Percherons have been around since the Middle Ages, when medieval knights used them as war horses. When the invention of gunpowder eliminated the need for war horses, they were used for hauling coaches and wagons. Named for the part of France where it was carefully bred and nurtured, the Percheron almost disappeared with the advent of modern farming equipment. However, in the 1960s, people rediscovered the usefulness of this breed.
Scientific & Common Names
Genus & Species - Equus ferus caballus
Common Names - Percheron Gelding, Percerons
Percherons are most commonly found in gray or black. However, they are also available in bay, roan, or sorrel. Percherons are large, heavy horses, usually 15 to 19 hands tall and weighing on average about 1900 pounds. These horses have rounded, muscular hindquarters, wide, deep chests, and refined heads.
Like most horses, Percheron mares can reproduce around the age of 3 years. They are pregnant for 48 weeks before foaling. Male horses that can reproduce are called stallions. Geldings are male horses that are castrated for ease in handling.
Percherons have docile, easy-to-handle natures. They can thrive in a wide variety of climates and locations. Their physical strength makes them useful for pulling heavy wagons or logging, while their classic good looks give them a graceful style that is well-suited for pulling carriages.
The ancient origins of the Percheron are somewhat clouded in the mysteries of time. Some claim that Percherons are descended from Ice Age horses common to Europe, while others say that the Percheron is descended from the Boulonnais horses ridden by Roman invaders of France. However, it is known that sometime in the Middle Ages, the mares of the La Perche area of France were bred to Arabian stallions. By the time of the Crusades, the Percheron had been refined as a war horse with fine legs and feet and matchless beauty and movement. During the early 1800s the French government sponsored a stud farm to encourage the development of military horses. In 1823, the Percheron stallion Jean Le Blanc was born, and all modern, pure-bred Percherons trace their lineage to this horse.
In the United States, the Percheron was one of the most popular draft horse breeds until after World War II. At its peak in the 1930s, the Percheron Horse Association of America recorded of 10,000 animals. Currently, however, the American Percheron horse has only about 3500 registered animals, as opposed to the almost 1000 animals registered with the Percheron Horse Society of France. These animals are used for draft work, advertising, logging, parades, and displays.