As the name implies. this breed originated in Belgium. Back
in the medieval times, the center of Western Europe became
well-known for the large black horses known as "Flemish".
These are the horses which carried the heavily armored knights
into battle. By necessity, only the largest and strongest
of this breed were trained as "chargers" or "destriers". It
is from this stock that other draft breeds drew for genetic
material. At the heart of this area, Belgium was established
as a country. Stallions of the region were exported throughout
parts of Europe, as the need grew for the larger stock horses
to work in the industrial and agricultural settings.
Because Belgium was the resource upon which other countries
relied for these large stock animals, all that remained was
for the country to establish the breed and strengthen the
genetic material already at hand. The Belgian government quickly
helped to refine the breed by setting up district shows, from
which the winners would move up to compete in the national
show in Brussels. From those who showed in the national, the
finest were chosen by the country's inspection committees
to stand as stallions for public service. The result of these
efforts was that the fixed breed type rapidly improved and
the Belgian was established as a national heritage, and a
When the Belgian was first imported into America, they were
criticized for being "too thick, too low-headed, straight
shouldered, and round-boned". However, the Belgians quickly
found a place with American farmers because they were easy
to maintain, were hard and willing workers, and had good dispositions.
So the Belgian remained, and American breeders set out to
keep what was right and fix what was "wrong". The result has
become one of the greatest success stories in animal breeding
history. Today's American Belgian still has the solid middle,
deep strong feet, plenty of bone and strong musculature, and
that great disposition. He is still easy to maintain, ships
well, and remains a hard and willing worker. American breeders
very simply developed a horse with cleaner lines, more slope
in the shoulders and pasterns, and a more elegant look around
the head and neck.
As far as color, while the first Belgians to be imported
to America were a wide mix, about 50% were bay and bay-brown.
However, there was really no particular color which was a
defining characteristic. Through breeding, shown by American
preference, the ideal for a Belgian in the U. S. today is
a chestnut or sorrel with a snow-white mane and tail, a white
stripe on the face, and four white socks. In other parts of
the world, one can still find a very wide assortment of colors.
In height, the Belgian is usually 16 hands (162. 5 centimeters,
or 64 inches at the shoulder), but can exceed 18 hands (183
cm. , or 72 in. at the shoulder). The American Belgian usually
has a rather large head, short, "feathered", muscular legs,
and large hind quarters.
The average weight is 1600 to 2000 pounds (113. 6 to 142
stones), but stallions can exceed 2400 pounds (170.4 stones).
About the Author
Tristan Andrews is a freelance author who writes articles