What to Know About the Dutch Draft Horse

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 20, 2023
5 min read

The Dutch draft horse has a long history in the Netherlands. A long time ago, horses were the primary tool for agriculture, draft horses specifically. Eventually, farm machinery became more prevalent and took the jobs of draft horses. But this horse breed was still popular in the Netherlands as riding animals and companions

Four main Dutch horse breeds were all bred for different purposes. But their calm and friendly demeanor was one thing they had in common. The Dutch draft horse breed is a hearty horse used on the farm. 

Then there were also the Gelders type and Groningen horses used more recreationally. The fourth horse was the Friesian horse, the "black pearl".

Today, Dutch horses are still bred in the Netherlands and used for sustainable agriculture, fishing, and nature management.

The Dutch draft horse is a large, well-built, solid horse. That's what made it great for agricultural purposes. The best draft horse has a large head, a straight profile, and short, stout ears. The draft horse is very well-muscled.

Below, you'll learn more about the horses' history, their characteristics, and some interesting facts.

Indigenous breeds from the Middle Ages in the Low Countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, and parts of Northern France and Western Germany, inspired the Dutch Draft horse. 

These indigenous horses were workhorses that were beneficial for the agriculture and mining industries. 

Once the draft horse was no longer the strongest tool on the farm, it declined in usefulness in the Netherlands.

It wasn't until after the Second World War, around the 1950s, that the Dutch draft horse transitioned from a farm horse to a riding horse. After they stopped being used primarily for agricultural purposes, the Dutch government became involved in changing the breeding of these horses. By the 1980s, this breeding turned into modern-day Dutch draft horse breeding.

The Dutch draft was created from the Zeeland horse with Belgian and Belgian Ardennes elements. The Dutch draft horse is from Zeeland and North Brabant in the Netherlands. Large farms in the province of South Holland also used Dutch draft horses on the land.

The Dutch draft horse has many outstanding characteristics, from its large, powerful size to its calm, resilient demeanor. It makes for a well-rounded horse. 

Dutch draft horse size. The Dutch draft horse is one of the larger breeds. The Dutch draft horse measures about 16 hands tall. That's about 64 inches or about 5.3 feet tall from the hoof to the back. It's the heaviest Dutch breed of horse.

Horses get measured in hands. One horse hand is 4 inches long. It's called a hand because it's the width of an average man's fist. Horses get measured from the bottom of their hoof to the top of the highest point of their back, called the withers. 

One of the tallest horse breeds is the Shire, at 19 hands or 76 inches. 

Draft horses are considered a heavy breed and are massive horses. The Dutch draft horse is built to pull wagons and carry large loads. It has short, sturdy legs that help it pull better. 

Dutch draft horse colors. Dutch draft horses come in a few colors. Most often, you'll see them with a chestnut coat. But they can also have reddish-brown or gray coats. On rare occasions, they have a black coat. 

Its quiet, confident disposition is what makes this horse so valuable. But, in a moment, it can set a quick pace with "lively" strides. Today, the Dutch draft horse is great to have around on small mixed farms in sandy regions.

The Dutch draft horse has a short, heavy-muscled neck. Its back and legs are also quite muscular. This muscular horse has a broad chest and can be characterized by pricked ears. 

The Dutch draft horse weighs between 1,700 and 2,200 pounds. The average draft horse weighs between 1,400 and 2,700 pounds. 

Caring for your Dutch draft horse. The Dutch draft horse needs pastures it can forage on. Legumes, preserved hay, and other forage-based feeds give draft horses the nutrition to keep them healthy. Horses need about 1.5% to 2% of foraged feeds per day. You can give your draft horse a forage substitute like hay cubes, hay-based pellets, or beet pulp to supplement its diet as long as they have high-fiber sources. 

Depending on how active your Dutch draft horse is each day, they'll need plenty of access to a reliable water source. Physical activity and the amount of dry feed they eat will determine if they need more or less water. The average 1,100-pound horse drinks 21 L of water per day. Draft horses are larger and will need more water. 

Having clean water always accessible is most recommended for your draft horse. But most horses can adapt to periodic access to water if needed. They still need about two or three trips to a good water source.

Today, the Dutch draft horse is still a working horse. But they are a great breed to keep as a pet or for recreational riding. They're also good for educational purposes. The Dutch draft does need plenty of land to roam around.

There are two types of Dutch horses. The Dutch Warmblood is different from the Dutch draft coldblood horse. The warmblood is more of a sport horse breed. Draft horses are considered coldblood. 

The Dutch draft horse is called a coldblood. This means that they are calm, easygoing, and mostly undisturbed. A sensitive horse that's not easily surprised defines this horse breed. But, in some cases, they can be stubborn. 

The Dutch warmblood is a cross between carriage, draft, and racehorses. They combine lightweight horses and heavy but mighty draft horses. Their muscular backend and agile abilities make them great jumpers. The Dutch warmblood is often used in competitions

The Dutch draft horse has a long history that dates back to the Middle Ages. This old, powerful breed of the draft horse still has many uses and makes great additions to any farm. Consider the Dutch draft horse if you're looking for a well-behaved workhorse with a great personality.