The Russian Heavy Draft is usually short and muscular, with thick manes and tails and legs that are lightly feathered. This breed is known for having excellent traction when pulling weight because of its short legs. The Russian Heavy Draft has a neck that is thick and well crested, and has a docile temperament. It is agile and energetic, and is good for rough terrain. It is an easy keeper that is tolerant of the cold, and has been known to be able to pull more weight (relative to its body mass) than any of the other breeds developed during the Soviet period. These horses reach physical maturity at an earlier date than most horses. Breeding stallions are usually 150 cm at the withers.
The Russian Heavy Draft horse was officially registered in 1952. It was developed by crossing Russian mares with warmblood and draft horses, such as the Orlov Trotter, Percheron, and the (Belgian) Ardennes breeds, which was introduced into the Russian Heavy Draft in the mid-1880s. The Russian Heavy Draft has been used to improve agricultural stock. This breed is also known for its good capacities at producing milk, which is fermented (in Russian it is called kumys). Breed records and information are kept by the All-Russian Institute of Horsebreeding (VNIIK). Dr. Irina Sorokina has long been in charge of draft breeds there.