How Many Hands is a Belgian Draft Horse: Essential Facts & Info

If you’re curious about the height of a Belgian Draft Horse, you might be asking yourself, “How many hands is a Belgian Draft Horse?” Look no further, as we’ve compiled all the essential facts and information you need to know about this majestic breed.

Belgian Draft Horse Basics

Big Belgian Draft horse with a long haired black and white cat

Origins and History

The Belgian Draft Horse, also known as the Brabant or Belgian Heavy Draft, is a breed that originated in Belgium. These sturdy and powerful horses have a long history of use in various agricultural and hauling tasks, dating back for centuries. The breed gained popularity in the United States after being introduced in the late 19th century, and today, they are the most common draft horse breed in the country.

Physical Characteristics

Belgian Draft Horses are renowned for their massive size and robust, muscular build. Typically, these horses weigh between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds, although some stallions can weigh as much as 2,400 pounds. In terms of height, most Belgians measure over 16 hands (64 inches) tall, with some individuals reaching up to 18 hands (72 inches). Their impressive size enables them to excel in various tasks that demand strength and endurance. These magnificent creatures are a sight to behold, and their physical attributes make them ideal for heavy-duty work.

The breed exhibits a variety of coat colors, from bay and chestnut to sorrel and roan, often accompanied by a blonde mane and tail. The head of a Belgian Draft Horse is comparatively small and refined, giving off an intelligent and expressive appearance.

Perhaps the most famous Belgian Draft Horse is Big Jake, who holds the title of the world’s largest horse. Born in 2001, Big Jake stands at 20.2 and 3/4 hands high (82.75 inches, 210 cm).

Uses and Abilities

Due to their size and strength, Belgian Draft Horses have been employed extensively in agricultural work, as well as heavy draft and pulling tasks. Historically, they have also been utilized in war and other conflict situations. Nowadays, Belgian Draft Horses continue to be used for various work purposes and are also popular in recreational activities such as parades, carriage rides, and competitive pulling events.

Belgian Draft Horses are known for their impressive pulling capacity and exceptional stamina. They have a gentle temperament and are easy to work with, making them a favorite breed among horse enthusiasts and workers alike.

How Many Hands is a Belgian Draft Horse?

Brown Belgian draft horse grazing 1

Belgian Draft Horses are known for their impressive size and strength, which is one of the factors that sets them apart from other horse breeds. In this section, we will dive into the details of their height and explore some variations among individuals.

Measuring Horse Height

Horse height is traditionally measured in the unit known as “hands,” with one hand equating to 4 inches. Measurements are taken from the ground to the highest point of the horse’s withers, the ridge between the shoulder blades.

Belgian Draft Horses typically have an average height that ranges from 16 hands (64 inches) to 18 hands (72 inches) tall (source) . Some exceptional stallions can reach even greater heights, such as Big Jake, a Belgian horse that holds the world record for tallest horse at over 20 hands tall.

Variations in Height

While most Belgian Draft Horses fall within the 16-18 hands height range, there are cases of individuals that stand outside of these averages. Interestingly, a Belgian Draft named Brooklyn Supreme stood at a massive 19.2 hands tall and weighed an astonishing 3,200 pounds (source). He lived to the age of 20 and passed away in 1948.

These natural variations in height are not uncommon, as horse breeds can exhibit differences due to factors like genetics, age, nutrition, and environment. Although Belgian Draft Horses are already one of the largest horse breeds, these individual cases showcase their capacity to achieve even more extraordinary heights.

In summary, Belgian Draft Horses generally have a height ranging from 16 to 18 hands, though some individuals may exceed this average. Height variations can be influenced by several factors, making each Belgian Draft Horse unique in its own right.

Uses of Belgian Draft Horses

Beautiful Belgian Draft Horse with black background

The Belgian Draft Horse, an impressive and powerful breed, has several key uses due to its strength, size, and good temperament. In this section, we will explore the various roles of Belgian Draft Horses in farming and agriculture, forestry, and competitions and shows.

Farming and Agriculture

Historically, Belgian Draft Horses have been heavily utilized in farming and agriculture due to their immense strength and ability to pull heavy loads. With an average size ranging between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds, and some stallions reaching up to 3,000 pounds, these horses have the power needed to plow fields, haul equipment, and transport goods [1] [2].

Today, some farmers continue to rely on Belgian Draft Horses for traditional agricultural tasks, while others incorporate their strength and endurance into more modern, sustainable farming practices.


Belgian Draft Horses are also valuable assets in the forestry industry. Their incredible strength allows them to transport heavy logs and assist in clearing or maintaining wooded areas.

One advantage Belgian Draft Horses have over machinery in forestry work is their relatively low environmental impact. Their hooves are less damaging to soil and vegetation than heavy machinery, making them a popular choice for eco-friendly operations or projects in sensitive areas.

Competitions and Shows

Beyond their practical uses, Belgian Draft Horses often participate in various competitions and shows. Their impressive stature and good temperament make them suitable for events such as:

  • Draft Horse Pulling: A team of Belgian Draft Horses competes in pulling a weighted sled behind them for a fixed distance.
  • Halter and Showmanship: These classes judge Belgian Draft Horses on their physical appearance, grooming, and ability to be handled by their handler.

In recent years, riding Belgian Draft Horses has also become more popular, with some enthusiasts entering them in dressage or trail riding events [3].

Through their various applications in farming, forestry, and equestrian events, Belgian Draft Horses showcase their versatility as working animals and beloved companions to people across the world.

Belgian Draft Horse Care

Belgian Draft Horse in winter

The Belgian Draft Horse is a powerful and majestic breed, known for its large size and impressive strength. To ensure the wellbeing of these gentle giants, proper care, and attention are necessary. This section will dive into the various aspects of Belgian Draft Horse care, including feeding requirements, grooming and maintenance, and health concerns.

Feeding Requirements

Being a large breed, Belgian Draft Horses have unique dietary needs compared to smaller horses. It is essential to provide a well-balanced diet consisting of hay, grains, and some concentrate feed to meet their nutritional and caloric requirements. An adult Belgian Draft Horse typically consumes between 25 to 30 pounds of hay and 5 to 10 pounds of grain per day, depending on the horse’s size, activity level, and individual needs (Horses Only).

Access to clean, fresh water is crucial for the horse’s overall health. Be sure to monitor the water supply, ensuring it is free of debris and contaminants, and provide a salt and mineral lick as necessary to supplement their diet. It is always advisable to consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist when determining the correct diet for your Belgian Draft Horse.

Grooming and Maintenance

Grooming is an essential part of caring for a Belgian Draft Horse both for cleanliness and bonding with the owner. Regular grooming helps to remove dirt, sweat, and loose hair, promotes a healthy coat, and allows for an opportunity to inspect the horse for any injuries or health concerns. Use brushes, curry combs, and hoof picks to thoroughly groom your horse at least once a week, and more frequently if the horse is being used for work or during shedding seasons.

Bath time should be approached with caution, as regular bathing can strip the coat of natural oils, leading to skin irritation. Schedule baths as needed, depending on the horse’s work routine and environment, using equine-specific shampoo and conditioner products to maintain a healthy coat.

Health Concerns

As with any horse breed, Belgian Draft Horses can be prone to some health issues. Due to their size, they may be more susceptible to joint and ligament problems, such as osteoarthritis and tendon injuries. Regular veterinary checkups, proper nutrition, and an appropriately designed exercise program can help to minimize the risk of these conditions (WebMD).

Additionally, Belgian Draft Horses may be prone to respiratory issues, particularly if stabled in damp or poorly ventilated environments. Take care to ensure that their living conditions are clean, dry, and well-ventilated. Regular dental care and deworming schedules should be discussed with your veterinarian as part of a comprehensive health care program for your Belgian Draft Horse.


The Belgian Draft Horse, which originates from Belgium, is a magnificent and powerful breed known for its impressive size and strength. These horses typically stand between 16.2 and 17.0 hands high and are well-suited for heavy-duty tasks such as pulling loads and agricultural work.

While bay is the most common color for Belgian Draft Horses, they can also be found in shades of black, chestnut, and roan, including variations in bay, blue, and strawberry roan. Interestingly, the largest Belgian Draft Horse ever recorded, Big Jake, reached a staggering 20.2 hands tall, making him one of the largest horses in history.

Belgian Draft Horses are not only appreciated for their size and strength, but also for their gentle temperament and versatility. With proper care, these horses can make excellent companions for various equestrian activities and disciplines.

In summary, the Belgian Draft Horse is an extraordinary breed that showcases the remarkable size and power horses can possess. Their height, usually ranging between 16.2 and 17.0 hands, adds to their magnificent presence and highlights their undeniable capabilities and resilience as working animals.