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Belgian Horse Breed: Uncover Their Power, Prestige, and Past

Last updated: October 17, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Belgian horses, rising from the heart of Europe, are more than just equine giants. Their legendary strength is tempered with charming gentleness, making them an enigma in the horse world. Unmatched in size, power, and spirit, they’re respected worldwide.

The awe-inspiring power of Belgian horses defies imagination. Capable of pulling over four times their weight, their contribution to farming and transportation has been invaluable. But their strength isn’t just physical—it’s the cornerstone of an enduring legacy, reflecting an invincible spirit that stands the test of time.

Belgian horses’ prestige isn’t just skin-deep—it’s rooted in a rich, captivating history that has shaped them into the distinguished breed we celebrate today. In this blog, we embark on a journey into their powerful past and uncover fascinating facts you won’t find anywhere else. So, stay with me as we trot into the world of Belgian horses.

The Power of Belgian Horses

Imagine a horse that stands as tall as a small elephant yet moves with the grace of a dancer. That’s a Belgian horse for you. These large draft horses reach an average height of 17 hands (that’s about 5 feet 8 inches at the shoulder) and typically weigh between 2200 pounds.

The Belgian horse breed, with its broad chest, strong legs, and massive hooves, is a sight to behold. They commonly have a chestnut coat with a flaxen mane and tail, making them stunning and easy to recognize.

Picture of two horses that epitomize the Belgian horse breed.

Belgian Horses’ Strength and Work Capabilities

Now, let’s talk about their power. The Belgian horse breed isn’t just about size—they’re incredibly strong too. With their muscular bodies and great stamina, they can pull up to four times their weight. That’s roughly 8,000 lbs!

Back in the day, Belgians played a vital role in farming and transportation. They plowed fields, pulled wagons, and even helped move heavy loads like logs and boulders. Today, they still show off their power in pulling contests, and many farmers still prefer to use them for heavy work instead of machines because of their reliability.

Showcasing their Size

To truly appreciate the power of a Belgian, let’s look at a few examples. One of the most famous Belgian horses was a giant named Brooklyn Supreme. Standing at 19.2 hands and weighing over 3,000 pounds, Brooklyn Supreme was once considered the world’s largest horse.

Then, there’s the Belgian named Big Jake, who holds the record for being the tallest horse in the world. Standing at a whopping 20.2 3/4 hands and weighing 2600 pounds, Big Jake showcases the extreme heights these horses can reach.

The Prestige of Belgian Horses

Belgian horses are like celebrities in the horse community. Why, you ask? Well, it’s not just their size and strength that make them special. They are also loved for their gentle temperament, willingness to work, and the grace they carry despite their large size.

They’re often called “Gentle Giants,” which perfectly describes these horses’ personalities. They are calm, friendly, and easy to handle. Because of these traits, many people, even those who are new to horses, feel comfortable around them. These qualities have earned Belgian horses a special place in the hearts of horse lovers worldwide.

Picture of four Belgian horses pulling a wagon.

The versatility of the Belgian horse breed.

Belgian horses are like the hardworking players on a sports team who can do it all. They fit well in different jobs and places. Long ago, Belgian horses were the main helpers on farms. They helped prepare the fields, plant the seeds, and collect the crops. Today, some farmers still prefer working with these strong draft horses over using machines.

When it comes to horse shows, people love watching Belgian horse breeds. Their big size, strong bodies, and graceful moves make them great performers. They often take part in heavy horse competitions, showing off their strength and quickness.

Belgian horses also play a big part in tourism. In many historic or special places, these horses pull carriages for tourists to enjoy sightseeing tours. Their calm and gentle nature makes them perfect for this job. People love this unique way of exploring.

Belgian horses are not only used in farms, shows, and tourism. They are also great for other jobs. Some people use them as therapeutic horses, helping people feel better through horse-riding therapy. Their calm and friendly nature is perfect for this.

Some Belgian horses are used for trail riding. They are known for their strong bodies and calm minds, which makes them great for long, slow rides in the countryside. People also use them to pull carriages in parades or for special events. No matter what the job is, Belgian horses always seem to be ready and able to do it.

Awards and Recognition

Belgian horses aren’t just about brute strength—they’re bona fide champions too. Their trophy cabinets brim with awards from prestigious contests like the National Belgian Show in America. Competing in a vast array of classes, from hitch to halter, these stalwart steeds regularly gallop home with the top honors.

But their influence extends far beyond the show ring. From the heartland’s farming fields to the dazzle of the big screen, Belgian horses have stamped their indomitable spirit across a multitude of arenas. Their powerful physiques and gentle demeanor have earned them star turns in films and television, where they’ve captured our imagination as majestic warriors and loyal companions.

Belgian horses may not grace the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but their contribution to cinema, like their roles in society, continues to bolster their prestige. They may not command the spotlight like some breeds, yet their appearances on screen reflect the versatility and charm that define them.

In the diverse tapestry of the equine world, Belgian horses shine with their robust strength, multifaceted roles, and heartwarming temperament. The acclaim they receive is a testament to their intrinsic worth and growing appeal. These equine marvels haven’t just impressed us—they’ve etched an enduring legacy onto our hearts and culture, a hoofprint that only promises to deepen with time.

Picture of Belgian horses pulling a carriage.

The Past of Belgian Horses: A Historical Overview

The journey of Belgian horses began hundreds of years ago in the small yet fertile European region of Belgium known as Flanders. Famed for its rich soil, this area was a breeding ground for robust and sturdy horses, setting the stage for the birth of the Belgian breed.

Historically, the lineage of the Belgian horse breed can be traced back to the “Flemish Great Horse,” a medieval warhorse revered for its unmatched strength and size. These majestic creatures were highly sought after during the Middle Ages, carrying armored knights into battle with relative ease.

Interestingly, the breed’s evolution also saw the influence of Barb horses, one of the world’s oldest breeds. Originating from the Maghreb region of North Africa, the Barbs were known for their endurance and resilience.

When brought to Europe, they impacted many horse breeds, including the ancestors of today’s Belgian horses. The blending of the Barb’s stamina and agility with the native horse’s power and size played a significant part in shaping the Belgian breed.

As the demand for warhorses diminished over time, the focus shifted towards breeding a horse equipped for farm work and heavy tasks. Emphasis was laid on strength, endurance, and a calm disposition. This evolution led the Belgian horse to become broader, stronger, and more muscular, ideal for agricultural work.

Even amidst the changes in their physical characteristics, they retained their inherent gentle temperament, earning them the affectionate title of “gentle giants.” The Belgian horses of today, as a result, represent a fascinating blend of medieval might, Barb horse endurance, and the calm perseverance required of a working farm horse.

The Belgian Draft Horse in Historical Events

Belgian horses have also played significant roles in history. In World War I and II, for instance, they were used for transportation and logistics, moving supplies, and artillery in the absence of mechanized vehicles.

In the mid-19th century, Belgian horses were imported to America in large numbers to work on farms and pull streetcars. Their introduction played a crucial role in the development of American agriculture, as they quickly adapted to the varying climates and demanding farm work.

Fast forward to today, the Belgian horse continues to be an iconic breed. While their role in society has shifted from work to show, their legacy of strength, versatility, and gentle nature remains strong, making them a beloved part of our past and present.

Interesting Facts about the Belgian Horse

Did you know that the roots of Belgians trace back over a thousand years? That’s right. The ancestors of these equine giants were the ‘Great Horses’ used in medieval times for war. But the breed as we know it today, with its distinct characteristics and temperament, started to take shape in the region of Belgium in the late 16th century.

Here’s another fun horse fact about this breed: a Belgian horse named Big Jake holds the record for the tallest horse in the world. Standing at an amazing 20 hands and 2.75 inches, he’s living proof of the remarkable size of this breed.

And despite their massive size, Belgian draft horses are known for their surprising longevity. They often live into their thirties, which is quite long for such large horses.

Unique Traits and Behaviors

Belgian horses do indeed possess unique traits that set them apart. One of these is their eye-catching coat, typically chestnut or roan with a flaxen mane and tail, a combination not as common in other draft horse breeds. Their impressively broad forehead and compact, muscular body give them a distinct and powerful appearance.

Yet, arguably, the most impressive characteristic of Belgian horses is their unparalleled pulling power. Demonstrating their strength at draft horse competitions across the globe, they have consistently set and broken pulling records.

In fact, a team of two Belgian horses holds an astounding world record, having pulled an incredible 22,000 pounds over 66 inches on dry clay. This feat, which underscores their remarkable strength and resilience, solidifies the Belgian horse’s standing as an exceptional breed.

This combination of unique physical characteristics and unparalleled pulling strength makes the Belgian horse a truly remarkable breed.

Their Impact on Culture and Society

Belgian draft horses have influenced not only farming and transportation but also culture and society. For instance, in their homeland of Belgium, these horses are a part of cultural celebrations and parades. The annual horse festival in the Belgian town of Dendermonde is a spectacle where the town’s prized Belgian horses parade through the streets.

In the United States, Belgian horses have left their hoof prints in the realm of art and popular culture. For instance, they’ve been featured in movies and television series and have even been the subject of statues and paintings.

Furthermore, their influence extends to the tourism industry, where they’re often used for carriage rides in parks and historic districts, offering visitors a unique and leisurely way to sightsee.

From intriguing trivia to unique traits and cultural impact, Belgian horses are much more than their size and strength. Their charm, versatility, and historical significance make them a truly special breed.

Picture of two Belgian horses in a pasture.

The Modern Belgian Horse Breed

Today, Belgian horses stand tall and proud, continuing to be a symbol of power, prestige, and history in the equine world. Their versatility, strength, and gentle demeanor make them popular choices for a variety of purposes, from farming and forestry work to recreational riding, horse shows, and therapeutic riding programs.

In draft horse competitions, their record-breaking pulling power continues to be celebrated. Meanwhile, their gentle, patient nature and striking appearance make them a favorite choice for carriage services in tourism hotspots.

The rich history of Belgian horses has shaped them into the prestigious breed they are today. Their origins as war horses instilled in them their size and strength. Later, selective breeding for farm work developed their resilience and versatility. Today, these traits make them valuable assets in various fields and endeared them to horse enthusiasts worldwide.

Their journey from the battlegrounds of medieval Europe to the farms of America and finally to modern-day horse shows and competitions is a testament to their enduring appeal. Their past has woven a rich tapestry that contributes to their present-day prestige and admiration.

The Future Prospects for the Breed

Looking ahead, the future seems bright for Belgian horses. Their unmatched strength makes them valuable in areas where mechanization isn’t possible or desirable. Moreover, there is a growing appreciation for heritage breeds and sustainable farming practices, where Belgian horses can play a significant role.

Their historic importance, combined with their modern-day capabilities, ensures their continued relevance and survival. From past to present, and looking towards the future, Belgian horses continue to embody the spirit of a champion. Their journey is a testament to their resilience and the enduring bond between humans and horses. They are, indeed, a living symbol of our shared past and a hopeful beacon for the future.

Key Aspects of Belgian Horse Care

With their massive size and gentle nature, caring for Belgian draft horses can be both rewarding and challenging. But don’t worry—we’re here to guide you through the key aspects of Belgian horse care.

Diet and Nutrition

Belgian horses, given their size, require a well-balanced diet. Their diet generally consists of good-quality hay, grains, and plenty of fresh water. However, Belgians are also prone to obesity and certain health issues like laminitis, so it’s essential to carefully manage their food intake and ensure they get enough exercise.

Exercise and Training

Despite their size, Belgians are known for their calm and gentle nature. Regular exercise is necessary not just for their physical health but also for their mental well-being. They are quick learners and respond well to positive reinforcement methods. Training should start at a young age to ensure they grow into well-behaved and disciplined adults.

Grooming and Hygiene

Belgian draft horses have thick coats that need regular grooming to stay healthy and shiny. Regular brushing will not only keep your Belgian looking its best, but it will also help you build a strong bond with your horse. Regular hoof care is also vital to prevent foot problems.


Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial in spotting any potential health issues early. Vaccinations, deworming, and dental care should be a part of your Belgian’s regular healthcare routine.

Housing and Space

Lastly, Belgians need a spacious and comfortable environment. They should have access to a large, clean stall and plenty of pasture to roam and graze. Despite their hardy nature, proper shelter from extreme weather is necessary to keep them healthy.

Remember, every Belgian horse is unique and may have specific needs. Always consult with a horse care expert or a veterinarian to develop the best care plan for your Belgian horse. With the right care, these gentle giants can live up to 20-25 years, becoming a cherished part of your life.


The Belgian horse breed is a captivating mix of power, prestige, and rich history. Ranking among the world’s largest horse breeds, their impressive size doesn’t just turn heads—it symbolizes their extraordinary strength. This strength extends beyond the physical, harking back to their medieval roots on European battlegrounds, and is now displayed in modern-day draft horse competitions.

Their transition through the ages has showcased a versatility that’s both awe-inspiring and commendable. However, it’s not just their power and adaptability that have earned them respect in the equine world. Unique traits such as their incredible strength, gentle nature, and striking physical attributes further elevate their stature.

With such a harmonious blend of power, prestige, and legacy, Belgian horses truly embody an intriguing tale of resilience and adaptation. From medieval Europe to modern horse arenas, they continue to impress and inspire, holding a cherished spot in our hearts and history.

Miles Henry