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Question about draft horse height

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Were draft horses developed for plowing or for pulling wagons? Or is the answer both?

I was wondering why draft horses were bred to be tall. I was wondering because I saw a photographic demonstration where they were comparing the pulling power (while plowing) of an ox vs a draft horse. One thing I noticed was that the ox, being shorter, had an angle of draft that was closer to being parallel to the ground than the horse did. Which makes me think that it could convert more of its pulling power to pulling the plow, as the line of force and the line of travel are closer. I don't know, maybe that's irrelevant, but just looking at it, it seemed like you'd be better off with a draft animal that's lower to the ground, at least for plowing.

So why are draft horses so tall?

Anyone have any thoughts about this?
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I don’t know the answer to that. With more mass, I think they likely are much stronger. Look at Zeus and Cash. Zeus is stout and closer to the ground, and bred to work. He is shockingly strong. Yet, Cash is stronger. If one was trying to be as efficient as possible, it seems Zeus would take less feed than Cash. Yet, Cash could pull more weight. Zeus is probably stouter in ratio to his size, but Cash is probably three of Zeus. I wouldn’t say he has three times the pulling power, but I don’t know that because I’ve never pushed either to a max to balk them.

When it comes to a really hard job though, it feels more kind to put it on Cash. Now, I don’t work them like work horses, although I have Zeus a bit. When it comes to dragging calves in branding though, it does seem Zeus has a limit to the size he can pull, where I haven’t seen one I didn’t think Cash could pull. We did a recent branding with big calves. Both horses worked really hard pulling all day. Zeus did seem tired and overworked by the end. Cash doesn’t get that feeling.
 

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Drafts were originally shorter and much stouter than they are at this point. They were bred for agricultural work and getting product to market. It is only recently that the push for taller leaner drafts has come along. And that is for the show ring - hitch wagons. There are still shorter and stouter drafts of each breed that are used for pulling competitions as shorter gives a better angle of draft. The old style farm chunks are still very much in existence where farm work is still their job. Same for logging. And yes, those that use the old style often also breed for the taller, leaner for sale and will use them for a couple of years to put what saddle folk would refer to as wet blankets or in this case plow miles on them then sell for a significant chunk of change. By shorter I don't mean draft pony size I just mean in a more moderate height range and not the 18, 19 and striving to get taller breeding that is happening today.

This from the past vs this from today
Horse Photograph Ecoregion Vertebrate Natural environment
Green Vertebrate Nature Natural environment Mammal
 

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Yes, they're still massive but putting them side by side the muscle development is extreme. It's like Arnold Schwarzenegger compared to LeBron James. Belgians are the same.
 

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What I have always heard is that the development of taller draft horses began when roads got better, and they were used in larger hitches over longer distances.

And I’m sure even without horse shows per se, impressive looks were a consideration in urban areas once there were firms with deep enough pockets for the extra feed etc.
 

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Both - agriculture, pulling carriages/carts, ploughing, ridden work - it depended on the breed and owners requirements.

Draught height and build varied between breeds. Old descriptions had them at anything from 14hh to 17hh.

It doesn't only depend on ability to pull. Horses were taking over from oxen for hundreds of years, at a time when they were smaller.

You have to consider improvements to technology - ploughs, harness; moving from the open field system to enclosure, which changes how you plough, horses were easier in small areas; ability to feed horses to produce larger animals; lifespan; differences in terrain; time constraints - oxen are slower; type of earth, land, roads etc. Both were losing out to the railways and water over long distances but horses were faster moving between station yards and towns. There's pros and cons with both but the argricultural revolution from 17th to 19th century forced improvements and larger, more powerful horses were bred for steady pulling of heavy weights. From then on breed societies introduced standards.
 
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