The Percheron horse is a large and strong, yet gentle horse. It is one of the most popular horses in the United States today and used mostly for farm work. They were once powerful warhorses, but today, they are beloved draft horses and also often used for riding.
These horses are very popular in horse pulling circuits – competitions where teams of draft horses, usually one or two horses in a team, are matched against a weighted sled or stone-boat with increasing weights. The winner is the team that can pull the most weight.
The Percheron draft horse is a breed that is excellent as a draft horse and for other purposes such as riding. Its large size contrasted against its friendly nature makes it a favorite among breeders.
The exact origins and history of the Percheron horse is still heavily debated. While some believe that these heavy draft horse breeds are descended from the horses found in Le Perche region of France, dating back to the Ice Age.
There are some who believe that these horses originate from the Boulannais Horse, which was the horse breed captured during the invasion of Brittany by King Clovis I from the ethnic groups, sometime around the late 5th century. There is also a theory which states that this horse is related to the Barn stallion, used by the Moors during the Battle of Tours. When they were defeated, they left their horses behind, and the animals were left to breed with the large Flemish horses.
Despite these many origin theories, we know that there were two points in history – the 8th century, and then during the Middle Ages – when the native Le Perche mares mated with the Arab stallions.
During the 1700s, these horses became more popular as trade grew, and during the 1800s, the French government developed the breed even further to be used as army mounts. A stud farm called Le Pin was set up, and it was in 1823 when a horse called Jean Le Blanc was foaled in Le Perche. All the Percheron horses today can be traced back to this horse.
In the United States, Percherons were imported in 1839 by a man named Edward Harris, who lived in Moorestown, New Jersey. Then in 1851, the Percheron stallions, Louis Napoleon and Normandy, were imported to Ohio. Later, Louis Napoleon was then sold into Illinois and ended up with the Dunham family, who played a key role in the formation of the Percheron Horse Association of America.
During the latter half of the 19th century, thousands of Percherons were imported into the U.S., and they continued to be imported up until World War II. Thus, the horses quickly filled up the farms and streets of America, becoming well-loved draft animals.
Today, the Percheron Horse Association of America, which was formed in 1934, still serves as the United States’ breed registry and has more than 3,000 members from all states.
As earlier mentioned, this breed of horse is large in size, but they tend to have a very pleasing and friendly personality. They are more energetic and lively compared to other draft horse breeds and are also known for their intelligence. Many Percheron breeders find that these horses can be easily trained, and they are also very aware of and sensitive to their environment.
Percherons stand tall and proud and are blessed with incredible stamina and energy, making them ideal for heavy farm work. In the 1800s, Percheron breeders even claimed that the horse can travel almost 40 miles per day at a trot. They are also known for their incredibly strong work ethic.
Their pleasing and adaptable nature, combined with their strength, alertness, intelligence and versatility, make the Percheron draft horse a horse that is easy to work with.
Since a Percheron is very large and has incredible energy for doing lots of heavy farm work and other physically demanding works, it makes sense that it eats more than what the average-sized horse usually eats.
In a single day, the horse can easily finish 5 pounds of grain and 30 pounds of high-quality hay. Some Percheron breeders may find that their horse requires vitamin and mineral supplements, especially if the animal cannot forage in pasture. These horses are big eaters and they require plenty of nutrition to be in top-notch health and condition.
It is crucial that these horses receive quality nutrition to upkeep their overall health, strength and stamina. These draft horses do a lot of heavy lifting and providing them with a quality source of energy should be a priority for breeders.
Like many other large horses, these horses are also susceptible to developing a health condition known as equine polysaccharide storage myopathy. This is a condition where muscles cannot store glucose properly, which then causes damage to the muscle tissues. This disease cannot be cured, but it can be effectively managed with the right diet as well as exercise.
Percherons require proper grooming apart from their nutrition. Especially in colder climates, their coats can get heavy easily and the hair around their ankles may attract bacteria in the soil. This makes them prone to pododermatitis or scratches.
Breeding And Uses
Percherons were initially bred as war horses, but they were soon used for farm work, and pulling carriages and stagecoaches. As trade began to grow, these horse breeds were in high demand. They were used for moving heavy loads from docks and railheads and hauling goods, and they played an important role in the industrialization of society.
However, in America, the rapid industrialization led to these horses almost becoming extinct. But in the 1960s, these draft animals became widely popular again as more and more Americans rediscovered just how useful they are.
Today, these horses are back on farms, while there are some who are working on forests. There are also thousands of Percherons that are used for various recreational activities such as parades, hayrides, and sleighrides.
They can also be found in many state and county fairs all over the US, participating in competition hitching and halter classes. Their proud posture and calm nature also make them very popular in advertising and for the promotion of other businesses. In larger cities, these horses are also used to attract tourists through horse-drawn carriages, dressage and parades.
You may find Percherons cross-bred with lighter horse breeds to create excellent sport horses. As one of the older horse breeds in the world, Percherons are often used in the cross-breeding of other horse breeds such as the Spanish-Norman horse, which is a combination of the Andalusian breed from Spain and the Percheron.
These horses are generally about 15 hands to 19 hands (60 inches to 70 inches). Sometimes, it may be as tall as 76 inches. It can weigh anywhere between 1,800 to a massive 2,600 pounds. However, in the United States, these horses usually stand about 16 to 17 hands tall, which is equal to 64 to 68 inches.
In France, they may be heavier or lighter, depending on their bloodline. They are usually about 15 to 18 hands in France and weigh around 1,100 to 2,600 pounds. Meanwhile, in Great Britain, Percherons are generally taller than 16 hands and they weigh about 1,800 to 2,200 pounds.
What Breeds Make Up The Percheron Horse?
Since the exact origins of the Percheron horse are not known, the breeds that make up this horse may vary according to different sources. Some believe them to be a cross between the Barb horses of the Moors and the huge Flemish draft breeds.
Then later on, these horses were refined with incredible athleticism by breeding them with Arabian bloodlines. It is widely believed that these Le Perche mares bred with Arab stallions are the ancestors of the Percherons that we see today.
Percherons come in a wide variety of colors including black, gray, chestnut, roan, sorrel, or bay. The registry does not allow any other colors for Percheron horses.
However, most Percheron horses are black horses and gray horses. White markings are usually seen on the forehead as well as the feet, but the registry frowns upon excessive white markings.
While American and British-bred Percherons are generally black or gray, French-bred Percheron horses are born black in color and as they age, they begin to turn gray, usually by the age of 3. Sometimes, light gray Percherons can look almost white.
What Do They Look Like?
The Percheron draft horse is a large and muscular horse that stands tall and proud. It has a head with a straight profile, strong jaws, a broad forehead, and deep cheeks with large, bright eyes and refined ear that are set desirably on the head. It boasts of a strong neck and well-laid shoulders, a broad chest and deep, wide ribs.
The horse also has very muscular and burly-looking thighs, and it is from these thighs that the draft horse gets its immense strength and pulling power from. Their clean action and good balance and coordination can be attributed to their strong and muscular thighs too.
Percherons also have large, round hips that makes adds to their huge appearance. It has clean legs and feet and does not have heavy feathering on the fetlocks. Feathering is very common among draft horses and these long hairs around the feet can sometimes cover almost the entire hooves. Additionally, the Percheron horse is known for having thick and wavy manes and tails, adding to their magnificent, awe-inspiring appearance.
Usually, the mares have a more feminine appearance, while the stallions can be identified with a more masculine and rugged look, especially around the head.
What Are They Used For?
Percherons are used for a variety of purposes. In the olden days, they were used as war horses. Then, they were used heavily for farming purposes and for carrying heavy loads. As trade continued to grow, these horses grew in demand too. Their strength and versatility, combined with strong work ethic and their docile nature made them the ideal draft horse breed for many agricultural works.
Today, these horses are still popular in farms all over the United States. In fact, they are among the most loved draft horses in the country and the Percheron Horse Association even states that this horse breed can “work ground where even the most modern tractors fail”. There was a brief time when tractors and cars overtook their roles, but around the 1960s. Percheron horses became extremely popular again.
Apart from draft work, these draft horse breeds are also extensively used in sleigh rides, hay rides, parades, for pulling carriages and for dressage. They have the strength to pull the heavy load of a carriage or any other load, while still managing to have a graceful style and gait that makes the ride smooth and pleasant. In France, they are also used in meat production like other draft breeds.
Where Do They Live?
Percherons are usually kept in stables in the farms of their owners. If they are kept inside, these horses need a very large stall because of their huge size. These horses must have enough room to move around and be comfortable in without feeling constrained.
Percherons also do very well on dry lots or in green pastures. They will feel right at home when they are surrounded by nature, especially where there is plenty of green grass.
How Long Do They Live?
Generally, this horse breed has a life expectancy of about 25 to 30 years, which falls in-line with the average life expectancy of most horse breeds that you can find today.
With proper diet and nutrition, physical exercise, and grooming, these draft horse breeds can live a very long and fulfilling life. The good news is that they are very well-natured and friendly, and this temperament makes it easy to care for them, despite their large size.
Sometimes, Percheron horses may not reach the ages of 25 to 30 if they have serious health complications, if they have grave injuries, or have not received the proper nutrition required to remain healthy and strong.
How Fast Are They?
A Percheron draft horse is not only strong and muscular, it is also very fast. It has high energy levels, even more so than other draft horses, which makes it one of the fastest draft horses today.
With speed and endurance as their top qualities, Percherons make excellent riding horses. Their muscular, toned, and athletic build make them fast and reliable horses that can be used for a wide range of purposes. In the 1800s, Percheron breeders even claimed that the horse can travel almost 40 miles per day at a trot.
There are many riders who choose Percherons as their horse of choice if they prefer to ride larger horses. Their willingness to be trained and gentle demeanor make them even more suitable for riding purposes.
How Much Does A Percheron Cost?
The prices of Percheron horses vary greatly, depending on the age of the horse, its training level and well as pedigree. If you are planning to buy or adopt a horse, make sure that you visit it first in person at the breeder or the rescue and see how the horse responds to you before you make any commitments. You can even ask to see its level of training so you know what you are getting yourself into.
The prices of Percherons can range anywhere from $1000 to $10,000. Good Percheron breeders should always have proper documentation on the lineage of the horse, where it was bred, as well as its health history, among other important documents.
There are currently more than 290,000 Percheron horses that are registered with the Percheron Horse Association of America. If you are looking to buy this horse breed, the association can direct you to Percherons that are for sale in your area.
Are They Good For Beginners?
The Percheron horse is a docile and well-mannered draft horse breed that is friendly and very approachable. As such, it is ideal even for those with little to no experience with horses. Despite their large size, they are very calm and gentle, making them ideal for all level of riders and owners, including beginners.
As long as you are comfortable with large horses, you will not have any issues with the Percheron horse. Whether you are training them yourself, using them for riding or doing farm works, and carrying heavy loads, these horses are kind and friendly and suitable for anyone, regardless of your experience with horses.
In this section, we will answer the frequently asked questions about this amazing horse breed in short detail. This will help to clear up any confusion or doubts that you may have about this horse breed.
Are They Good Riding Horses?
Percherons are great riding horses thanks to their athletic build and high stamina. Their energy level stands out when it comes to draft horses and their strong and muscular legs makes it easier for them to gallop with ease. Besides, their calm and friendly temperament makes them good riding horses even for those with little to no experience with horses.
Are Percheron Horses Gaited?
Yes, Percheron horses are gaited. They boast of straight and bold movements paired with long and free strides. This makes them ideal for a smooth and pleasant riding experience with intermediate speed. In other words, they have been selectively bred for natural gaited tendencies.
Which Is Bigger: Percheron Vs Clydesdale?
The Percheron is bigger than the Clydesdale in terms of height, weight, and sturdiness. While the Percheron stands about 15 to 19 hands tall and weight between 1,800 to 2,600 pounds, the Clydesdale weighs only about 1,800 to 2,000 pounds in most cases. Moreover, they are usually about 16 to 18 hands tall.
The Clydesdale is a lighter built breed compared to the Percheron horse. Sometimes, the difference is size can be apparent even at just the first glance and you can easily differentiate a Percheron from a Clydesdale just by looking.
What Does Percheron Mean In Spanish?
In Spanish, the Percheron horse is known as percherona (Feminine) and percheron (masculine). The horse has Spanish ancestry, in addition to its Barb ancestry. However, it is widely believed to have originated in the Perche region of France, which is also how it got its name.
Can They Jump?
Percheron horses can jump, but proper training is of utmost important. It is important to remember that these are draft horse breeds mainly bred for farm work, not for sport. This is why they are so big and strong and muscular, compared to sport horses such as the Hanoverian.
Jumping can be a bit risky when it comes to draft horses because of their heavy weight. Especially if the horse is completely untrained or hasn’t received enough training, it can be dangerous to make them jump over fences and other kinds of barricades. That being said, with the right training, draft horses such as the Percheron are indeed capable of jumping over fences that are not too high.
The Percheron draft horse is a horse breed that is best describe as a gentle giant. Many people are pleasantly surprised that these huge and muscular horses that stand tall and proud are also incredibly friendly, approachable, and gentle. They are also highly intelligent and alert and are very easily adaptable.
Percherons are mostly used for draft work in farms and forests today, as well as for pulling carriages for attracting tourists in larger cities, for hayrides, sleigh rides, and parades. They are also often used for riding and have a very strong presence when it comes to dressage. Although they were first bred as war horses, they are heavily commercialized today and the Percheron horse business is booming not only in the United States but all over the world, including France and Great Britain.
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.