The Percheron is a French draft horse breed known for its power and versatility. Although the breed’s exact origins remain a mystery, these horses likely descend from the heavy war horses ridden into battle by Medieval knights.

Percherons gained popularity on both sides of the Atlantic as versatile farm horses for agriculture work. Their strength allowed them to haul heavy freights, but the beauty these horses inherited from Arabian bloodlines made the breed stand out from other drafts.

After the mechanization of agriculture caused the decline of many draft breeds, demand for recreational carriage horses allowed the Percheron breed to rebound. However, these gentle giants have an elevated risk of health conditions commonly found in draft horses.

This article will review the origin, history, characteristics, health problems, and nutritional needs of the Percheron breed. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for your Percheron horse.

Percheron Horse History

While the foundations of the Percheron breed are subject to speculation, available documentation shows these horses changed significantly over the past four centuries as their societal roles evolved.

Origin

The Percheron breed originated in the old French province of Le Perche. Bordering Normandy, this fertile region in Northern France was well-suited for raising livestock and ideally located for trade.

By the 17th century, breeders in Le Perche produced and sold horses for many different purposes. Perche horses of the time were slightly shorter and more agile than modern Percherons.

Historical theories suggest these original Perche horses descended from Celtic, Iberian, and Moor bloodlines brought to the region over centuries of wars and conquests. Scholars believe Arabians also significantly influenced the breed’s development.

The French government established a royal stud at Le Pin for breeding military mounts in the early 19th century. While all Percherons today can trace their ancestry to the stallion Jean le Blanc, little information is available about this foundation stallion foaled in 1823. [1]

Historic Use

Despite their shorter stature, Percheron ancestors were powerful enough to carry knights in heavy armour into battle. Paintings from the Middle Ages depict French knights almost exclusively on grey horses, the predominant coat colour of the modern Percheron breed.

Breeders also favoured grey coat colouring for Perche horses bred to pull heavy stagecoaches, as the colouring increased visibility at night. The stockier body type emerged as the Percheron breed found a new niche as heavy draft horses for agriculture work.

The foundation of the first Percheron stud book in 1893 corresponded with the surging popularity of the breed at the end of the 19th century. French breeders exported the horses worldwide until embargos halted exportations during World War One. [2]

By 1930, Percherons made up 70% of the draft horse population in America. But World War Two and agricultural mechanization led to a sharp decline in breed numbers until the 1980s when the breed experienced renewed interest as a recreational horse.

Breed Registry

The Percheron Horse Association of America is the breed registry of Percheron horses in North America. Founded in 1876, the organization was the first purebred livestock association in the United States.

The PHAA is dedicated to preserving and promoting purebred Percheron horses. This association processes all registration and ownership transfers of Percherons in North America.

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Breed Characteristics

Percherons have a similar type to other draft horses but are often more energetic. While powerful enough to pull heavy loads, the Percheron is also a graceful carriage horse. That versatility allows these horses to adapt to a variety of modern jobs.

Conformation

Most Percherons stand between 16 and 18 hands tall at the wither. These draf