Thursday, 29 November 2012

Percherons... The Gentle Giants

Recently I have developed a love for the gentle giants of the equine world, draft horses, particularly Percherons.  I thought I would do a write up on these beautiful draft horses.

Percherons originated in the Huisane river valley in northern France, part of the former Perche province. La Perche is one of the oldest horse breeding regions in the world and is where the Percheron name developed.  In the 8th century, Arabian and other oriental horses were mated with heavy native horses and cob stock, producing the first Percheron horses.  In the Middle Ages, the Comte de Perche introduced Spanish blood into the breed, followed by the importing of Andalusian stallions by Comte de Rotrou.  Arabs and English Thoroughbreds were mixed into the bloodlines in the 18th century.  The gray colour in the Percherons can be traced all the way back to 1820, to two imported, gray Arababian stallions.  All the Percherons around today, can trace their lineage directly back to 1823 to a horse named Jean Le Blanc.

Percherons were originally bred for use as war horses, and artillery horses.  They have also served as carriage horses, pulling stage coaches.  Later the breed began to be used as a working horse, hauling heavy goods on the farms.  Breeders became more interested in using the breed as a work horse, rather than a carriage horse.  In the middle of the 19th century, heavy mares were brought in to mix with the breed in order to focus on breeding the heavier Percheron people are accustomed to today.  The first Percherons in North America were imported to the United States in 1839.  Canada imported their first Percheron from the United States. All Percherons in Canada and the United States remain genetically pure, as all horses can follow their ancestry back to the originating stock from La Perche.

The Percherons found in North America today, stand, on average, between 16.2 and 17.3 hands.  The range can vary from 15 to 19 hands, and they weigh in, on average, 1900 to 2600 pounds.  Typically they are black or gray in colour, but have been known to be roan, bay, or chestnut.  White markings have been known to appear on heads and legs, but the registries consider excessive white undesirable.  The Percheron head has a straight profile, broad forehead, large eyes, and small ears.  The chest is deep and wide, and croup is long and level.  Feet and legs are heavy muscled.

Percherons are known for their intelligence, ease of handling, equable temperament, and willingness to work.  These horses are an elegant heavy horse, and are active, showy and easy movers.  Although they adapt to different climates well, they are not as hardy in extreme winter conditions as other draft types.  Today the breed is still used as a working horse on small farms.  When they are not working on the farm, they are used for hayrides, sleigh rides, and parades.  Many people show the breed in hitching lasses.  Some even use them under saddle for both English and Western riding.

On that note, I definitely think my next horse is going to be a Percheron.

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