Family: Equidae Percheron PictureEquus caballusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs
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Hi! I have a question that I'm hoping I can get answered. I have been searching for almost 2yrs for a draft horse that's 19h+. I've had both light and heavy horses... (more)  Kim Azzano

  Imported into the United States in the late 1880's, the Percheron became America's favorite horse!

The Percheron is large and heavy, yet elegant in its movement. It is a versatile and adaptable breed of draft horse of French descent. Known for its great strength and even temper, it was used widely for carriage driving and farm work. It also makes an excellent riding horse.

There are more Percherons in the United States than any other country. Here they enjoy a well earned popularity. The importation of almost 7,500 Percheron horses into the United States in the 1880's led to the formation of the first livestock association. A group of Percheron breeders met in Chicago, Illinois in 1876, to create the Norman-Percheron Association and start the first stud book, though the name Norman was dropped the following year. In 1905 the breeders again met and formed the Percheron Society of America, which in 1934 became the present day association, the Percheron Horse Association of America.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Equidae
  • Genus: Equus
  • Species: caballus
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Horse Breeds
The Percheron is a Draft Horse or Heavy horse. The Draft horse is also known as the Draught Horse or Dray Horse. 'Dray' is a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for 'to haul' or 'to draw'.
Draft horses are large and hardy, much heavier and broader than the light horses. The breeds in this horse class are referred to as cold blood breeds, in reference to their quiet and calm temperament. They are heavy in the body and strong legged. Many have have "feathers", or long hair, covering their large hooves though this is not a characteristic of the Preacher.

Horse Backgrounds
Although the exact history of this breed is not known, the ancestors of the modern Percheron came from the horse friendly rolling green pastures of Le Perche, southwest of Paris. Horses here grew large and hardy as a consequence of the mild temperatures, lush pastures and good nutrition. In the early middle ages, Arab and Andalusian stallions were brought into the region in order to breed with the native mares.
In the time of the crusades, the horses from Le Perche were in great demand as war horses. By the 1700's, as trade and commerce grew, they became popular as coach horses and farm horses. As the need grew for more driving horses, so did the necessity for heavy draft horses to move large loads from docks and railheads. There was a demand for a horse that could trot from 7 to 10 miles per hour and had the stamina to do it day in and day out.
In 1820, two grey Arab stallions were imported to breed exclusively to the horses from Le Perche. Still today, grey is the predominant color of the breed. The light colored grays and whites were preferred because of their visibility in the evening hours.
The Percheron quickly became America's favorite horse. In the 1880's almost 5,000 stallions and over 2,500 mares were imported to this country from France, mostly from Le Perche. In 1876, a group of Percheron breeders met in Chicago, Illinois, and formed the Norman-Percheron Association and the first stud book was started. This was the first purebred livestock association formed in the United States. The following year the name Norman was dropped. In 1905, Percheron breeders again met in Chicago and formed the Percheron Society of America which continued until 1934, when the present association, the Percheron Horse Association of America was formed as a non-profit organization.

Percherons range in height from 15 to 19 hands high, most are between 16-2 and 17-3 hands high. They can weigh up to 2600 pounds with the average around 1900. The lower thighs are heavily muscled to give the horse enormous pulling power, making them economical movers with clean action and good balance. They are wide and deep through the chest with a large heart girth and well sprung ribs. The croup is level, tying into a large round hip. They lack the heavy feathering on the fetlocks seen in many other draft breeds.
Most Percherons are black or grey, but sorrels, bays, roans, and other colors are also seen. Many Percherons have white markings on the head and feet, but excessive white is undesirable.
The breed standard states "The Percheron head and neck are typical of the most attractive draft horse character. Good Percherons have a large and full prominent eye, a broad and full forehead, and straight face. His strong jaw and refined ears attractively set and carried with animation, suggests his Arabian ancestry. Stallions should have a ruggedness about the head and mares should have a feminine look."

Horse Care and Feeding
Percherons are big eaters, easily eating 30 pounds of hay and over 5 pounds of grain and other supplements per day.
The Percheron is an easy keeper, and not particularly prone to health problems. Good grooming is essential, however, as their coats can get heavy in cold climates, and the hair around their ankles can attract bacteria in the soil, making them susceptible to "scratches" or pododermititis.
Because of their size, the Percheron needs a very large stall if kept inside. They do very well in pasture or on dry lot.

Horse Training and Activities
The Percheron has a very pleasing disposition. It is proud, alert, intelligent and willing. Tractable and an easy keeper, it is a versatile and adaptable breed of draft horse which was used widely for carriage driving and farm work. It is known for its great strength and even temper, making horse training for this breed suitable to a variety of disciplines. It makes an excellent riding horse.
Percherons are highly versatile animals. They are adaptable to most situations and types of work. They perform well under saddle, and many have been known to make successful hunters or jumpers. They are often crossed with lighter breeds to make an excellent and competitive sporthorse. Where they excel, however, is in driving. They have the strength to pull heavy loads and the graceful style to pull a fine carriage. They are still used regularly in small logging operations.
The Percheron Horse Association website states "The Percheron is very handy in saving the young trees in smaller wood lot operations as they do not need a wide road everywhere they work. They can get on and work ground where even the most modern tractors fail. Their independent four wheel drive conquers mud and snow to the shame of all man made machines."

Common Health Problems
"Scratches" or pododermititis are more prevalent in horses that are subjected to wet muddy conditions for extended periods. Horses with white feet seem also to be more susceptible to scratches.

Percheron's range greatly in price, depending on their training and bloodlines. There are over 290,000 Percherons registered with the Percheron Horse Association of America and they can direct you on where to find Percherons for sale in your area. .

Judith Dutson, Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America, Storey Publishing, LLC, 2005
Corinne Clark, A Pocket Guide to Horses and Ponies , Parragon Inc., 2007
Percheron Horse Association of America, Fredericktown, Ohio 2001, Referenced online, 2008 Author: Joan Childs

Lastest Animal Stories on Percheron

Kim Azzano - 2015-11-02
Hi! I have a question that I'm hoping I can get answered. I have been searching for almost 2yrs for a draft horse that's 19h+. I've had both light and heavy horses throughout my 36yrs of riding and prefer the heavy. I have an 18'3h belgian gelding named Jake and a Clydesdale stallion named husband and I want 1 more big guy lol... I have found a 3yo Percheron gelding that I'm really considering buying. He's a little over 18'3h...I know he's still growing... I'm just wondering if anyone can give me a guesstimate on how tall you think Jasper (that's his name) might end up at. (I know they can grow until 7-8y?) He is many states away and I haven't actually seen him in person yet...just videos and pictures. We strictly ride our guys.. we don't pull with them... not that that matters but I figured I'd throw that in. I have shown successfully in hunter/jumper, dressage and cross country. I plan on just doing a little dressage with him strictly for fun... I love training and seeing the outcome. My drafts have always been bought full grown so that's why I'm not sure about his height etc. I know more about the light horses in that dept. If anyone can help me out I'd appreciate it so much! Thank you :)

Andrea Newstead - 2015-02-20
I have just purchased a 12 year old Percheron/Throghbred X. She is absolutely beautiful and smart. I have ridden her about 8 times now and she moves off the leg beautifully. I have been working on the bond between us and getting used to her big movement. Due to her size I had a saddle fitter out to fit her with a custom saddle. I'm sure this will be much more comfortable for her than an off the shelf saddle. I am riding her with a bareback pad now till my saddle arrives. Can't wait to get it. We will be going to the mountains to ride, a little jumping and dressage. I hope to have many happy years with her.

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-02-21
    That's so great! I wish you both lots of good times together.
sandy putney - 2014-09-02
We have friends who had a rescue Percheron, they got to the point where they could not care for their animals and since we have a retired Belgian mare, Belle, we agreed and took K.T.. K.T. is a beautiful black Percheron with a white blaze on her forehead. Her back right leg is slightly messed up so we can't ride her, you can only notice when she runs. We were told there was a chance she was pregnant, but they didn't know when she was due. It was hard to believe as she was very thin. She filled out beautifully within 3 weeks. On June 24th K.T. gave birth to a beautiful baby grandson named her Piper. Momma had no difficulty giving birth, she did it all by herself. We had K.T. in a specific fenced in area so we could keep a closer eye on her.....well she must have wanted some privacey...she swam across the creek during the night and had her baby in the early morning. When we found them the filly was still damp! Even tho we'd only had her a couple of months she loved and trusted us already (it's mutual!) and let us pet the baby and check her all out. Perfect. The father was a rich copper colored quarter hourse. Piper is a beautiful tan suede color with a cream colored belly and chest. Her feet are black as are her tail and mane, she also looks like she has black eyeliner. Sweet disposition, and spoiled....she follows us around the pasture like a shadow. My grandson is 2 1/2 yrs old, she is his, they will grow up together learn to be partners. Thank you for letting me ramble on. Just love all 3 of our girls. Piper was not K.T.'s first baby but since we are unsure of her actual age we are not going to breed her again. :)

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-09-04
    That's a great story about your Percheron, simply awesome experience. Thanks for sharing!
Amanda - 2013-12-02
I recently acquired a 3 or 4 year old Percheron/Paint cross. I do not know exactly how old she is, she came from an auction. The man at the auction knew her mother was a gorgeous, very large black percheron mare, and her grandmother was a very large grey percheron mare and that her father was a paint and knew the lady who she was seized from (She was rescued from a dry lot) but we were forbidden from contacting the lady. My girl is between 14 and 15 hands right now, her ankles are very large in comparison to her feet and her rump is about a hand taller than her withers. How much taller do you think she might get? Keep in mind that she was malnourished which may have stunted her growth. All comments are greatly appreciated! I just want to find out as much as I can about this beautiful girl as I have started many many horses, but never a draft of any kind. Thank you!!

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-12-10
    From its parentage, Percherons range in height from 15 to 19 hands high while Paint horses generally stand less than 16 hands high. So it could be anywhere from 15 to 19 hands high, but my guess is that it will probably be closer to the 15ish height.
  • Brenda - 2014-01-07
    From what I have learned she is as tall as she will get, but will get bulkier. Around 5 years of age percherons will mature.
  • Kimberly Dixon - 2014-03-10
    I, too, rescued a malnourished Percheron at the age of about 2. We have come a long way! He is almost 17 hands and beautiful! The correct diet and the room to run has made such a diference with him. I think Max has topped out and will not get any taller but he is thickening up quite well. The vet said his muscle mass would not be as thick as a well nourished foal would have been but he is very thick and has the beautiful thinck percheron neck so I think it all depends on how they are fed and the conditions they are rescued to. Good luck, this big boy of mine is the best horse I have ever owned and I have 26 on my farm!
  • Jae - 2014-08-25
    Keep in mind y'all, that draft horses can grow until they are 7 or 8 years old. The bigger ones tend to take a longer time to grow, which include other breeds (except thoroughbreds, which grow too fast for their joints. [I have a TB]). My brother's quarter horse was over four when he grew another hand, topping out at 16 hands. My husband's 2-year-old percheron is between 14 and 15 now, has the largest butt in the herd, and has started on another growth spurt. I had hoped he won't be over 16 hands when he's done (for my husband's sake; he just isn't that limber.); but, seeing as there are about 5 more years of growth...I guess my husband will have to start taking pilates.
  • sherri schmidt - 2014-09-01
    ive rescued several draft horses, went in depth to learn about them, from what ive learned there are old school which are larger when full grown at about 7or 8, that is about 17 to 18 hands, the way that they get them taller is if its a male and u guild them, my mare is 18.2 hands and my fresian/percheron cross stud is 16.2, I have learned over the yrs that the best way to feed is flaked premium alfalfa mixed with beet pulp and soaked in water to consistency of oatmeal, they all love it, it keeps coat beautiful and muscle along back, because u soak it u only give about a scoop per horse, and as long as u give hay everyday or grazing u don't have to feed everyday with them, better to have high fat lower protein diet, so depending on what size the stud was u could expect about 16 to 17 hands
  • Clarice Brough - 2014-09-04
    That's some great info Sherri, thanks for sharing it.