The American Brabant Association

The Brabant in America

The Brabant draft horse is the foundation horse for the American Belgian. 

Until about 1940, the Brabant and the American Belgian were essentially the same horse. 

 After World War II the Brabant was bred in Europe to be thicker bodied and more drafty, 

with heavy feathering on the legs. 

Brabant Draft Horse

While in the United States the Belgian was bred to be taller, lighter bodied and clean legged.

American Belgian


credits: American Belgian: Florida Draft Horse Asso.    Brabant Draft Horse:

Origins of the Brabant

The Belgian Draft horse origins are lost in antiquity, even from the time of Julius Caesar the Ardennes (Belgian) Draft horse was highly valued. 
In the Middle Ages diligent horses bore the heavily armored riders in jousting tournaments. The Belgian countryside became famous for its horse breeding with many different horses originating in each province.
Belgian horses were the heavy horses of the medieval times as war changed the Belgian horses became  one of the most sought after artillery and draft horses. 
As time passed the different types were consolidated into a few standardized breeds. 
By 1891 every major nation's government stables had Belgian breeding. Russia, American and Europe built their war machines supported with these horses.
The production of this great horse breed was a profitable undertaking for the small country of Belgium and a great source of National Pride. In 1903 an exhibit of Belgian Draft horses was sent to the Worlds Fair in Saint Louis MO. giving the Belgian a large venue for people to see and appreciate this breed.

Until World War I, some 35,000 animals were sold each year in America, Canada and Russia. Between 1850 and 1930 the price tag for a stallion could be up to a million francs

During the early 1900's the European connection with the Americas was cut off frequently during the World Wars leaving the American's Belgians to develop om their own.  Two distinct types started to develop in the Americas American Belgian; tall, clean legged, with a showy gate almost inevitably sorrel or chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail.  Still retaining the easy going willingness to work and strength.
The original Brabant breeding still retaining it's blocky draftiness, during this time the characteristics of the Brabant became enhanced perhaps more concentrated as a draft horse in the original style, built sturdy, an easy keeper with a willing soul.  The American Belgian Breeders had a disparaging word for the Brabant type calling them the "Dutchman's Type".

As World War II started the last shipment of European Brabants for some time landed on the shores of America thanks to Erwin F. Dygert a noted horse importer on January 15, 1940.

At this time Draft horses world wide hit turbulent times, in Europe during WWII devastating losses were sustained on the horse populations and genetic reservoirs in Belgium as Belgium became a major theater of two World Wars back to back,  Horse were conscripted to the military and eaten during ensuing food shortages.

Starting during this time frame was the mechanical revolution in Agriculture, after the Wars a great push was on to feed the world, modernize and mechanize.  If you did not follow the trend a a farmer you were derided, backward, horses were without jobs on the farms, feeding horses cost money and thus many that had no job and went to slaughter.  In Europe the Belgians were bred still but almost solely for the horse meat market. Some farmers tucked here and there still loved the big beasts and while they might use the tractor they still held on to and kept a few Drafts. 
In Europe two factors kept the Belgian Brabant alive the Meat Market and a few people who loved the horses, a well-known brewery from Steenhuffel made a commitment to ensure that the breed would not die out.  The Brewer is very fond of his amber colored coat and white mane which reminded him of a cool glass of beer with a head of foam.  A few people continued the use of these horses in the traditional manner, fishing in the ocean, forestry timber operations and farming.

In America the same factors kept the Brabants alive a few devotees who loved the work in partnership with equine partners scattered across America, pulling feed sleds in South Dakota , working on remote farms and forest projects, cross bred to make the finest pack mules and horses the Brabant genetics stayed reserved. 
 Loyalists loved their smaller "Chunk" Belgians, these chunk Belgians were carrying the original European genetics

In the 1970's the movement to work with the land, with as little impact as possible brought about a renewed interest in Draft horses The Brabant horses quickly became renowned for their tractability, and fitness for the small farmer concerned with getting an economical return on their investment.

Purebred Brabants were difficult to find by this time as the breed was registered with the American Belgian Corporation, while preserving the breed during lean times this has also lead to difficulty in the Americas in breeding a true to type Brabant in the European style.

As interest started to rise imports of Brabants from Europe were re-initiated helping to provide an influx of genetics to steer the breed type back towards the European Type.

Today's Brabant

American Brabants At Work And Play

Brabants in Belgium with Traditional Jobs

Oostduinkerke on the West Flanders coast is the only place in the world where you will still see the 500-year-old tradition of fishermen trawling for shrimp on horseback.

Traditional Logging in Belgium


Traditional Fieldwork Belgium