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First Posted: July 14, 2009
Sep 26, 2010

Percheron Horse Breed

Percheron


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Country of Origin: France

History

Like many old breeds, the Percheron ancestors were crossbred between the "Forest Horse" native to northern Europe and the Arabians brought to Europe by the Moors. Percherons probably owes their size and weight to their ancestors' use as battle mounts during the Middle Ages. In North America the Percheron was used extensively for draft work and transportation in the Spanish and French colonies of Florida and the Louisiana Territory. After the invention of gunpowder, heavy war horses were no longer needed, so the Percheron took up its new job pulling heavy French stagecoaches. With the invention of the railroad, Percherons switched to farm duty and heavy labor.

It is possibly because of this evolution that the modern Percheron is such a versatile and adaptable horse. Today, Percherons serve as logging horses but also are valued as pleasure driving horses, riding horses, and as competitors in both regular horse shows and in draft horse showing.

Characteristics

Percherons are noted for heavy muscling and for an aspect of ruggedness and power. Another characteristic of the Percheron is clean action and quality conformation of the feet and legs. The breed is close coupled, wide and deep through the chest, with plenty of back rib. The muscles of the forearms, croup and gaskins are especially emphasized in a good drafter, and ease and balance of gait is essential. The Percheron head and neck is typical of the correct draft horse. Good Percherons have a large and full prominent eye, a broad and full forehead, and straight face. A wide jaw and refined ears attractively set and carried with animation are visible evidence of the Percheron's Arabian ancestry. Stallions should have a ruggedness about the head and mares should have a feminine look. The neck is well-shaped and powerful. The mane is thick, though the tail is usually cut short. Percherons have withers well defined, a short back, a deep girth, long, somewhat level croup, big, well-rounded hip, and powerful muscling in the lower thigh. They are an agile draft horse breed and are mostly grey or black with a fine coat. The Percheron is clean-limbed, powerful and docile.

Percherons range in height from 15 to 19 hands high, most are between 16-2 and 17-3 hands high. They can weigh up to 1,200 kg (2,600 pounds) with the average around 860 kg (1,900 pounds). One of the tallest horses on record was a Percheron named Dr Le Gear. Foaled in 1902, he stood 21.1 hands (7 feet) at the withers and weighed just under 1,370 kg. Percherons can be long-lived horses, living over 25 years.

In recent years, modern show Percherons have been bred for a longer, thinner neck, a longer back, and longer, smoother-looking muscles. These types of modern percherons are used mainly as show horses for competition.

Percherons are generally black or gray. Some registries only accept those two colors, though chestnut, and bay colors are acceptable for registration in the US with a DNA test confirming their parentage. Some Percherons have white markings on the head and feet, but excessive white is undesirable.

The Percheron is expected to be of good temperament and be an easy keeper. The breed is reputed to be proud, alert, and intelligent. They are generally very gentle horses, well-suited for driving, and are strong and willing workers. The Percheron is readily adapted to varying climates and conditions. They have the strength to pull heavy loads and the graceful style to pull a fine carriage. Percherons can be ridden and some have even been trained to jump.

For More Information:

Percheron Horse Association of America
Oklahoma State University - Breeds of Livestock
British Percheron Horse Society

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