Why Draft Horses Have Short Tails

If you’ve ever focused on draft horses’ tails, you would have immediately noticed that they have noticeably shorter tails than an average horse. 

Now, the question is, do draft horses have naturally short tails or do they go through a medical procedure? Well, the truth is that there are very few breeds of horses with short tails. Draft horses are not one of them. 

Read through this post to find out how and why draft horses end up with short tails.

Draft Horses Have Short Tails 

Draft horses are born with regular-sized tails. But, soon after their birth, the tails are cut short to a 6-inch length. This is called docking. The reason why the tails are docked so early on is that it’s believed that the process is less painful in the early ages.

Basically, there are two methods of tail docking.

The first is amputation. Back in the day, amputation was done by severing the tail with a docking tong. Next, the wound was cauterized with a hot iron. These days, the tail is removed by following a complete surgical procedure.

The other process used for docking is ligature. This is a longer, more painful procedure, and hence not commonly used. In this method, the tail is tied tightly where you want to cut it. This encourages necrosis and the tail falls off naturally.

Benefits of Docked Tails 

Tail docking is justified with the following benefits.

Firstly, a horse with a long tail is more likely to get the tail stuck or tangled while carrying a load. The risk of bolting is also higher since it gets harder for the rider to direct the horse if the tail passes above the reins.

Sometimes a horse gets nervous during a performance and starts swinging its tail, leading to the deduction of points. So, horse owners who participate in horse shows usually opt for horses with docked tails.

Moreover, the supporters of docked tails claim that they aid a more convenient mating process. A stallion is likely to develop lesions if it mates with a mare with a long tail.

Cosmetically, short tails look prettier. On top of that, they are easier to clean so it adds to the beauty of the horse. Long tails usually stay warm, moist, and dirty on the underside which causes parasite infestations.

Downsides of Short Tails

The short draft horse tails come with a price. Tail docking is a painful process and the horse suffers in the long term.

Horses swing their tail to keep the insects away. Without a long tail, they are exposed to bees, wasps, and flies.

The position of the tail is a way of communication between horses. An elevated tail, for example, communicates confidence. A dropped tail is a sign of fear.

Looking to such downsides, the USA and a lot of other countries have prohibited cutting of horse tails for cosmetic gains. Tail docking is only allowed in medical scenarios for the benefit of the horse.

People Also Asked

These frequently asked questions are answered below to further clarify your concept on docked tails.

Why are horse’s tails tied up?

Turks tied up the tails of their horses during wars. A horse usually moves its tail at very wrong times. For instance, a swinging tail can get caught in a harness. While it wasn’t such a major issue in the normal days, anything of the sort could lead to the losing point in a war.

Does it hurt a horse to cut its tail?

Cutting a horse’s tail is painful. The tail has 15 to 21 vertebrae which are an extension of the horse’s spine. If you accidentally damage it, your horse will suffer immensely. By cutting, if you’re referring to trimming the tail hair, that isn’t painful. But, be careful not to over-trim the hair since that will prevent the horse from keeping the insects away.

Why do people rope braid their horse’s tails?

Braiding a horse’s tail has no significance. But, since it looks prettier, some owners will braid their horse’s tail before a show. This is also judged as a sign of respect for the horse.

Do Percheron horses have their tails docked?

Most Percheron horses have docked tails. Naturally, Percheron horses are born with long tails. But, they are one of the breeds of draft horses whose tails are cut short soon after their birth.


In conclusion, it is clear that no matter how useful short tails are, docking is a frowned-upon practice. 

The beautiful, healthy tails of draft horses are cut short for the benefit of their riders. If you’re considering a horse with a shorter tail, make sure that the process was done for the horse’s good and not for the human’s gain.