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11 Interesting Facts About the Percheron Horse Breed

11 Interesting Facts About the Percheron Horse Breed

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Powerful, beautiful, and graceful, Percherons have admirers all over the world. They are a French breed of draft horse originally from Perche province, hence the name of the breed. There are several unique facts about the stunning Percheron Horse that set them apart from other breeds.

For starters, Percherons are the most popular and numerous of all French draft breeds. Although they were originally used for war and agriculture, they are famous for their versatility. Due to their strength, stamina, and agility, Percherons excel in numerous areas such as driving, riding, farm work, and logging.

You can recognize a Percheron from their well-muscled bodies, arched necks, wide chests, clean legs, and straight heads. These spectacular horses are also remarkably intelligent and willing to work long hours day after day.

Facts About Percheron horses

1. Percherons Have Crossed Paths With Arabians

According to Britannica, Percherons likely descend from the Flemish “Great Horse” of the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, the ancestors of the modern Percheron were extensively used in the French cavalry as war mounts.

Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the breed became increasingly popular for pulling stagecoaches and agricultural equipment. To increase its stamina, refinement, and athleticism, breeders introduced Arabian blood to the Percheron.

Beautiful brown Percheron stallion horse
Nadezda Murmakova / Shutterstock.com

The influence of Arabian bloodlines on the breed is still visible today. Alongside an alert and energetic temperament, the Percheron inherited a deep chest, level croup, and clean feet from its Arabian ancestors.

Over time, the Percheron’s role shifted again towards heavy draft work such as towing barges and hauling goods. As a response, the breed received an infusion of draft-type blood to improve its strength and resilience. This was the last major step in creating the Percheron’s modern look, which is one of power and rugged elegance.

2. America is Home to More Percherons Than Anywhere Else

Though this magnificent horse breed originated in France, America is home to the majority of Percherons in the world today. The first Percheron exports made their way across the pond in the 19th century and became increasingly popular as draft animals after 1851.

Roughly 7,500 Percherons (5,000 stallions and 2,500 mares) came to the theUnited States in the 19th century alone. It is not surprising therefore that the Percheron Horse influenced American farming more than any other heavy breed.

Exports of Percherons from their homeland increased exponentially before World War I, which brought an abrupt halt to horse trade. As the breed was a valuable source of power at this time, the States actually shipped horses back to France in aid of the war.

In the 1930s, Percherons made up 70% of all purebred draft horses in America. People mainly used them for farming and transportation, as automobiles were still too expensive for many.

During the Great Depression (1929-1933), Percheron registration more than doubled in the United States. This increase made the breed society the largest draft horse registry in the world.

Windermere’s North American Maid Percheron horse
Photo and horse owned by Windermere Farms

Today, the number of living Percherons in the US only is close to 300,000. The Percheron Horse Association of America registers around 1,050 new horses annually and has members in all 50 states.

3. Percherons Were Endangered On Two Occasions

While breed numbers are numerous and stable today, this wasn’t always the case. Percherons were near-extinct in the 19th century, which prompted the founders of Jean Le Blanc stud in France to save the breed.

Thanks to the stud’s tireless efforts, the Percheron survived into modern times. Since Jean Le Blanc practically rebuilt the breed from its ashes, every living Percheron’s pedigree traces back to the horses of the stud.

The second time the Percheron Horse was in danger was just after the end of World War II. Due to mechanization and cheap gasoline, the demand for draft horse breeds declined substantially. In 1954, only 85 new Percheron Horses were registered in the United States, which was one of the lowest points in the breed’s history.

Luckily, the Percheron began to recover shortly, and the registry recorded 1,008 new horses in 1988. That number rose to 2,500 by 2009 and it lingers around 1,000 today.

Also Read: 7 Interesting Facts About Rocky Mountain Horses

4. Percherons Pull Carriages at Disney World

If you’ve ever been to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, you might remember their beautiful horse-drawn carriages. Many of the carriages are actually pulled by Percheron Horses in the park.

White Percheron horse pulling a Disney theme park tram

The horses of Disney World are specially trained to tolerate crowds and loud noises and have a friendly and calm attitude. The park’s Percheron Horses come from all over America and typically start driving when they are 6-10 years old.

Percherons also make up 30% of the horses at Disneyland Paris, where they pull trams on the park’s main street. These gentle giants are a popular choice worldwide for marching on parades, pulling carriages in city centers, as well as for special appearances.

5. Percheron Horses Used To Deliver Beer In Chicago

Until the 1800s, the Pabst Brewery in Chicago used a team of home-bred Percheron Horses to power the mills and deliver beer. These horses became one of the most famous Percherons in the United States. The Pabst family even competed with them at the 1904 World’s Fair!

Nowadays, hardly any breweries use dray horses anymore. The term “dray horse” was often used when referring to horses that delivered beer and other goods on a flatbed wagon with no sides. A few breweries in the United Kingdom still use dray horses for publicity, such as the Hook Norton or Wadworth breweries.

Percheron horse breed trotting in a field
Lenkadan / Shutterstock.com

6. Percherons Used to be called Norman-Percherons in America

While today the breed’s official name is “Percheron”, that didn’t always use to be the case. When a group of breeders met in Chicago to establish the first studbook, they called the breed the Norman-Percheron Horse.

The Norman-Percheron Horse Association (1876) was the first purebred livestock association in the United States. Just one year later, the name “Norman” was dropped from the title.

In 1905, the association was reformed as the Percheron Society of America. The current Percheron studbook was established in 1934, when the society changed its name to the Percheron Horse Association of America

Gray is the most common color in the Percheron Hose breed. This is due to two gray Arabian stallions that influenced the breed back in 1820.

However, breeders didn’t choose this color by coincidence. Lighter-colored horses were preferred by farmers as they were more visible, allowing them to work later into the day.

Besides gray, black is another common color in the Percheron breed. While the United States registry also accepts chestnut, bay, and roan horses, this is not the case in the rest of the world. Moreover, excessive white markings are undesirable in the breed, although small markings on the head and legs are acceptable.

Dapple grey Percheron horse being ridden by a woman
Photo by Criadero Sumatambo

Also Read: 11 Interesting Facts About Morgan Horses

8. Percherons Are Suitable For Both Riding And Draft Work

Although they were originally bred for draft work, Percheron horses are surprisingly versatile. They not only go well both in harness and under saddle, but have also shown talent for jumping and western disciplines.

Even in today’s world, Percherons are still used for their original purpose. They are particularly popular as forestry horses as they can work on rough terrain more efficiently than machinery. Percherons also make elegant carriage horses and will not disappoint in competitive or tourism-related driving.

Due to the influence of the Arabian breed, Percherons are quite energetic for their size. They are also considered intelligent, quick learners that can adapt well to new conditions. Hence why Percherons have been successful in a variety of equestrian disciplines, including jumping, dressage, and Western riding.

Black Percheron horse in an Autumnal field
Vivienstock / Shutterstock.com

9. A Percheron Can Eat Up To 30 Pounds Of Hay A Day

Given their massive size, it’s not surprising that Percherons are big eaters. To keep their engine going, a single Percheron might devour 30 pounds (13.6 kg) of hay and 5 pounds (2.27kg) of grain a day!

While this might seem like a lot, Percherons actually need less food in relation to their body size than the average horse. Like many other draft horse breeds, Percherons are easy-keepers, meaning they can maintain their body weight on minimal forage.

10. Actor Brendan Fraser Owns the Percheron Horse From George in the Jungle

Brendan Fraser, who’s most well known for his roles in George in the Jungle (1997) and The Mummy franchise, is a proud owner of a Percheron horse named Pecas. Fraser originally brought the gray gelding home from the set Texas Rising (2015), a historical fiction miniseries.

During his time on set, Pecas was constantly bullied by the other horses, but never fought back. After seeing him repeatedly being taunted by the other horses, Fraser knew he had to do something, so he brought Pecas home.

Pecas and Fraser’s son Griffin, who lives with autism, have since formed a strong bond together.

Watch this beautiful breed prance under saddle below:

Also Read: 11 Interesting Facts About Paint Horses

11. Percherons Were Used To Improve Other Horse Breeds

The Percheron breed has long been famous for its correct conformation, good disposition, and excellent work ethic. Therefore, Percherons played a role in the creation and improvement of several modern horse breeds. The Vladimir Heavy Draft from Russia and Ardennes Horse from Belgium are prime examples of the Percheron’s good influence.

Moreover, the Spanish-Norman Horse developed from crosses of Percheron Horses and Andalusians. Percherons have also improved working stock horses in the Falkland Islands and northern Australia by adding stamina and size. In Australia, Percherons are sometimes crossed with Thoroughbreds to create formidable police horses.

Crossing Percherons with light horse breeds can produce greater working and competition horses. In the United Kingdom, Percherons are typically bred to warmbloods to create heavy hunter-type horses with improved size and temperament.

FAQs About Percheron Horses

How Tall is a Percheron Horse?

A Percheron horse can be anywhere between 15 to 19 hands tall at the withers. The average height in the breed is around 16 to 17 hands.

With its impressive height, the modern Percheron is one of the tallest horse breeds in the world. Interestingly, the Percheron’s ideal height varies between countries. In France, Percherons can officially be 15.1 to 18.1 hands tall, while in the United States, the same range is 15 to 19 hands.

How Much Do Percherons Weigh?

Percherons typically weigh 1,900-2,100 pounds (860-950 kg) on average. However, they can weigh up to 2,600 pounds (1,200 kg).

Percherons in France are generally lighter than in the United States, starting from only 1,100 pounds (500 kg). Mares are also somewhat lighter than stallions, although there are exceptions to the rule.

Are Clydesdales Bigger Than Percherons?

Clydesdales are bigger than Percherons when it comes to height, but not weight. Percherons have a stronger build and heavier musculature, therefore will on average weigh more.

Both Clydesdales and Percherons are among the largest draft horse breeds on the planet. However, their build and overall appearance are very different. While Percherons have a stocky frame with short, strong legs, Clydesdales have a taller, lighter frame and appear “leggier” in comparison.

Also Read: 7 Facts You Didn’t Know About Clydesdale Horses

Are Percherons Good Beginner Horses?

Percherons can be great beginner horses due to their patience, gentle nature, and docile temperament. It is not easy to spook or upset a Percheron Horse, making them safe for beginner riders.

If you’re a newcomer in the horse world and come face to face with a Percheron Horse, don’t panic! They might seem intimidating with their giant stature and enormous feet, but they wouldn’t hurt a fly.

How Much Does a Percheron Horse Cost?

A Percheron Horse generally costs between $2,000-$10,000. As with other horse breeds, pedigree, training, and competition history can all affect how much a horse costs.

In the United States, Percherons are relatively inexpensive due to the sheer number of the population. However, remember that the purchase price is the smallest cost when it comes to horse ownership. You will need a stable income to finance the horse’s upkeep, such as paying for hay, bedding, veterinary and farrier visits.

Featured photo credit to @sumatambo (Left) & Windermere Farms (Right).

Barb

Thursday 17th of March 2022

I own a Percheron X pony. Yes it's possible,he's a black gelding,no white and stands about 14 h. high and has the classic Percheron head.He has never been sick a day in his life and is always a fit weight.He is 14 years old and has a nice round rump with red streaks in his long tail, but what a stubborn guy when it comes to loading in a trailer and putting a halter on! He just wants to be a Stallion and Free!

Walter Hehl

Saturday 12th of March 2022

Percherons are really impressive animals. Must be an adventure to be able to direct them. I am wondering if I would dare .... Thanks for the article!

Samuel Evansi

Friday 11th of March 2022

I love horses and I would like to know more about the horses šŸŽ I have seen here on Facebook

Jim Buettner

Tuesday 9th of November 2021

When I worked on a historic farm(OBVR) on Long Island in the 1970's during the last recession we had a team of percherons. I would use them to pull the wagon for the guests and after closing I sometimes would ride them bareback. We didn't have a saddle that fit them. They were a very gentle team.

Joanna Burnet

Sunday 22nd of August 2021

I have a Percheron cross who will be 37 years old in October. Do they usually live this long? His name is Prince and has lived on our farm since he was 6. He has retired to do gardening now.