Skip to Content

Belgian vs Clydesdale: Who’s Bigger, Stronger, and Faster?

Last updated: January 18, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Did you know that the heaviest horse ever recorded was a Belgian Draft horse named Brooklyn Supreme, weighing an astonishing 3,200 pounds? As a horse enthusiast with years of experience around various breeds, I’ve always been fascinated by the sheer size and strength of draft horses.

Among them, Belgian horses and Clydesdales stand out as true giants of the equine world. But this leads to an intriguing question that often sparks debate among horse lovers and experts alike: Are Belgian horses bigger than Clydesdales?

In this exploration of Belgian vs Clydesdale, we’ll dive into the captivating world of these two iconic breeds. We’ll compare their physical attributes, delve into their historical backgrounds, and uncover facts that might surprise even seasoned equestrians. So, saddle up for an educational journey into two of the largest horse breeds in the world.

Brooklyn Supreme (horse)

Brooklyn Supreme is believed by many to be the world record holder for the largest horse.

Belgian vs Clydesdale Horses: A Comprehensive Comparison

Belgian and Clydesdale horses, renowned for their impressive size and strength, are two of the most iconic draft horse breeds. Each breed possesses unique characteristics that set them apart, reflecting their rich histories and cultural significance.

Belgian Horses

  • Origin: From the Brabant region of Belgium, bred for heavy farm and industrial work.
  • Size and Weight: Stand 16.2 to 17 hands tall, weighing between 1,800 to 2,200 pounds, with some exceeding 3,000 pounds.
  • Build: Known for their compact, muscular bodies, strong legs, and often chestnut coats with flaxen manes and tails.
  • Uses: Historically used in agriculture, logging, and industrial work; also participated in draft horse shows and pulling competitions.
  • Lifespan: Typically around 18 years, consistent with heavy draft breeds.
  • Movement: Steady and powerful gait, efficient for pulling heavy loads; not bred for speed but capable of brisk walks and trots.
Picture of a team of Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon during a parade.
Team of Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon during a parade.

Clydesdale Horses

  • Origin: Bred in the Clyde Valley, Scotland, for similar purposes as the Belgian.
  • Size and Weight: Slightly taller, reaching up to 18 hands, with a weight range similar to Belgians but leaner.
  • Build: Less compact than Belgians, with a more pronounced leg length and distinctive feathered legs.
  • Uses: Versatile in both draft work and under saddle, suitable for agricultural work, parades, ceremonies, and recreational riding.
  • Lifespan: Clydesdale horses typically live between 18 to 25 years, with care and management playing a crucial role.
  • Movement: Elegant, high-stepping gait, more agile than Belgians, capable of faster trots and canters.

Comparative Insights

  • Strength: Research in equine biomechanics suggests that the Belgian’s body structure is optimized for heavy draft work, whereas the Clydesdale’s build allows for more versatility in tasks, including light farm work and parading. Belgians are stronger than Clydesdales.
  • Speed: Clydesdales are typically faster than Belgians, based on the farmers I spoke with.
  • Size: Modern Clydesdales are typically taller than Belgians. However, Belgians typically weigh more. According to equine veterinarians, the Belgian’s compact build contributes to its immense pulling power, while the Clydesdale’s height and leg structure offer agility and a graceful gait.
  • Breed Evolution: Historical records indicate that both breeds have evolved over time, with Belgians becoming more muscular and Clydesdales gaining height and elegance, reflecting their changing roles in human society.

Belgian vs Clydesdale Horses Comparison Chart

FeatureBelgian HorseClydesdale Horse
OriginBrabant region of BelgiumClyde Valley, Scotland
Average Height16.2 to 17 handsUp to 18 hands
Weight1,800 to 2,200 pounds (up to 3,000)1,800 to 2,200 pounds
BuildCompact, muscularTaller, elegant, feathered legs
Typical UsesFarm work, logging, showsFarm work, parades, riding
LifespanAbout 18 years18 to 25 years
Gait and SpeedSteady, powerful gaitElegant, high-stepping, faster gait
Cultural RoleNational pride in BelgiumIconic in Scotland and worldwide
Picture of a pair of Belgian horses in a pasture.
A pair of Belgian horses in a pasture.

Historical and Current Records

Belgian and Clydesdale horses have not only been admired for their majestic presence but have also etched their names in the annals of history through remarkable world records. These records, related to size and strength, offer a deeper understanding of the physical capabilities of these breeds.

Belgian Horses

  • World Records:
    • Largest Horse: A Belgian Draft horse named Brooklyn Supreme is noted in history as one of the largest horses ever, standing at 19.2 hands and weighing an incredible 3,200 pounds.
    • Strength Records: Belgian horses have consistently dominated in draft horse pulling competitions, setting records for pulling the heaviest weights.
  • Contribution to Size Understanding:

Below is a YouTube video showing a Belgian draft horse at work.

YouTube video
Video of a working Belgian horse.

Clydesdale Horses

  • World Records:
  • Contribution to Size Understanding:
    • The records and performances of Clydesdales in various competitions underscore their balance of size, strength, and agility, making them versatile both in work and showmanship.

Comparative Insights

  • Historical Context: These records provide context to the breeding goals of each breed. Belgians were bred for power and bulk, making them ideal for the most demanding draft tasks, while Clydesdales were bred for a balance of strength and agility, suitable for varied draft and riding purposes.
  • Modern Relevance: Today, these records continue to influence the breeding and use of these horses. Belgians are often the preferred choice for heavy draft work, while Clydesdales are celebrated for their versatility and grace in various roles.
Picture of a red roan horse.
Large Belgian horse with a roan coat. Technically, this is a bay roan.

Common Misconceptions and Clarifications

When it comes to Belgian and Clydesdale horses, certain myths and misconceptions often circulate regarding their size. Let’s address these and provide clarifications backed by factual data.

Misconception 1: Belgians and Clydesdales are the Largest Horse Breeds

Misconception 2: Clydesdales are Heavier than Belgians

  • Clarification: This is a common misconception. In reality, while Clydesdales are tall, Belgians typically outweigh them due to their more muscular build. Clydesdales usually weigh between 1,800 and 2,200 pounds, whereas Belgians can weigh over 2,000 pounds, with some individuals exceeding 3,000 pounds.

Misconception 3: Bigger Horses are Always Stronger

Misconception 4: All Belgians and Clydesdales are of Similar Size

  • Clarification: There is considerable variation within each breed. Not all Belgian or Clydesdale horses will fit the ‘typical’ size range due to factors like genetics, diet, and environment. Some Clydesdales may be smaller, and some Belgians might not reach the upper weight limits.

Misconception 5: These Breeds’ Sizes Make Them Difficult to Handle

  • Clarification: Despite their large size, both Belgian and Clydesdale horses are known for their gentle and docile temperaments. Their size does not inherently make them more challenging to handle than smaller horse breeds.

Conclusion: Belgian vs Clydesdale

Our exploration into the world of Belgian and Clydesdale horses reveals a fascinating comparison of these large draft breeds. While Belgians typically boast a larger mass with their muscular build and can weigh over 3,000 pounds, Clydesdales are slightly taller with a more elegant build.

Both breeds hold significant places in history and culture, with Belgians known for their record-breaking strength and Clydesdales celebrated for their graceful presence in parades and shows. Understanding these breeds’ unique characteristics and historical evolution not only enriches our knowledge of equine breeds but also deepens our appreciation for their remarkable contributions to human society.

Interested in learning more about these incredible draft horse breeds or exploring other fascinating aspects of equine life? Visit Horse Racing Sense for more insightful articles, expert advice, and engaging stories from the world of horses.

Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or a curious newcomer, our website offers a wealth of information to fuel your passion for these magnificent creatures. Join our community today and embark on an exciting journey into the heart of the equine world!

Explore More on Horse Racing Sense

References and Further Reading

Belgian Horse Associations

  1. Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America
    • Description: This is the main association in the United States for the Belgian Draft horse. It offers resources on breed standards, registration, and events.
    • Website: Search for “Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America” to find their official website.

Clydesdale Horse Associations

  1. The Clydesdale Horse Society
    • Description: Established in the United Kingdom, this society is one of the oldest for Clydesdale horses, focusing on the preservation and promotion of the breed.
    • Website: Search for “The Clydesdale Horse Society” to access their official site.
  2. Clydesdale Breeders of the USA
    • Description: This group is dedicated to the Clydesdale breed in the United States, offering resources on breeding, ownership, and events.
    • Website: Find them online by searching for “Clydesdale Breeders of the USA.”

These associations are excellent resources for detailed information about Belgian and Clydesdale horses, including breed standards, history, events, and membership opportunities. They also often provide educational materials and opportunities to connect with other enthusiasts and professionals in the field.

Academic Research Studies

  • “Studies on the exercise physiology of draft horses performed in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s,” published in the Journal of Equine Science
    • The study explores the relationship between body size and work power, energy expenditure during exercise, and performance tests using heart rate as an index. This research is significant for understanding the physical capabilities and limitations of draft horses in various work conditions. Citation: Hiraga, A., & Sugano, S. (2017). Studies on the exercise physiology of draft horses performed in Japan during the 1950s and 1960s. Journal of Equine Science, 28(1). DOI: 10.1294/jes.28.1.
  • “The Mechanics of Horses Pulling Loads,” published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science
    • This study is particularly relevant to understanding the capabilities and limitations of draft horses like Belgians and Clydesdales in pulling heavy loads. Citation: Den Hartog, J. P. (1985). The mechanics of horses pulling loads. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 5(6). DOI: 10.1016/S0737-0806(85)80010-1.
  • “Assessing the impact of draught load pulling on welfare in equids” published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science
    • It emphasizes the importance of understanding the capabilities and limitations of load-pulling equids for their efficient performance and welfare. Citation: Bukhari, S. S. U. H., & Parkes, R. S. V. (2023). Assessing the impact of draught load pulling on welfare in equids. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 10:1214015. DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2023.1214015.