The Percheron is a breed of draft horse. They are believed to have originated in the Huisne River Valley, which is located in Western France, and originally part of the Le Perche Province. This is how the breed gets its name. This region is located southwest of Paris by about 50 miles and is bordered by Normandy and Beauce country. It is a region which features rolling hills, cultivated farm lands, and really is a world unto itself.
Because it is a draft horse breed, you will find that these horses tend to be quite intelligent, very willing to work, and are well-muscled. Many would come to Le Perche to purchase the horses being bred in this region because of the work they are able to perform.
Here are some additional interesting Percheron horse facts to help you get to know this breed a little bit better.
#1. Most Percheron horses come in two colors.
The Percheron as a breed is usually either grey or black. They may also be bays, roans, sorrels, and other colors, but this is considered to be uncommon. Many Percherons will have white markings in their coat, particularly on the head and the feet. Too much white is considered an undesirable trait for the breed. Many of them have feathers, or long hairs, that cover their hooves today, although this wasn’t originally part of the breed standard.
#2. Percheron horses are usually above average in height.
Percherons can range in height from 15-19 hands. The average height for the breed falls between 16.2-17.3 hands, which makes them one of the taller breeds in the world today. They are also above average in weight, with some Percherons topping out at 2,600 pounds. In comparison, that is about the same weight as many Clydesdale horses.
#3. The Percheron head and neck offer a structured draft horse character.
Percherons which meet the breed standard will have a full and broad forehead, a straight face, and a full, prominent eye. They also have strong jaws and refined ears that are very animated, giving owners a reflection of their current emotional state.
#4. Percherons are a very versatile breed.
Percherons adapt very well to different climates and environmental conditions. Not only are they strong enough to be able to pull a heavy load in difficult conditions, but they can still do it with a graceful style that also makes them suitable as a carriage horse. Some horses within this breed enjoy a good trail walk and some have even been trained in show jumping with success.
#5. There are more Percherons in the US than any other country.
Percherons have a well-deserved popularity in the United States because of their strength and even temperament. These horses do particularly well in farm work, especially if land needs to be worked where a tractor may not be able to go. This popularity started in the late 19th century when about 7,500 horses [5,000 stallions and 2,500 mares] in this breed were imported. The first stud book for the breed was also created in the US during this time in Chicago.
#6. The original breed name in the US was different.
When the first stud book and breeders of this horse met in Chicago, they named themselves the “Norman-Percheron Association.” That name lasted just one year, when the breeds would drop the “Norman” from the name. In 1905, the organization was formalized into the Percheron Society of America. It further evolved into the Percheron Horse Association of American in 1934.
#7. Percheron horses are considered to be “cold-blooded” horses.
This isn’t because Percherons are secretly creating evil plans to conquer the world. The reference is to their quiet and generally calm temperament.
#8. There is a specific reason why many Percherons are grey in color.
In 1820, two grey Arab stallions were imported to breed with the initial Percherons in France. The goal was to create a horse that was colored in the grey-to-white spectrum. Farmers at the time preferred this colorization because it made the animal more visible to the eye during the evening hours, allowing them to continue working with ease.
The Arabian bloodlines also helped to refine the athleticism of this breed as those involved in farming and trade commerce were looking for a horse with good stamina. They needed an animal who could trot up to 10 miles per hour and have the fortitude to perform that well on a daily basis.
#9. Percherons are big eaters.
The average Percheron is able to eat up to 30 pounds of hay every day. Their daily diet also includes about 5 pounds of grain or other needed supplements.
#10. Percherons perform better when they receive regular coat care.
Good grooming is essential to their upkeep, especially when the horse is in a colder climate, because their coat will get quite heavy. The hair around their ankles in particular needs to be addressed by owners because it can attract bacteria from the soil. Without regular care, Percherons can be susceptible to scratches, hoof health issues, rain rot, and other similar conditions.
#11. Most Percherons do not like being kept in a stall.
This breed does better if you have the ability to turn them out into a pasture every day. They will also do well if you have a dry lot. Because of their size, they prefer to be outside of their stall at almost all times. Even if you have a 24x24 foot stall for this draft horse, they will become anxious if not allowed to be outside for a good portion of the day and this can lead to negative behaviors.
#12. Percherons are often crossed with lighter breeds.
Although some breeders have brought other draft horses into the Percheron bloodlines to create a strong and refined horse, others have bred Percherons with lighter breeds to create competitive sport horses. Lighter breeds, when crossed with a Percheron, tend to create successful jumpers and hunters that respond well to commands.
#13. There are nearly 300,000 Percherons currently registered in the United States.
Although pricing for this breed can be quite variable, it is very affordable to purchase a Percheron in the US or Canada because of the popularity of this breed. Current listings begin at just $1,000 and may go up to $10,000 or more depending on the training that a specific horse has received. Those that are trained for driving and farm work tend to bring in the best pricing.
#14. Most Percherons tend to live between 25-30 years.
This is in-line with the average life expectancy of most breeds today.
#15. Sometimes the Percheron is referred to as a “diligence” horse.
This is because of its role in the transportation network in this French region. Passengers would often need to be transported to Normandy or would be traveling to Paris, which required a coach. Heavy mail coaches and other pulling were needed regularly as well. Because these coaches were called “diligences,” the Percheron was often referred to as a “Diligence Horse.”
The best diligences were heavier than the average draft horse, moved with an extravagant style, and a team could pull several tons of weight with ease.
#16. At one point in the US, 70% of purebred horses in the United States were Percherons.
This was during the decade of the Great Depression. Just about every major land grant school in the US was maintaining a stable of Percerhons at the time. Although automobiles had driven the horse-and-carriage off of the streets, these horses were still an economical source of farm power at a time when money for many families was in short supply. Registrations during the Great Depression more than doubled for Percherons.
#17. At one point, Percherons could have been considered an endangered breed.
This occurred in 1954. It was in the aftermath decade of World War II when gasoline was cheap and plentiful. Tractors made farming faster and easier, which reduced the need for farm horses. Only 85 new horses were recorded on the registry that year.
#18. Percherons may be plentiful, but the number of new registrations is still relatively low.
Percherons might be a popular horse breed in the US, but the number of new registrations is far below that of other popular breeds. Most years, the number is below 5,000 horses. Considering that there were just 1,088 new registrations in 1988, however, the recovery of this breed in number and popularity has been quite unique.
These Percheron horse facts show that when you need to call on a strong horse, this breed is ready to take on whatever job you may have for it. These horses are versatile, have plenty of patience and practice, and can even do a great job of wandering down a trail for an afternoon ride if called upon. In many ways, it is the perfect family horse, but is also the definition of a “workhorse,” and that is why its popularity will always be at high levels.