Belgium is a fine tourist attraction, being famous for (among other things), waffles, chocolate and beer! Stepping away from the edible interests of this European country however, we find a very interesting list of native Belgian horse breeds. Belgium has eight in total, each with their own unique characteristics.
What You'll Learn Today
Also known as the Ardennes horse, this is one of the oldest breeds of draft horse. It comes from the Ardennes area of Belgium, Luxembourg and France, and its history reaches all the way back to Ancient Rome, where it was originally used as a heavy war horse. It is thought that the Ardennes is a direct descendent from the prehistoric horse known as the Solutre, which is thought to have been bred for over 2,000 years on the plains of the Ardennes.
Over the years other breeds have been added to change the appearance and function of this horse, including Arabian, Percheron, Boulonnais, Thoroughbred and Belgian Draft, and all of this has combined to make the heavy breed as we know it today.
Ardennes stand around 16 hands, and are broad, muscular horses. They are usually bay or roan, but may also be chestnut, gray or palomino. Ardennes were first used as artillery horses because of their sheer size and strength and good temperaments, but nowadays they are bred mainly for meat because of their high muscle content. They are also used for forestry and farm work, as well as for therapeutic riding.
The Belgian Trotter comes from the crossing of local carriage and saddle horses with imported Thoroughbreds, and is also known as the Half-Blood Trotter, for this reason. It has been influenced by the American Standardbred, and is similar to the French Trotter, though it is lighter in stature.
The Belgian Trotter stands between 14.2 and 15 hands, and because it has been bred for its paces there is less of a breed standard than with some other horses, but they are generally chestnut or bay. They are used for racing in harness pulling a sulky, though can also be used for saddle trotting races.
Belgian Riding Pony
This is not strictly a breed, but a registry that was formed using a mix of New Forest, Welsh and Connemara ponies to create a small horse that was suitable for use as a children’s mount. Bred specifically for the show ring, this type of pony is below 14.2, comes in most solid colors and is used primarily as a riding pony for small children. They are well known for their good tempers, which makes them perfect for children.
Belgian Sport Horse
Also known as a Belgian Half-blood, this horse was developed for use in sport competition. Originally, this horse was used and bred by the army, and was a cross between the Belgian Draft, Thoroughbred and Selle Francais, which has led to the horse that we know today. The Belgian Sport Horse stands around 16 hands and comes in solid coat colors. It is known as a high energy horse, and is very athletic, two things that make it very suitable for top levels of competition.
This heavy horse is also known as the Brabant, from the Brabant region of Belgium. It is speculated that the Belgian Draft’s ancestors were Destriers (war horses from the Medieval era), though there is no solid evidence to support this. Whatever their origins, this breed is big, standing between 16.2 and 17 hands, and they are a very heavy breed with a massive presence.
The world’s current tallest horse is actually a Belgian Draft called Big Jake, who stands at 20.2 3/4 hands! They are generally light chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, and are used as working animals as well as for showing and pleasure riding purposes. Their meat is also considered a delicacy.
This type of horse is bred for its correct conformation and performance in show jumping and dressage. In the 1950s, breeders in Belgium were permitted to start breeding lighter horses than the nationally protected Belgian Draft horse, and the Belgian Warmblood began with jumping horses from France and the Netherlands.
Like other Warmbloods, the Belgian version is characterized by its uses, rather than its appearance, but generally they are thought to be of rectangular frame, with good paces and a pleasant character. They stand anywhere over 15.1 hands, and can reach 17 hands. The most common colors include chestnut, bay, brown, black and gray, though pinto patterned Warmbloods appear less commonly. The Belgian Warmblood is well known for its performance in showjumping to Olympic standard, though they are increasingly appearing in dressage.
The Flemish Horse actually became extinct in the 19th century, when it was crossed with the Brabant, thus creating the Belgian Draft. However, Amish people in the US had kept some stock, from which the breed was resurrected in around 1993. It is said that the Flemish Horse had an influence on nearly all modern draft horses, but as records have been lost over time there is no actual evidence to support this.
The Flemish Horse can reach as tall as 17 hands, and is an incredibly muscular horse – sometimes the amount of muscle outweighs the amount of bone, giving them a “top heavy” appearance. They are usually chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail, but can also be bay or brown. They are still used for transport and farm work in many areas in the US, primarily as a work horse for the Amish.
Beginning in the 1970s, this breed was created to breed quality showjumping horses. It initially used Hanoverian horses, but has branched out to include Dutch, Holsteiner, French and Belgian horses too.
Like most other Warmbloods the Zang horse is bred for its uses rather than its physical appearance, but in general they stand between 16 and 17 hands, and are solidly built yet elegant horses. Traditionally they are chestnut, bay, gray and black. They are highly athletic, and have graced the top showjumping podiums in the World, European Championships and the Olympics.