Russian Heavy Draft

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Russian Heavy Draft
Painting by Otto Eerelman of a Russian draft horse; Paardenrassen Kunstalbum, 1898
Conservation statusFAO (2007): not at risk[1]: 99 
Other names
  • Russian: Русский тяжеловоз
  • Russkii Tyazhelovoz
  • Russkaya Tyazhelovoznaya
  • Russian Draft
  • Russian Ardennes[2]
Country of originRussian Federation
  • 580–700 kg[4]: 268 
  • Male:
    average: 650 kg[2]
  • Female:
    average: 575 kg[2]
  • 144–152 cm[3]: 499 
  • Male:
    average: 152 cm[5]: 323 
  • Female:
    average: 149 cm[5]: 323 

The Russian Draft or Russian Heavy Draft (Russian: Русский тяжеловоз, Russkii Tyazhelovoz) is a Russian breed of draft horse. It was bred in Imperial Russia in the second half of the nineteenth century, and until after the Russian Revolution was known as the Russian Ardennes. It is one of a number of draft breeds developed there at approximately the same time, others being the Lithuanian Heavy Draft, the Soviet Heavy Draft and the Vladimir Heavy Draft; it is both the oldest and the smallest of them.[3]: 499  The present name dates from the Soviet era, and was used from 1952.[6]: 277 


Russian Ardennes stallion at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900

Selective breeding of what would become the Russian Ardennes began in the 1860s at the Petrovsky Agricultural and Forestry Academy in Moscow and at various stud farms including the Khrenov Stud in Voronezh Oblast, and the Derkul Stud in Ukraine. From about this time, stallions of the Franco-Belgian Ardennais heavy horse were imported to the Russian Empire from Sweden in increasing numbers; between 1875 and 1915, their number grew from nine to almost six hundred.[6]: 277 [5]: 323  These were put to local mares; some Brabançon, Percheron and Orlov Trotter blood was also introduced.[4]: 268  The aim was to produce a compact draft animal suitable for farm work.[6]: 277  The Russian Ardennes was presented at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.[5]: 323 

As with other Russian horse breeds, the events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution caused a severe decline in numbers; in 1924, fewer than a hundred stallions remained. By 1937 the breed was re-established;[5]: 323  the name was changed in 1952 to "Russkii Tyazhelovoz" or "Russian Heavy Draft".[6]: 277  In the 1980s a population of almost fifty thousand was recorded,[5]: 272  distributed in many parts of the Soviet Union – in Byelorussia, the North Caucasus, Udmurtia and Ukraine, in Western Siberia, and in the oblasts of Archangel, Kirov, Perm, Sverdlovsk and Vologda.[5]: 323 


The Russian Heavy Draft is a small powerful horse of heavy cob conformation, with lively gaits. The legs are short in comparison to the length of the body, and have little or no feathering;[6]: 277  cannon-bone circumference is approximately 22 cm.[5]: 323  Perhaps as a result of the Orlov Trotter influence, the head is not heavy.[6]: 277  The horses are usually either chestnut or strawberry roan,[6]: 277  but may also be bay.[4]: 268  Among common defects are sickle hocks and weakness of the back.[6]: 277 

The horses are fast-growing, fertile and long-lived. Stallions have a fertility rate in the range of 80–85 percent, and may continue to stand at stud after the age of twenty.[6]: 277  Foals weigh about 250 kg when weaned,[3]: 499  and reach approximately 75% of full adult weight and 97% of full adult height in their first eighteen months of life.[6]: 277 


The Russian Heavy Draft was originally bred for draft work in agriculture. In modern times, it is kept for its high milk yield. Mares may give approximately 2500 kg of milk in a normal lactation lasting six or seven months; the highest yield recorded for one lactation is 5540 kg.[3]: 499  The milk is much used in the production of kumis.[4]: 268  The Russian Heavy Draft is also raised for slaughter to supply meat.[4]: 268  It has been used in cross-breeding in attempts to improve other breeds such as the Bashkir.[5]: 333 


  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, D. Pilling (eds.) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Accessed January 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Breed data sheet: Russkii Tyazhelovoz / Russian Federation (Horse). Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed April 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Valerie Porter, Lawrence Alderson, Stephen J.G. Hall, D. Phillip Sponenberg (2016). Mason's World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding (sixth edition). Wallingford: CABI. ISBN 9781780647944.
  4. ^ a b c d e Élise Rousseau, Yann Le Bris, Teresa Lavender Fagan (2017). Horses of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691167206.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i N.G. Dmitriev, L.K. Ernst (1989). Animal genetic resources of the USSR. FAO animal production and health paper 65. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9251025827. Archived 13 November 2009. Also available here, archived 29 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Elwyn Hartley Edwards (1994). The Encyclopedia of the Horse. London; New York; Stuttgart; Moscow: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0751301159.

Further reading[edit]

= I.I. Sorokina. Russian Heavy Draft (in Russian). Moscow: All Russian Scientific Research Institute of Horse Breeding.