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All about the Percheron

As unbelievable as it may sound, the popular Percheron has more in common with the Arab than the British heavy horse breeds

History

Energetic, free-moving and clean-legged are not characteristics usually associated with heavy horse breeds, but the handsome Percheron is an exception, owing much of its elegance and poise to infusions of Oriental blood.

The Percheron originated in Le Perche, a region in Normandy, France, from which it takes its name.

Its ancestors were a mixture of native Norman and heavy draught breeds.

Eastern blood was introduced as early as 1096-1099, following the first Crusade. By 1760, Arab stallions were regularly being used for refinement purposes by Percheron breeders at Le Pin stud.

The most influential lines are still dominated by Arab outcrosses.

Few breeds of horse can claim to have had a history as colourful, long, useful and varied as the Percheron.

The breed has been used during war and peace time, as an artillery and coach horse, for agricultural work and under saddle.

Conformation and action

  • Fine head with a broad, straight face.
  • Long ears.
  • Prominent, alert eyes.
  • Wide, open nostrils.
  • Long, arched neck.
  • Prominent withers and sloping shoulders.
  • Broad body and deep chest.
  • Long, sloping, powerful hindquarters.
  • Strong legs with good, hard joints.
  • Feather-free heels.
  • Medium-sized hard blue feet.
  • Full mane and tail.
  • Long, low and free action which is distinctive, stylish and balanced.

Percheron factfile

  • Some of the breed’s supporters claim that the Percheron’s ancestors carried the knights of Charles Martel to victory over the Muslims at Poitiers in AD732, and that the enemy’s Barb or Arab horses were then used by the French to help upgrade the breed.
  • In 1830, part-bred Arab, Gallipoly, was responsible for siring Jean le Blanc, the most famous Percheron stallion of all.
  • The breed’s height ranges from 15.2hh to 18hh. Nowadays, in this country, we are getting more Percherons that measure between 17.2hh and 18hh.
  • Colours are predominantly black or grey, especially ‘rocking horse’ dapple grey. However, the French breed society will occasionally accept chestnuts, roans and bays as well.
  • Percheron, Dr Le Gear, was recorded as being the world’s biggest horse, standing 21hh and weighing 2,700Ibs (1,372kg).
  • A Percheron also holds the unofficial pulling record of 3,410lb (1,547kg).
  • The breed is intelligent, hardy, docile and easy to handle. It is also economic to keep and of sound constitution.
  • During World War I, a large proportion of the 500,000 British horse casualties were pure- or part-bred Percherons.
  • The breed has been exported all over the world and is especially popular in North and South America, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Australia and even the Falkland Islands.
  • Often crossed with the Thoroughbred in the UK, the Percheron makes an excellent heavyweight hunter.

For further information about the breed, contact Colin Dodd, Secretary, the British Percheron Horse Society, 122 Rampton Road, Willingham, Cambridge CB4 5JF. Tel: (01954) 204 637, email: secretary@percheron.org.uk or visit www.percheron.org.uk

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