Italian Heavy Draft, also known as Rapid Heavy Draft, horse
were developed in the 19th and 20th centuries using both draft and light horse
breeds, and are used mainly for heavy draft work and meat.
Italian Heavy Draft were developed starting in 1860 at the
Deposito Cavalli Stalloni stud in Ferrara, Italy. They were developed from
crossing native Po Delta stallions with Thoroughbred, Hackney, and Arabian
horses. Around 1900, weight was added to the breed with the addition of
Boulonnais, Ardennes, and Norfolk-Breton blood. The breeding programs suffered
during World War II, but a careful crossbreeding program with Ardennes,
Percheron and Breton horses after the war brought the Italian Heavy Draft to
its current state. The studbook for the breed was begun in 1926.
The main breeding areas for the Italian Heavy Draft are in
the plains and hills around Verona, Padova, Vicenza, Venice, Treviso and Udine.
Breed numbers have been decreasing over the past two decades, with less than
4,000 breeding stock registered in 2002.
Italian Heavy Draft horses generally stand between 14.2 to
15.3 hands high, and weights between 1,320 and 1,540 lbs. They may be chestnut
(usually with flaxen mane and tail), red roan, or bay. Their head is light for
a draft breed, with a straight or slightly convex profile, and are set on a
short, broad, and muscular neck. Their withers are fairly pronounced and
muscular, their chest is broad and deep, and their shoulders slope. Their back
is straight and short, their flanks are short and rounded, with a sloping
croup. Their legs are short, with broad joints and smallish, though
They strongly resembles the Breton draft, and also somewhat
the Avelignese. There has been some deterioration in conformation in recent
years as breeders have focused on producing maximum body mass and weight for
the meat industry.
They are an important breed for Italian farmers because they
are large, docile, strong, and fast. They were originally bred specifically for
agricultural and draft uses, and were also used to transport artillery by the
Italian military. Today, they are most widely used in the meat industry.