Until recently, the Percheron horse was the most widely distributed of all draft breeds. Today, it ranks second in registration numbers.
Origin and Native Home
The Percheron horse originated in northwestern France, in the ancient district of La Perche, an area about one-fifteenth the size of the state of Iowa. The native stock was primarily of Flemish extraction upon which there was a subsequent and rather liberal infusion of Arab blood.
Although early records are lacking, it is known that with the defeat of the Saracens (the Moors from North Africa) at Tours and Poitiers, France, in 732 A. D. by Charles Martel, the Arab, Barb, and Turk horses upon which the Moors were mounted—mostly stallions as was the custom of the day—fell into the hands of the Franks and were eventually distributed throughout the country.
The successful Crusaders of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries also brought back stallions as spoils of war from Palestine, and this again furnished a direct, though unplanned, infusion of Oriental blood. Thus, on a cold blood base, the Flemish horse repeated top crosses of Oriental blood were made.
Finally, in about 1870, a systematic effort was made to transform the mixture into a true type. Eventually, the Percheron breed evolved, and the Percheron Society of France was organized in 1883.
Percheron Horse Characteristics
Typical Percheron horse colors of today are black or gray (the latter being a probable Arab inheritance); but bays, browns, chestnuts, and roans arc occasionally seen. Fully ninety percent, however, are black or gray. Mature stallions stand from 16-1 to 16-3 hands in height and weigh from 1,900 to 2,100 pounds.
In size, the Percheron is intermediate between the larger Shire and Belgian and the smaller Clydesdale and Suffolk. In comparison with other draft breeds, the Percheron is noted for its handsome, clean-cut head; good action (being surpassed in style and action only by the Clydesdale); excellent temperament; and longevity.