markings aren’t as common on these horses, white hairs can still grow sporadically throughout their coats.

Their manes are flaxen in colour (a sort of blonde or pale yellow colour), which contrasts the rest of their coat nicely.

Belgians have minimal feathering on their legs, however, they often carry a gene that makes their noses significantly lighter than normal, which can help you to identify them more easily.

Learn why Cldesdales have hairy feet with our video below


Since the early days when both horse breeds originated, they’ve had many similar uses. Due to these two breeds both being draught horses, it’s no surprise that they were used as heavyweight working horses. They were also both used as war horses for some time.

In modern times, Belgian draught horses are more commonly used to pull carriages and in pulling competitions. In some places, they’re also used as police horses due to their low tendency to get spooked.

Clydesdale horses can also be seen pulling carriages, however, they are making quite a name for themselves in parades and horse shows where they are judged on various characteristics. You may find Clydesdales being used as riding horses too as they make excellent mounts.


Both the Clydesdale and the Belgian horse have a calm temperament and are therefore frequently referred to as gentle giants. Draught horses are what are known as “cold-blooded” horses, which means they don’t spook easily and have placid temperaments. This is true for both Clydesdales and Belgian draught horses.

The great thing about the calm nature of both these horses is that it means they can be used in stressful situations without the fear of them losing their cool.

Life expectancy

Both Clydesdale and Belgian draught horses have a lower life expectancy than most other horses, with Belgian draughts’ having the lowest life expectancy of the two.

Clydesdales generally live up to between 20 and 25 years old, while a Belgian horse will generally live up to between 18 and 24 years old. Of course, there can always be exceptions to these ages and you might be lucky enough to get a horse that will live into its 30s with good care, a healthy diet, and lots of love!


What is the strongest draught horse breed?

The Belgian draught horse is one of the strongest horse breeds in the world (if not the strongest horse breed). It is used for heavy-duty work such as farm work, pulling carts, and more. It’s also common to see these horses in pulling competitions, where horses are judged on the heavy loads that they can pull.

What is the calmest draught horse?

All draught horses are known for their calm temperament, so it’s hard to choose which one is the calmest of all. If you’re looking to purchase a calm horse for yourself, any draught horse will be a good choice. The other deciding factor of which horse you choose will come down to what you want to use it for.

Why are Belgian draught horses so big?

Belgian draught horses are so big because they are bred to be workhorses. Draught horses in general are heavier, stronger horses that can handle much heavier loads than lighter breeds can.

Is a draught horse the same as a Clydesdale?

A Clydesdale is a type of draught horse, meaning it has a heavier bone structure, is larger than most other horses, and can handle heavy-duty work. There are a variety of other draught horses too including the Percheron horse, Belgian horse, and Shire horse – the Shire horse being the world’s largest horse.

Shire horse, one of the tallest breeds

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