Brabant draft horses on the towpath by Ivo Depauw | ArtWanted.com

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Brabant draft horses on the towpath

Until the 1920s, barges that had no engine at that time, were towed from the shore. The small ships were usually pulled by the skipper family, but the skipper, who could afford it, bought a horse or hired a "hunter". In our regions these horses were mostly Brabant draft horses. These tough colossi, one lump of muscle, with a height of 1.70 m and a weight of almost 1000 kg, were already known in our regions 2,000 years ago. These stiff workers were used in agriculture as well as in industry and transport as a draft animal, in the Middle Ages even as battle horses. From the beginning of the 19th century, they were exported from Belgium to everywhere in Europe and later even to America and Canada. Due to mechanization in the early 1950s, horses gradually became superfluous and their numbers fell from 200,000 to 6,000 in the 1980s. Today, these proud animals have been restored to their former glory and are are back with around 12,000. The Belgian draft horse, and the culture associated with it, was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage. They are mainly grown west of Brussels and take part in annual market competitions and agility competitions in driving. Spicy detail, the nearby city of Vilvoorde, formerly a busy commercial center along the important Brussels - Scheldt canal, owned a slaughterhouse. The old draft horses, which no longer served, were brought there and slaughtered. The poor inhabitants of the city found a cheap supplement to their daily meat supply because not everyone was fond of horse meat. To day, the inhabitants of Vilvoorde still bear the nickname "Pjeirefretters" (= horse eaters) and there are still a number of restaurants renowned for horse meat in the city.

2 Comments

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Linda Hammar-Del Favero 07 Nov 2019

Thank you for this painting of Brabant draft horses and their origins. It's a good painting and would make a great illustration in a book. Feel sorry for all the horses disposed of so quickly when muscle power was replaced by engines.

Artist Reply: Thanks Linda , I am happy that these horses are pampered with us just like poodles

Joanie Holliday 07 Nov 2019

LOVE IT, LOVE IT IVO. GORGEOUS WORK. HOW I REMEMBER GETTING TO RIDE AUNT AGGIES WORK HORSE LADY. ALSO INTO THE FIELD WHILE THEY MADE HAY. I WAS LITTLE AND AUNT AGGIE NEVER HAD ANYTHING MODERN. WONDERFUL MEMORIES.

Artist Reply: Thanks Joanie, I have seen these horses still work on the fields, but now they are being pampered