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Horse Breeds
First Posted: July 8, 2009
Sep 24, 2010

Italian Heavy Draft, Rapid Heavy Draft Horse, Cavallo Agricolo Italiano da Tiro Pesante Rapido

Italian Heavy Draft

Common nicknames: Cavallo Agricolo Italiano da Tiro Pesante Rapido

3-D Flags
Country of Origin: Italy

The Italian Heavy Draft, or Rapid Heavy Draft, is an Italian draft horse. They 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.


The Italian Heavy Draft was begun in 1860 at the Deposito Cavalli Stalloni stud in Ferrara, Italy. The breed was 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.

Breed Characteristics

The Italian Heavy Draft generally stands 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. The head is light for a draft breed, with a straight or slightly convex profile, and it is set on a short, broad and muscular neck. The withers are fairly pronounced and muscular, the chest broad and deep, and the shoulders sloping. The back is straight and short, the flanks short and rounded, with a sloping croup. The legs are short, with broad joints and smallish, though well-formed, hooves. The breed 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.


The Italian Heavy Draft was an important breed for Italian farmers because it is large, docile, strong and fast. The breed was originally bred specifically for agricultural and draft uses, and were also used as to transport artillery by the Italian military. Today, they are most widely used in the meat industry.

For More Information:

Journal of Animal Science
International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds
Italian Heavy Draft

Horse Breeds