Ride Around the World Horse: The Percheron of France
In the spirit of this year's Ridefest theme, "Ride Around the World," we're going to explore a horse breed from across the world each week.
Environment: Cool temperate
Origin: 18th century
Colors: Gray, black
Uses: Heavy draft
The attractive Percheron, an elegant horse owing much to Arabian blood, is one of the most popular heavy breeds. One authority described it as "an Arabian influences by the climate and the agricultural work for which it has been used for centuries." The Percheron, much appreciated because of its lack of feathering, a frequent cause of skin problems, was exported extensively to Canada and the USA.
Breeding: The Percheron originated in the limestone region of La Perche, Normandy. Its ancestors may have carried the knights of Charles Martel, who broke the Muslim invasion of Europe at Tours in AD 732. It is claimed that, from then, oriental blood was available to French breeders. More Eastern blood was used after the 11th century, and Arabian sires were used at Le Pin from 1760. The most influencial Percheron lines are dominated by Arabian crosses, particularly that of the stallion Jean le Blanc, foaled in 1830. Despite this, the breed has lost none of its size and power. The world's biggest horse was the Percheron Dr. Le Gear. He stood at 21hh and weighed 3,024 lbs (1,372 kg).
Characteristics: The Percheron has filled many roles: Warhorse, coach horse, farm horse, and has even been used under saddle. The breed is hardy, versatile, and very even-tempered. Like the Boulonnais, the action is long, low, and free, and distinguishes it from other heavy breeds.
Edwards, Elwyn Hartley; Langrish, Bob (PHT). “Percheron.” Smithsonian Handbooks Horses, Dk Pub., pp. 226-227.