The Byelorussian Harness breed was formed on the basis of the native northern forest type horses improved by the Dole (from Norway), Ardennes and Brabancon breeds. The Dole influence was the strongest.
Long-term inter se breeding of various generations of crosses created a breed most suitable for the current requirements of Byelorussian agriculture. The horse has adapted well to work in wooded areas with swampy and sandy soils. It can also be used for milk and meat production.
It is a medium-sized horse with the characteristic conformation of a harness horse. The head is not large, the forehead wide, the neck well muscled and average in length, the withers average in height and length, the back long, flat and often slightly dipped, the loin flat and short, the croup wide, nicely rounded and well muscled with a normal slope, the chest wide and deep. The limbs are clean and solid. The mane and tail are thick but the fetlock tufts are small. The stallions' measurements (in cm) are: height at withers 153, oblique body length 163, chest girth 184, cannon bone girth 21.5. Live weight is 540 kg. The mares measure 150, 161, 183 and 21 cm respectively. Their live weight is 490-500 kg. The colors are dun, bay, chestnut and light bay.
The top performance results are: the 2 km walking record with a pull of 150 kg is 14 min 42 sec; the 2 km trotting record with a pull of 50 kg is 5 min 01 sec. The best pulling endurance result with a pull of 300 kg was 388.8 m. The maximum load capacity has reached 660 kg.
The mares' average daily milk yield is 9 liters. At established koumiss farms the best mares produce 2560 liters of marketable milk in a 6-month lactation.
The dressing percentage is 51. Despite the fact that the Byelorussian matures late, by weaning at 6-7 months the foals reach a live weight of 170-190 kg. The Byelorussian has a high fertility and longevity. Mares have often remained fertile to the age of 26.
Two types, the large and the medium, are distinguished within the breed. There are 6 lines and 4 mare families. The leading breeding centers are Zarechye stud and the stud on Pobeda state farm in Byelorussian.
Improvement is by pure breeding. Two volumes of the studbook have been published, listing 135 stallions and 616 brood mares. A new line is currently being tested.
As of 1 January 1980, the Byelorussian Harness breed numbered 93,040, including 27,560 purebreds.
Dmitriez, N.G. and Ernst, L.K. (1989) Animal Genetic Resources of the USSR. Animal Production and Health Paper Publ. by FAO, Rome, 517 pp.
Photographs:Hubert Peffer, Rue Haute 33, 1430 Rebecq, Belgium
updated February 21, 2002