Brabants are a heavy draft breed that originated in the Brabant region of Belgium. They were one of the founding influences of the Belgian horse and contributed to many other western European heavy draft horse breeds. They are known as the Belgian Draft Horse in Europe.
Belgian horses were first imported to the US in the 1800s. The American Association of Importers and Breeders of Belgian Draft Horses was founded in Wabash, IN in 1887. They were the registry that kept track of Belgian Draft horses in the US. (This association still exists but changed their name to The Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America in 1937.)
Belgian horses were a popular breed, and they were used in both Europe and the US until mechanization took over after the Second World War, first in the US and then in the 1950s in Europe. Breeders in the US began to breed for a taller, lighter horse with clean legs while the European Belgians were thicker in body and more of a draft type with heavy leg feathering. During the 1960s, Belgian breeder Albert Stankiewicz became disillusioned with the direction that the American Belgian type was going, so he began importing Belgians of the old, pre-war draft type from Europe. He began crossing his imported stallions to his existing Belgian mares. Anne Harper became interested in in Stankiewicz’s efforts and partnered with him in importing stallions to breed to her old-style mares as well.
Their work resulted in the horses that are now known as the American Brabants to differentiate them from the modern American Belgians and their counterpart in Europe. American Brabants must have between 25%-99% European Belgian blood. The American Brabant Association was formed in 1999 to conserve and promote the breed.
Brabants are heavy, thick horses used for agricultural work and are the heaviest of all draft breeds. Males stand 16-17 hands and weigh between 2,000 and 3,000 lbs. Females are slightly smaller at 14-15 hands and between 1,500 and 2,00 lbs. They are short in stature, thick boned, and have a kind eye. They come in a wide range of colors, with bay, bay roan, chestnut, chestnut roan, blue roan, and gray being common in the breed. Sadly, there are only a few true gray Brabants and they are on their way to extinction.
Note that these horses have a slow metabolism and are prone to weight gain. Also, due to their size they are prone to dehydration and heatstroke, so they should be carefully monitored if they are working in hot weather.
They are a calm and willing breed, with a gentle nature. They are a good choice for any level of rider, although they are most often found doing heavy farm work like hauling and logging.
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