Draught Horses of the World

The Lithuanian Heavy Draught

The Lithuanian Heavy Draft horse is a massive animal, enormously strong and possessing great endurance. The breed has been indispensable to the people of its native area, providing draft power for all types of work

Just like the Suffolk, Clydesdale and Shire in England, the Percheron in France and the Ardennes, Brabant and Belgian Draft from Belgian, this breed was developed to provide draft power for the farmers and carriers of a particular locality.

It has very good longevity and high fertility levels. It also has a kind and docile disposition. Its massive frame stands on short, muscular legs. A stallion weighs between 850 and 920 kg and has a girth of around 205 cm and a cannon bone circumference of 24cm. Mares have a girth of around 200cm and a cannon bone measurement of 23cm. Height ranges from 15hh to 16hh.

Lithuanian Heavy DraftCredit: Wikimedia

Registration of the breed did not commence until 1963. The breed had its origins in Lithuania at the end of the 19th century. The local Zhmud (or Zhumudka) horse was crossed with the Swedish Ardennes and the Finnish heavy horse. The breed was so popular that by 1964 there were an estimated 62,000 of the breed in Lithuania. Studs devoted to its breeding are situated at Nyamun, Sudav and Zhagar. There are also breeding units at collective and state farms. Live foal rates of 80% are recorded with a yearling rate of 76-79%. The breed traces back to nine lines. It is similar to the Latvian Harness horse, both in its origins and its build.

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Stallions are performance tested to ensure the best qualities of the breed are preserved. The walking draft record is 13 minutes 20 seconds. This is with a 150 kg load. The record for trotting the same distance with a 50kg load stands at 4 minutes 45 seconds.

The large, somewhat coarse head which has characterised the breed is being selectively bred out. Other faults being bred out are a long, somewhat dipped back and cow hocks.

The head is clean cut with a heavy jaw and large ears. The mane and forelock are prolific. An arched, muscular neck leads to a short, powerful back. The withers are quite pronounced. The loin is flat and broad with a rounded croup. The tail is set high. The chest is massive, being wide and deep. The legs are short and solid with long cannons. The joints are broad and strong and the feet well-formed and broad.

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With such a solid build, extremes of climate don't affect them much, and they withstand the cold very well. Chestnut and bay are the most common colours but chestnut, roan, black, grey also being found. They have good action at both the walk and trot. The native Altai horse has been crossed with the Lithuanian Heavy Draft to improve meat and milk production. These crossbreds have a higher growth rate, higher live weight and cope better with the practice of grazing year-round with little or no supplemental feeding.

Both the Lithuanian Heavy Draft and the Latvian Harness Horse play an important part in the agricultural economy of their homelands. Unfortunately the Lithuanian Heavy Draft is becoming more and more uncommon and is facing extinction.