Developed in the second half of the nineteenth century, the Russian Draft or Russian Heavy Draft Horse is a horse of pure Russian bloodline.
They were bred in Imperial Russia and were known as Russian Ardennes before the Russian Revolution.
They are known for their energy and willingness to adapt and as well as their extraordinary power while pulling weight.
The Russian Draft goes by several other names, including Posavian, Hrvatski Posavac, Croatian Posavac, Croatian Posavina Horse, and Busac Posavac.
In the 1860s, breeding of the Russian Ardennes began at the Petrovsky Agricultural and Forestry Academy in Moscow. The breeding also took place at several stud farms, such as the Pershino, Chesma, Dubrovsk, and the Khrenov.
Beginning in 1875, Franco-Belgian Ardennais stallions were being imported to Russia from Sweden. Those numbers steadily increased, reaching almost 600.
The stallions were bred with several different types of mares, including the Percheron, the Orlov Trotter, and the Brabancon. The goal of the breeding was to establish a sturdy draft horse that would excel at farm work.
Today, many horses still carry the genetic stock of the original Ardennes, as the temperament and traits are still evident.
In Paris, in the year 1900, the Russian Ardennes was officially shown at the Exposition Universelle. However, after the beginning of the first world war, and the Russian Revolution, there was a sharp decline in the numbers of Russian Ardennes.
In 1924, there remained fewer than one hundred stallions. However, by 1937, the breed was successfully re-established. In 1952, the breed was further developed into what was called the Russian Heavy Draft by the crossing of warmblood breeds.
The Ardennes from Belgium, the Percheron, and the Orlov Trotter took part in the breeding. The horses began to gain popularity in Russia, and in the 1980s, it was believed there were close to fifty thousand of them.
Demand for the breed continued, and they were soon sent to many parts of the Soviet Union, including North Caucasus, Byelorussia, Ukraine, Udmurtia, and Western Siberia. They were also distributed in the Russian Federations of Kirov, Archangel, Perm, Vologda, and Sverdlovsk.
At approximately the same time, several other breeds were established, such as the Soviet Heavy Draft, the Lithuanian Draft, and the Vladimir Heavy Draft. However, the Russian Heavy Draft is the oldest and the smallest.
The Russian Heavy Draft is able to pull more weight than their total body mass. This is more than any other horse breed that has evolved during the dates from the Soviet era.
Today, they are separated into three different subtypes, as a number of draft breeds have developed over time.
- Massive Type – The Massive Type is the largest of the Russian breed of draft horse.
- Ural Type – The Ural Type is smaller than the Massive Type, with a shorter body and more feathering.
- Novoaleksandrov Type – This is the smallest of the breeds subtypes.
Although on the small side, the Russian Heavy Draft is still a powerful horse. She has a muscular physique. Her legs are short, with minimal feathering when compared to the rest of her body.
It is believed that because of the genetics of the Orlov Trotter, her head is not heavy, but she has a well-crested and strong neck. With a considerable mane on her shoulders, she is usually strawberry roan or chestnut, and sometimes bay.
The breed weighs around 1450 pounds with a height of 14.1-15 hands. She is roughly 160 cm from shoulder to hip. Breeding males often reach 150 cm at their withers.
The Russian Draft reaches maturity in the earlier part of their life, resulting in a fertile horse with longevity. A foal reaches around 250kg when weaned from its mother. In their first 18 months of life, they will reach 75 percent of their weight and 97 percent of their height.
Stallions are fertile 80-85 percent of the time, and many have continued to produce after the age of twenty. They usually live between twenty-five and thirty years.
The Russian Heavy Draft is a horse that is willing to work. She is obedient and loyal, along with being patient, friendly, and docile. She is built for rugged terrain and is very tolerant of cold weather, making her more joyful to work with.
While there are no breed-specific health issues, some common defects seen are weakness in the back and sickle hocks.
In horses, sickle hocks are when an abnormal angle of the hock places the foot too far forward. This tends to stress the structures of the back of the hock as well as the cannon bone. The plantar ligament that runs down the back of the horse’s leg can easily be strained from heavy work.
Other issues with sickle hocks can be inflammation of the ligaments, swelling in the soft tissue, arthritis, and swelling of the tendon sheath.
Sickle hock aside, any horse owner’s responsibility is to ensure their animal sees a veterinarian for regular visits to maintain a healthy and long life.
Like most other heavy draft breeds, these horses should ideally be given 1.5 percent of their body weight in just forage daily. Their total food intake should be between 1.5 and 3 percent of their weight.
Quality grass and hay or grass-legume mixes will usually make them happy. They also enjoy time grazing in addition. These breeds can develop laminitis, so be sure that their sugar content is managed carefully. Feeding vegetables as an occasional treat is fine as long as it does not contribute to excessive weight gain.
Daily grooming of your horse is important for your Russian Heavy Draft’s health. It allows you to keep her general health in check. Most horses should be groomed before being worked and after as well.
Proper grooming of your Russian Heavy Draft will improve the health of her skin and coat. It also helps to prevent scratches, thrush, and other skin problems.
Keeping your horse groomed also prevents areas of chafing under tack or work harnesses.
And as equally important, grooming is a wonderful way to form a good relationship between you and your horse. It allows the horse to get used to your touch and the sound of your voice and will build trust for years to come.
The Russian Heavy Draft was designed for heavy farm work, but what is interesting about this breed is that they are used today for farm work and milk production! Lactating females can produce roughly 2500kg of milk during one lactation period, approximately six or seven months. This highest recorded yield for one lactation period was 5540 kg!
The milk of mares is thought to improve digestion, boost immunity, and stimulate the appetite. The milk is recommended for conditions such as anemia, tuberculosis, gastritis, and impotence.
The milk of the Russian Heavy Draft is also used in the production of kumis, a dairy product similar to kefir that is fermented and drunk. Milk is also used as a medicinal drink in the mountains of Central Asia and in some regions of Russia.
The breed is also raised for slaughter for its meat supply and is still used in crossbreeding to improve other breeds.
Today, they are bred in Ukraine, North Caucasus, Sverdlovsk, Vologda, Perm, the Archangel regions, Udmurtia, Western Siberia, and Byelorussia.
They still prove to be an extraordinary working breed because of their high energy. And because of their short legs, they are still excellent for pulling.
The Russian Heavy Draft is a breed that was developed during Imperial Russia. They are of pure Russian descent. These working horses are generally healthy, docile, and make great companions.
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