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The Breton horse, a type of draft horse, originated in a northwest province of France called Brittany. The Breton dated back several thousand years and was created through crossbreeding of several different European horse breeds.
There are three subcategories of this outstanding horse, each one deriving from a different part of Brittany. This heavy draft horse has been used for both military and agricultural work. In addition, it has been used in the creation of new draft breeds.
The Breton horse is a beautiful and powerful horse with a desire for hard work. But she is also gentle in nature and makes an excellent companion horse.
For thousands of years, horses have lived in the Breton Mountains. However, scientists are not quite sure when they first inhabited the area. Some say they came to Europe over 4000 years ago through the migration of the Aryan people from Asia.
But others believe that the Breton horse descended from horses of the Celtic warriors that were bred before their invasion of what would become Great Britain during the Iron Age.
The consensus seems to be that the origins of the Breton horse were derived from Steppe Horses, who were native to Mongolia. The Steppe horses were ridden by the Celts and were bred with oriental horses during the Crusades to make a breed called the Bidet Breton.
The large Breton was eagerly sought out by calvary commanders during the Middle Ages, in part due to the comfort of its gait. The horse moved at a speed between an amble and a trot, providing comfort to knights dressed for battle.
Between 1341 and 1364, the War of the Breton Succession was fought to gain control of the Duchy of Brittany. As many as three thousand French cavalry horses were used.
During the Hundred Years War, the calvary of Brittnay fought in several brutal battles. Breton calvary showed up at the Battle of Formigny, causing a massive British withdrawal.
Breton Calvary was also the victor at the Battle of Castillion. The thousand-strong calvary led by Peter II, Duke of Brittany, fought for over an hour and essentially caused the British to retreat.
During the Crusades, horses from other bloodlines were brought to Europe and substantially influenced the Breton horse. From there, two subtypes were founded.
The heavier, more commonly used breed was the Sommier. The Sommier was used as a draft horse for farming work and was being used as a packhorse.
After the Sommier came the Roussin, which was used more during battle and on lengthy trips throughout the country. The Roussin also had the ambling gait, making it a more comfortable ride for those heading into battle.
Throughout the Middle Ages until the late 18th century, the Breton Horse was crossed with other types of horses, both foreign and domestic. Some of these breeds were the Boulonnais, Percheron, and the Ardennes.
The breed was able to maintain its genetics with its leading stud-horse, the National Provincial Stud. This stud-horse was from the country of Langonnet.
The haras of France is one of the countries oldest stud farms, created by Louis XIV in 1665.
During the French Revolution, the haras was abolished but was reestablished by Napoleon in 1806, who favored Arab crossbreeds. Today the haras has evolved to coordinate several actives of the French horse industry.
Throughout the 1800s, the horse was bred with the Norfolk Trotter, eventually resulting in a breed that was lighter in weight, a breed dubbed the Postier Subtype. Today the breed is governed by the Syndicat des eleveurs de Cheval Breton, an organization that dates its stud book back to 1909.
Books for the Heavy Draft the Postier were created and initially kept separate, but in 1912, the books were combined to register all of the breeds together.
There was a desire to increase the size and power of the draft horse through crossbreeding. But because of its gait, the Breon was the exception.
It was learned the crossbreeding would infringe upon the breed’s unique abilities. The result being that in the 1930s, the mixing of other bloodlines was forgotten. This decision led to the preservation of the species.
Today, Breton horses will only be recognized if born in Brittany, or Loire-Atlantique, which was part of Brittany until the French Revolution. Foals registered are given a branding on the neck, of a cross showing an outplayed, upturned V.
But despite the restrictions on registration, Breton horse breeding continued to spread throughout the world.
Because the Breton can be useful in improving other breeds, people began coming to France to buy the horses in the hopes of improving their own draft breeds. The Breton Horse had an important influence on horses in Canada during the 17th century after they were shipped to New France.
The Breton was also used towards creating the heavy draft breed, the Swiss Freiberger. They were also being used to develop mules in India. They were also crossed with Anglo Arabian Stallions at the Saharanpur Breeding Farm to create carriage horses.
During the 1930s, in Spain, the Hispano Breton was produced by crossing the Breton with local horses.
The breed has a small population today, but it has been praised for its substantial genetic diversity. The Breton Breed improved upon the German Schleswig after the second World War.
Sub Categories (Type Of Breton)
Today, we have several types of Breton horses. The Trail Breton and the Postier Breton are both recognized. But the Corlais, or Cheval de Corlay, as well as the Centremontagne, or Central Mountain Breton, are not. The Grand Breton and the Bidet Breton or Bidet d’Allure seemed to have disappeared.
Derived from the crossbreeding of native Bretons with the Arabian and the Thoroughbred, the Corlay Breton is seen as the real descendant of the breed. The Corlay Breton has the same general features as the draft but is smaller with a dished face. The Corlay was used lightly for draft work that also requires speediness, but its population has been dwindling over the years.
Crossbreeding the Norfolk Trotter and the Hackney resulted in the Postier Breton during the 19th century. Mainly bred in central Brittany, the Postier has an appreciated gait, as well as being capable of farm work.
The name Postier derives from its use of pulling coaches. It was also used quite a bit by the French Horse Artillery and is compared with the Suffolk Punch from Great Britain.
The Heavy Draft also had the genetics of an older type, known as the Grand Breton, that was used to improve several other breeds of draft horse. The smaller type of draft is known as the Central Mountain Breton or Centre-Montagne.
On average, the Breton horse is 15.2 hands (1.58 meters) but can be anywhere from 1.55 to 1.63 meters, or 15.1 to 16.0 hands. They have a well-proportioned head and a short, muscular neck that is firmly set into their impressive withers.
Her chest is broad and robust, with long, sloping shoulders. The back is broad and short, and the croup slightly slopes. Her short legs are well feathered and full of power. Her joints are strong, and she has well-formed hooves.
The most commonly seen colors in the Breton Horse are red roan and blue roan. They are also seen with a chestnut coat and flaxen main and tail. The Breton can also be grey or bay-colored.
The Breton is a calm, friendly, easily adaptable horse. They are mellow and willing. They are also known for their nobleness and their liveliness. The Breton is a beautiful companion who is easily trainable and wonderful to work with.
They are happy to do draft or farm work for you or to pull coaches. However, they are also so good-natured that they make great pleasure riders and are great with children due to their calm nature.
Assuring the happiness of your Breton will be dependant upon his care. Regular grooming to keep him looking great is also an excellent time to bond with him. Using a high-quality curry comb is best to start with to remove dirt.
Your horse will love a bath with a calming horse shampoo and cool water. Whether or not you bathe him, daily grooming is essential.
Hooves should be inspected for infections or sores and should be cleaned of debris several times a day. A scheduled visit with the Ferrier will also keep your horse’s hooves in good shape.
Her thick, feathered legs will also require some extra love, especially when she has been in the mud! If you are using your Breton for pulling, it may help to either keep her tail in a braid or dock it as it can get tangled up in the harness easily and cause harm.
The Breton shares some of the more common health issues with the draft horse, including:
The Shivers is a neuromuscular disorder that is often seen in draft breeds. It causes a trembling or jerking motion in the hind legs.
It can often be chronic, but massage and regular exercise can help provide some relief. The disease tends to be progressive and is usually diagnosed by an abnormal gait.
A study done on the prevalence of Shivers in Belgian Draft horses found that almost 20 percent had the disorder.
2. Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM)
One of the more seen conditions among draft breeds is EPSM. EPSM happens when there is a buildup of glycogen and polysaccharides in the skeletal muscles.
Horses affected can not correctly metabolize their starches and sugars. Symptoms include fatigue and muscle weakness following exercise, reluctance to exercise, and increased sweating.
It is usually diagnosed through blood work or muscle biopsy. There is no cure, but it can be managed through diet.
Scratches can be an issue with any breed, but it is often seen in draft breeds due to their long feathered hair. It usually affects the rear aspect of the hindquarters.
If not treated, the legions can quickly spread to the fetlock and become infected. Sighs of infection include swelling, redness and scaling, oozing, hair matting, and cakiness.
An ulcer can also form on the skin if the cause of the scratches is blood vessel wall inflammation. Skin can also thicken and fissure due to the movement of the horse.
The lesions can be painful but can easily be prevented through excellent grooming habits.
Because of her large size, the Breton horse will need a consistent diet full of forage and feed concentrates. Because of her weight, she has larger than average calorie requirements to maintain her weight.
Especially if your horse is doing heavy work, then her hay and grass intake will be increased to ensure her health.
The Breton is a talented horse, well suited for all horse owners. She can be used for a variety of tasks due to the subtypes of the breed. A small Breton Draft could be used for fast, light draft work or pleasure riding.
Larger Bretons are well equipped to handle heavy farm work and to improve upon other breeds.
The breed is also used for its meat in European countries, including Germany, Switzerland, and France.
Though she is smaller than the average draft horse, the Breton is a powerful breed that is more than capable of work. They are suitable for driving to riding due to their hard-working nature.
The Breton is a versatile, hardy French breed of horse that comes from the province of Brittany. Her history dates back to the time of the Celts, and she was used primarily in battle and as a workhorse.
Her genetics have changed over the years, but she remains a beautiful and sturdy breed that is eager to please.
There’s a whole world of horse breeds out there to explore! Discover and find out more information by checking out our horse breed guides.