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Belgian Origins
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de okie
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:22 pm    Post subject: Belgian Origins Reply with quote

Where do Belgians come from?

(If anyone says Belgium I'll scream Embarassed )

I have a "Horses of the World" book that only has a Belgian Heavy Draught. Called a Brabant. 16.2 hands, red roan with black points or chestnut. Large frame, shortish back, short legs with feather on fetlcoks. From a Flanders Horse, Ardennes and Ancient Forest Horse.

That don't sound like my American Belgian Draft Shocked

Any takers on educating the Okie Question
lita
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ClydeDriver
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

*ahem* From Belgium. Read on...

"The Belgian, as the name implies, is native to the country of Belgium. This little country is blessed with fertile soil and abundant rainfall providing the thrifty farmers of Belgium with the excellent pastures and the hay and grain necessary to develop a heavy, powerful breed of horse.

Belgium lies in the very center of that area of western Europe that gave rise to the large black horses known as Flemish horses and referred to as the “Great Horses” by medieval writers. They are the horses that carried armored knights into battle. Such horses known to exist in that part of Europe in the time of Caesar. They provided the genetic material from which nearly all the modern draft breeds are fashioned.

Stallions from Belgium were exported to many other parts of Europe as the need to produce larger animals of draft type for industrial and farm use was recognized. There was no need to import into Belgium for she was the "mother lode." It remained only for this ancestral home of the "great horse," by whatever name, to refine and fix the type of the genetic material she already had at hand.

The government of Belgium played a very energetic role in doing just that. A system of district shows culminating in the great National Show in Brussels, which served as an international showcase for the breed, was established. The prizes were generous. Inspection committees for stallions standing for public service were established.
The result was a rapid improvement into a fixed breed type as the draft horses of Belgium become regarded as a national heritage and, quite figuratively, a treasure. In 1891, for example, Belgium exported stallions for use in the government stables of Russia, Italy, Germany, France, and the old Austria-Hungary empire. The movement of horses out of Belgium for breeding purposes was tremendous in scope and financially rewarding for her breeder's decade after decade.

The American Association was officially founded in February of 1887 in Wabash, Indiana. The breed offices still remain in Wabash. It was slow going for the Belgian until after the turn of the century..."
blah blah. Very Happy

As quoted from the Belgian Draft Horse Corp. of America's homepage.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I have that same book Lita! And I was just flipping through it the other day and was confused too. So does that mean the Brabant and the Belgian are related or not?

And I had no idea the Assocoation was founded in Wabash. Huh. Thanks for posting CD, much more informative than my answer:
When a Belgian Mommy and a Belgian Daddy really love each other, they decide to have a little Belgian which comes out of Mommy's tummy! Razz (Sorry, couldn't resist...first thing that came to my mind!)
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de okie
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before I scream, allow me to laugh so hard my sides hurt Laughing Razz

Exactly BBM! Where do they come from?

lita
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Rudy
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The belgian and brabant are the same breed.... however the american belgian is a bastardized(not meant in a bad/vulgar manner) version of a brabant belgian. they are almost unrecognizable as relations at times. Here in NA they have been bred to be taller, more refined...etc etc etc.

Lita dear... you've seen the Belgian 'belgians'... remember the member Eva and those cute plump foals and mares she posts pictures of a few times a year? Ta-da. lol Traditional belgians. Smile

You know I'm picking on you.

Champion traditional belgian stallion that Eva posted a picture of.... looks nothing like the American belgian. lol
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de okie
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rudy! Laughing

It's almost like the American Belgian did everything it could to distance itself from those beginings. Shoot, what little feather there is, is even shaved off.

I've had such a hard time understanding how Belle got so different then Eva's Tulip.

Prairie.... Oh Prairie....

lita
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those Flemish horses were also instrumental in the rise of Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons as well. They were bred to respective mares of each region, contributing to the size they needed.

I LOVE Brabants....and one day, I'll have a team Very Happy

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Cielo Azure
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did anyone see that Rural Heritage article a while back about the author's trip to Belgium to discover the "real" Brabant. What she discovered was that while the American Belgian is completely different, so if the Belgian Belgian. As they are now primarily meat animal, they have become built for steaks. Their hocks are puffy, they are conformationally a mess and are rarely used as farm animals (except as a meat producing animal).

The author had high hopes and came away very dissapointed.

As I read the article, I came to believe that the Belgian horse of 75 years ago is probably more in line with what is being re-created/re-envisioned in this country (in the Brabant breed) than its Belgian country or origin or in the American Belgian.

Of course, Belgians or Brabants are NOT "my" breed, I an not an expert and have no dog in this fight. So, this is just one outsiders perspective based on the Rural Heritage article and studying photos, going to draft horse shows, etc. However, I don't see anything wrong with what has happened. The American Belgians of this country have been purpose bred for specific needs and markets, there is no breed standard and so...who is to say what is right or wrong?

But that people care enough to re-create the old Belgian (Brabant) and to find those horses left with enough of the old lines and desirable traits of a good work horse to re-build the breed. That is pretty cool.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 2:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Belgian Origins Reply with quote

de okie wrote:
Where do Belgians come from?

(If anyone says Belgium I'll scream Embarassed )


Lita, you are so funny ... LMAO!!!!!!!!
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prairieview
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From my study of draft horse history and formations of the breeds the understanding of all Draft horses as the product of “the Great Flemish Horse” is more a romantic notion than a reality (many older texts on the origins of Clydesdale note that importations of Flemish horses are fairly inaccurate). Draft horses, like many breeds of animals, were products of the industrial revolution. It is not until the late 1800s that we see the formation of the breeds that we know today. Distance ancestors of the draft horse were ridden by knights into battle, but even that is a cause of speculation. Horses ridden by knights looked more like cobs, around 15ish hands, than modern day draft horses. The most common and sought after type of heavy cavalry horse was the destrier which was more like an Andalusian than a Percheron. Precursors to modern drafts were a lot like Fjords, short stocky horses, and were used as cart animals and not for ridding. The description from older texts that discuss the “Roman Cart horse” seem to give clues into the origins of Draft horses as these were slower horses with heavy bone prized for drawing heavy loads over great distances at a moderate and steady pace. Modern types of Draft horses were products of the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions which demanded more effective farm horses and bigger stronger horses for street work.

I would argue that instead of being a product of “Flemish Great Horses” the prototype of the modern Belgian created both the “Flemish Horse” and the Belgian. It is important to think of the production of war horses as cash crops by local farming communities. Thus a local farmer would have a set of broodmares that would be used for general work and colts would be sold off. Mares could be crossed with lighter horses to produce heavy calvary stock or stallions to produce further generations of thick cart type horses both of which would have been in demand. With the advent of gunpowder and changes in military tactics it was no longer advantageous to produce heavy cavalry stock but cart and field horses were still in demand. References to the Low Countries as the “mother lode” reflect this shift. The low countries were the first to have and Agricultural Revolution drawing upon the thick cart animals that had been somewhat standardized in type in the area. With the rise of industry in other nations the export trade became big business and Belgian breeders continued to standardize and improve on local stock within the area. All modern draft horse breeds are a result of both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions.

It is also important to not think of the American Belgian as a product of “bastardization” from the current Barbant but to think of the economics that shifted the breed into two very different types. Blow is a photo of two imported Belgian stallions which reflects the type which were being bred in Belgium in the early half of the 20th century.



They look more like modern Belgians than Barbants. This reflects a lot of different economic factors. First there was a battle between breeds not only for the hearts and minds of farmers but also for the street and dock work markets. Horses with size and leg were in demand for street work and the breeding of horses both domestically and the export markets reflect this. It is also important to remember that Belgians were vying for inclusion into the American market with other more entrenched breeds like the Shire and Percheron. As both World Wars broke out and with further modernization of agriculture imports slowed and then stopped completely. Previous to the collapse of the draft horse market American breeders of Belgians had been skilled at breeding quality horses which also slowed the demand for importations. Probably the most widely recognized of these American breeding programs would be Meadowbrook So American Belgians became isolated and continued to develop along its path, and what is known as the Barbant took a very different path similar to that of the French Percheron.
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de okie
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Prairie Cool

So am I right in thinking that each side of the big pond took their gene pool in the direction that was adventagous to their personal needs?
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Correct, legs are more important on horses made for street work which carries over to horses used for hitching. Legs are less important and often ignored when their only function is to prop up big bodies for the meat trade.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Prairie View, if you are ever in GA, come by and we can delve into my old books, mags and journals on the Perch horse! I think you would appreciate the evolution that can be clearly seen within the pages through the decades from the mid 1800s to the 1940s and that you write about above!

Here is a snippet from the main story of the "Percheron Review," written in 1928

"The Percheron As a Farm Horse" by Alex Galbraith of Edmonton Alberta, CA. Who After Being Actively Identified with the Draft Horse Industry of N. America for More Than 40 Years Draws Some Very Interesting Conclusions.
...
" HOW THEY USED TO LOOK"
"...In all respects though, the Percheron horse has improved very materially during these four decades. He has also increased considerably in weight and in strength of bone. In fact, the Percheron horse has improved to the point whether we want to admit it or not, we must concede that he is the most popular draft horse in the world...Up to the period of his being brought to this country, the run of horse stock generally was small and very inferior."

So, to the point. It wasn't by accident that the Perch breed was heavied up for farming. It was very intentional and with full knowledge that they were modifying a breed type to fit their uses.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would argue that the "heavying up" was the creation of breeds and the process of fixing breed type instead of just altering it.

"Up to the period of his being brought to this country, the run of horse stock generally was small and very inferior."

This quote is in reference to the upgrade trade in North America. Draft horse breeds competed in similar ways as the beef terminal sire trade does today. The goal was to promote breed stallions to local farmers to cross their grade mares to to improve them, to produce better horses for the street work market, and to work towards a shift from grade to purebred stock.

It is important to keep in mind how important not only farm work was to the development of these breeds but also the street work market in fixing and setting uniform type. The market for street work influenced all of the conformational points which are valued in draft horses. It also set the show ring standard of the time.
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Cielo Azure
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You will note that the author of the quote was writing about the farm horse and had no interest in carriage/riding horses (note the title).

If you go back to DuHays (1860s) and Weld/DuHays (1886), they write of three types of Percheron horses (the lighter, medium and heavy), which were very distinct from each other. Their fear, that they write of copiously, is that the Type 1 (the horse used for light carriage work and riding) was going to become "extinct." They write extensively of people needing to breed type to type -which was what was being done. That breeders in France needed to work to save the Type 1 Percheron. The type 3 Percheron, originally bred for Omnibus work went right into the fields after the advent of trains.

With the Percheron, there were three distinct types in thw 1800s. The lighter type was imported extensively by people like Col. Walters from the 1860s up until the 1880s. Then the heavier, farm type became very popular.

In the early 1900s, two rivaling Associations became entangled in a lawsuit over control of the breed, then the progenitor of the USDA stepped in. They insisted that all Percherons be able to trace their lineage back to the French stud books (as written in The Percheron Horse in America by Joseph Mischka). The French stud books hadn't started up until 1883. That meant that all the early imported Percherons (including the most of light Percherons) were essentially kicked out of the Society.

If you go to the Walters book of 1886, the many, many photos are of a Percheron that looks very much like the "hitchy" Percheron of today. These horses were a little shorter, yes. But not by that much. The "average" being around 16.2 hands but many were 17 and 17.2 hands also. Not a farm horse but a carriage type horse. They are definitely to "type."

By the time the Saunders book was writtten in 1917, there was a lot of revisionist history going on. He tries to dispute a lot of what was written by DuHays but if you read both books side by side, it is clear that he didn't succeed. For instance, Saunders disputes two of the studs used that supposedly had Arab blood in them but if you go to the DuHays book, you find that these weren't the only two studs listed that had Arab blood in them.

So, I would put forth that there were most definitely three types (certainly two very distinct types) and breeders in France were breeding type to type quite early but that tastes changed and the need for a farm animal grew. The animals were heavied up as industrialized farming models became the norm (as opposed to the Sufolk Punch, which remained a small farm horse).

The very early imports were about cross breeding, no question. But when you read about the 1880s,, you find that just like with WBs today (American WBs are now considered "inferior), it was believed strongly the the Americas lacked the "soil" for breeding Percherons. That American bred Percherons were considered inferior. The importation numbers of the 1880s were very, very high. But, by the turn of the new century, the importations were way down and the American bred Percheron was established as the dominant farm animal here in the states.

But I guess my point is that in the 1880s, there were types of Percherons. The heavy farm/omnibus horse was heavied up (and in many people's view improved) and its number expanded greatly. The lighter, carriage and personal use horse was reduced to very few numbers. If it wasn't for people like Duhays, Weld and Walters, we would hardly know of their existence. Except I believe that those animals left their mark in the show ring because those animals put a stamp of elegance and stomp on show Percheron and it is those genes that have led to some lines of Percheron being able to re-invent themselves into a carriage type horse again.

Yep. It is just one theory and many will dispute it. But if you go back and read those old books, there is a lot to learn there. I know that my view of what happened and didn't happen has greatly been expanded by the hundreds of hours I have spent reading those old books and magazines.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is interesting to see in the Percherons the differences in type and the economics that let the favoring of one.

In other breeds like Shires and Clydesdale and Belgians the history was different. Clydesdale in particular were all or nothing and the breed became fixed in type fairly quickly.


Ok so back to Belgians.

I have some photos but they are not of great quality


Here is the mare Alda De Blerbeek a three time National champion that illustrates the type of horse coming out of Belgium that was in high demand over here.

This is the import Valseur De Labllau




Here is the celebrated stallion Farceur who did a lot for the breed in this country. It is interesting to note the trends in color. Importation always favored sorrels but roans were more were more acceptable during the earlier importations but gradually waned. Also note the degree of white markings that were favored in comparison to Barbants of today

Here are two champions from 1940


This is Neron du Bruille and we can see by 1940 the type of Belgian being produced in Belgium was starting to shift to a different type of horse. When compared to

the American bred Kenfleur's Jay Jr. pictured as a yearling who was Champion at the International three times

And then comparing the Kenfleur stud to a modern stallion like CJ Legend


I would argue that in America Belgians followed a more direct progression in both conformation and type where as in Belgium it regressed to something completely different
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Cielo Azure
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for those photos, I just love looking at the history. And yes, I agree the Perch is a little different in that it has that history of having some light horse mixed in before people started recording stuff like that and that history has always been honored for what it is.

What I love about your photos is how you showed the evolution of how the Belgian has kept enough draftiness and yet, is so handsome now.

Honestly, I am not a big fan of the Brabant (to short legged and not clean enough for me) but then I don't need to pull stumps out of the forest. As a true workhorse, I don't know how the Brabant stands up to a Belgian or a work-type Percheron. Does anyone?

However, I can't imagine that the Brabant would last long against those pulling Belgians at the big shows. MY GOODNESS! Those animals are one amazing piece of muscle!

Thank you for taking the time to write. I do enjoy delving into this stuff and so few people do... I know it often evokes people to roll their eyes when I start writing or talking about Perch history. I can't help it, I love the whole techy side of work horses too (you know the old farm equip, the carriages, harness, etc). Now, don't all roll your eyes at once...
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like pictures Very Happy I can understand that Wink

In looking at the earlier imports I can see the ability to go either way, sort of sitting on the fence giving glimpses of the drafts to come depending upon collective breeders preference and diligence.

I do wonder. Is the American Belgians stark difference in any way related to the wars? This may be thinking way out there, but if the words "weiner" and "Dauschund" can be found so repulsive do to it's origins that it is turned into a liberty or victory dog/pup and eventually a hot dog.... Is part of the deviation from the European Belgian type based in a possible predjudice of the time? Or is it due to a real need. Such as in the mentioned use as a meat producer?

Thanks to all for the contributions and civility maintained here in Wink
lita
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, thos pictures are amazing! They sure were one CHUNK of a horse back in the day! See the size of the neck on them?! Shocked
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is an awesome thread and thank you Oakie for starting it! As you all know, I'm new to drafts and I've wondered myself about the relation of Brabants and Belgians because conformationally they are so different.

Oh, and Okie - I'm a feather shaver! LOL! But actually Jack really didn't have full feather to begin with..... If he was a Clydesdale would be a different story - I adore those luxurious silky feet!

Celio very interesting point about the Brabant being preferred for meat. Not a surprise since horsemeat is a common protien source in Europe. It is my understanding Europeans prefer Quarter Horses for the same reason. I'm not really a fan of the Brabant type, but find them very intriguing and so massive! What is intersting to me though is that my horse Jack is a completely different and lighter build, however before I acquired him he was used as an Amish logging horse. I wonder if the work they had him doing is part of why he is all messed up now......?

Prarieview thank you for posting all the wonderful and informative pictures! I really hope that Jack will get well and gain enough weight to look like that gorgeous horse CJ Legend that you posted.

Again all, thanks for the great thread! I really enjoyed reading it!

Cindy, Bloo, Revy
and JACK too!
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