The Belgian originated in the small country of Belgium, which, in spite of its size, has a considerable variation in topography. The lowlands near the sear needed a bigger horse for work in their heavier soils and on their docks than did the wooded uplands of the Ardennes. These demands resulted in three different size requirements which the government recognized. The government encouraged the efforts of large and small breeders to fix the types which, through district shows, would be judged. Those determined to have proper conformation were then eligible for subsidies and, conversely those that did not were eliminated fro the breeding program. In 1866 the official stud book was established, and the national show in Brussels became the great annual showcase. The result was a rapid improvement as the draft horses of Belgium came to be regarded as both a national heritage and treasure. The American Belgian is an offshoot to the Brabant horses - the big fellows bred in the lowlands.
The American Association was officially founded in February 1887 in Wabash, Indiana, but it was slow going in America for the Belgian until an exhibit from the government of Belgium attracted a lot of attention at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1903. American farmers took to the Belgian horse. He was an easy keeper, a willing worker had an amiable disposition, and his thickness was desired.
Today's Belgian is a big, powerful fellow that retains the drafty middle, a deep, strong foot, a lot of bone, heavy muscling and the amiable disposition that the best of the early Belgians had. The modern Belgian is a great wagon horse as well as a doughty work horse. The fact that Belgians are equally as effective in pulling competition as in hitch competition says it all. The most common colors are sorrel and blonde sorrel with a white mane and tail. Roans and bays are also common to the breed.