Draft Breeds Page



The Eastern Connecticut Draft Horse Association is comprised of a large group of people representing almost all of the major draft horse breeds common to the American landscape. Some of the ECDHA membership raise rare and heritage breeds, such as the Suffolk Punch and American Creams, among others. This page offers a brief description of the breeds owned by the ECDHA membership. By clicking on the breed title, you may access links to either the national association for that breed, or a more indepth description of the breed on the International Museum of the Horse website.

American Creams

The American Cream is the only draft breed indiginous to the United States. It was originally developed at the turn of the 20th century, based on Belgian stock. It is considered a color breed as well - the American Cream should be a light, creamy color with blond or white mane and tail and amber eyes. They are also known for having good, solid feet. It is a medium sized draft breed, generally standing at 16HH and 1500lbs. This is considered a rare, heritage breed - as of Spring 2006, there are only 308 registered American Creams in existance.

• Pictured is 2007 ECDHA President Doug Smith with one of his American Cream geldings.



Belgians are by far the most populous breed of draft horse in the United States today, with some figures putting their numbers above all the other draft breed populations combined. The reasons for their popularity are many: Belgians are big, strong, kind natured, often easy keepers, generally sound as a breed, and simply beautiful. The breed tends to be very tall and broad - averageing anywhere from 17-18HH, and 1800-2200lbs or more, although more manageable sized horses can also be found. They are popular as show hitches, pleasure horses, commericial carriage horses, farm horses, and pulling horses. Although at one time Belgians could be found in almost every color imaginable, today the most common colors are chestnut and sorrel, with the ideal Belgian hitch being a deep sorrel with snow white manes, tails, and points. • Pictured at left are ECDHA members Wes & Linda Hopkins, showing their team 4-up at the Brooklyn Fair in 2005.



The Brabant, commonly refered to as the "European Belgian" in this country, is the foundation horse for the American Belgian. Until about 1940, the Brabant and the American Belgian were essentially the same breed of horse. After World War II the American Belgian was bred to be taller, clean legged, and proportionally lighter in weight. By contrast, the European Brabant is thicker bodied and more drafty, with heavy feathering on the legs. Unlike their American cousins, which are generally found in varying degrees of sorrel, the Brabant can be seen in many different colors, including bay, red and blue roan, chestnut and sorrel, and, although rare, black and grey.

Shown at left is competitor Fred Bennett of Salisbury Center, New York, with his team of Brabants at the ECDHA Plow Match at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT.

clyde Clydesdales
mammoth jack

Donkeys & Mammoth Jacks

Close cousins to horses, donkeys have been used by the world's civilizations for thousands of years, and is believed to have originated on the African continent. Mammoth Jackstock was first introduced to this country by George Washington in the late 1700's, when the King of Spain gifted the first president a couple of animals. Mammoths are particularly large, often standing 16HH, and are crossed with draft horse mares to make an exceptional draft mule. Although donkeys are equids, they have a very distinctive sensibility about them, and the handling and training of donkeys is not the same as when dealing with horses. Although grey is a common donkey color, they can be seen in other colors as well, such as black, brown, and even "pinto" markings. Their ears, which can clearly hear sounds up to three miles away, are 2.5 times the length of horses' ears. • Shown at left is a Mammoth Jack owned by ECDHA members John and Melissa LaVoie.


Draft Crosses

Draft crosses come in many sizes, colors, and configurations. A cross is generally the progeny of any draft breed mare, such as a Blegian or Percheron, bred with a light breed stud, such as a Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse. The crosses are generally lighter boned and more spirited than the pure draft, and are often used for riding, jumping, dressage, and "light" harness work, such as showing and eventing.

• Pictured at left is ECDHA member Peter von Halem, with a pair of Clydesdale/Hackney crosses. This type of cross is gaining popularity in the United States. Peter regularly competes with his horses in dressage, eventing, and marathons.

Photo courtesy of Dot Billington, AmeriCan Carriage Driver Magazine



Domesticated over 4,000 years ago in Norway, the Fjord is one of the oldest breed of horses in the world. They were used by the Vikings, and are very closely related to the Przewalski Horse, the wild horse of Asia. 90% of all Fjords are brown Dun, with zebra stripes on the legs and a dorsal stripe from forelock to tail. Their manes are often cut short, so that they stand up straight like a Mowhawk, with the center dark hairs higher than the outer white hairs for emphasis. Although the Fjord is not large like the traditional draft breeds, they are strong, with a willing work ethic and great stamina. They generally stand between 14- 14.2HH and weigh anywhere from 900 - 1200lbs. Fjords are not only used for draft purposes, but for riding as well.

Photo courtesy of Richard Hicks. Shown is David Lusty of Miltona, MN at their Fall Field Day.



The Friesian horse originated in 500BC in Friesland, a province of the Netherlands (Holland). During the 16th & 17th centuries, Arabian blood was introduced to the breed, most likely through Andalusians of Spain. Since then, Friesian bloodlines have remained pure, with the Friesian Government having set many stringent regulations throughout the centuries, to safeguard good breeding. The Friesian is always black, with no white permissable. Their tails, manes and feathers are always left long. The breed is a very animated one, with a high carriage of the head and neck and high knee action. Being relatively smaller than their other draft cousins, they are exquisite both in harness and under saddle. They stand anywhere from 14.3HH (mares only) to above 16HH, and weigh upwards of 1300 pounds or more. • Shown at left is Norm Krohn with two of his Friesians. Although Norm shows his horses, he especially enjoys pleasure driving and riding.

Gypsy Gypsies


The Haflinger breed descends from Tyrolean Mountain Ponies in Austria, believed to be descendants of horses from the Orient. They were originally used by mountain farmers for plowing and transportation through the unforgiving alpine terrain, and are very hardy, surefooted, and strong, with a wonderful work ethic. They were first imported into the US to a breeding farm in Wadsworth, Illinois, in 1958. The unique characteristic of the Haflinger is its color. Considered a chestnut, the color ranges from a soft cream to rich golden color, to a chocalte brown, with white to flaxen mane and tail. They generally stand between 13.2 to 14.3HH. This is a very athletic and graceful breed, and excells both in harness and under saddle.

• Shown at left is competitor Red Clemments at the Brooklyn Draft Horse Show, with a team of Haflingers four-abreast. Red raises Haflingers on his farm in Voluntown, CT.


Mules and Hinnies

Mules and hinnies are the hybred progeny of crossing horses with donkeys. Breeding a male donkey to a female horse results in a mule; breeding a male horse to a female donkey produces a hinny. The mule has greater endurance and strength than a horse, and tends to be less excitable. Different breeds of horses can be used to produce fine riding mules, heavy draft mules or medium-sized pack animals. In Medieval Europe, when horses were bred large to carry armored knights, mules were preferred by the gentry as riding animals — medieval paintings and tapestries still exist showing ladies riding mules side saddle. In the contemporary US, mules play an important role in rural Amish agriculture, as well as in the commercial carriage industry, which uses mules extensively in cities in the south and southwest. Mules come in all sizes and colors - however, they will typically show the light muzzle coloring of the donkey parent. • Shown at left is a young Amish man disc harrowing with a "line" of six draft mules.



Percherons were, until the 1930's, the most populous breed of draft horse in the US, with government census of the time showing three times as many Percherons as all the other draft breeds combined. This breed, widely believed to have been established in France during the time of the Mediaeval Crusades with a heavy Arabian and Andalusian influence, was, and still is, recognized as a horse of outstanding substance, soundness, spirit and beauty. Although its ancestors, as with the Belgian, were developed as war horses, it was a very adaptable breed and had gained notoriety over the centuries as coach horses. The contemporary Percheron continues to be popular as a carriage horse, and is just as popular for work, show, pleasure, and under saddle. Percherons come in the colors black, or grey (dapple through white). • Shown at left is ECDHA member Brad Downs with Percherons Molly and Samson on a sulky plow.



Shire ancestry dates back as far as the Roman Conquest of England. They are a solidly built horse with long legs, prolific feathering, and move in a very flashy manner. They come in all solid colors, as well as grey and roan. Although white legs is common, white above the knee and hocks is generally frowned upon. At one time, they were considered to be the largest horses in the world, with some individuals standing better than 19HH and weighing in at over 2200 pounds. The largest horse on record, according to Rural Heritage, a magazine dedicated to the working draft and oxen, was a Shire named Samson. He stood 21.2 1/2 HH, and weighed in at 3,360 pounds. Although all the other draft breeds can boast of individuals of huge weights and heights, this horse, measured in the year 1850, continues to tower over them all. • Pictured is ECDHA member Gary Kincaid with his Shire gelding, Edward.

spotted drafts

Spotted Drafts

Spotted Drafts are a recognized breed of draft horse with a North American registry. The breed's characteristics are diverse, in that their build can be more characterised by the influencing draft, such as Percheron/Belgian vs. Clydesdale/Shire body types. The one characteristic that remains constant, however, is the pinto coloring, most often either piebald or skewbald. Spotted drafts exhibit a willingness to work and great endurance. These horses are used for agricultural work, pleasure driving, commercial carriage rides, showing, logging and riding. Although Spotted Drafts have been working American farms since the mid-20th century, the breed registry wasn't established in the USA until 1995. Because of its excellent temperment and flashy looks, the breed continues to gain tremendous popularity.

suffolk punch

Suffolk Punch

The Suffolk Punch was developed in England, and is the only breed of draft horse developed specifically for agriculture, as opposed to war. They tend to be shorter and proportionally stockier than most other draft breeds common to the US, and are famous for their exceptionally good feet. Considered to be a rare breed, there are only 1350 Suffolks world-wide, with approximately 1200 in North America. Suffolk Punches are seen in Chestnut colors only with very little white other than stars and snips, stand between 16 - 17HH, and generally weigh between 1600 - 2000 pounds.

• Shown at left is ECDHA member Yvonne O'Brien competing with her team of Suffolks at an ECDHA sponsored plow match.