Percheron

Family: EquidaePercheron PictureEquus caballusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs
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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... (more)  Amanda

  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

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.

Description
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.

Availability
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. .

References
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

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!
Reply
ilovhorses - 2013-01-15
I have just added a Arabian x Percheron, 19 yr, old, gelding. I have to say that he is the most handsome horse I have seen and most websites don't say that they are good at dressage, but my horse is. It may be the arabian side of him.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-01-15
    Very cool! Sounds like a really nice horse:)
Reply
Connie Anderson - 2014-02-22
My first horse was and is a Percheron. His name is Maximus. He's 16.3 and I would say about 1800 lbs. He turned 9 this year, and he's at a ranch in Colorado with his family. I left there to take work somewhere else, but I miss him so much. I saw him at Christmas and he was so kind and receptive to me...after he was done eating of course. I can hardly wait to spend time with him this spring and summer. I'm so proud of him and he knows it. He still is amazing to me. All horses are magnificent creatures. I think I'm going to get a tattoo of his head on my other shoulder. Thanks for letting me talk about him.

Reply
Kimberly Dixon - 2013-07-17
I just rescued an approximately 18 month old Percheron gelding who is underweight but not terribly malnurished at this point. I have always had quarter horses and have never owned a draft. I am at a loss as to what to feed him and when to start training him with a saddle. I have heard so many opinions and none around here has experience with a draft. Can you please give me some ideas. I know I am going to clicker train him as I did my quarters but when is my question. This is the most loving and sweetest baby I have ever rescued I don't want to discourage him from being that way.

  • Crystal Komenda - 2013-07-28
    Greetings! I have owned a Percheron Mare for 10 years now. She was a driving horse and when I got her at the age of 11 decided to try her out as a trailhorse. She took well to Natural Horsemanship and trailriding. I think that as long as you use the 'Release is Reward' way of thinking that no matter what kind of training you do, you will be fine. I am very excited for you and wish you many many years of wonderful enjoyment with this animal!
  • Kimberly Dixon - 2013-08-07
    Thank you so much. My challenge with him now appears to be keeping him in a fence. He has realized he can push down the vinyl fencing and get out so he goes into everyone else's pasture. Not a fan of electric fencing but this may be the time I have to use it. Any suggestions on training him to stay in?
  • Brenda - 2014-01-07
    I did not like electric fence either. With these draft horses and as big as they get you need an electric fence. It's not bad really I've been zapped a few times myself. They only have to hit it once or twice and they remember ! I have worked with the percherons for five years now and we have had as many as twelve percherons in pastures, none of them get out of the electric fence. Now the foals will go under the fence and get out. Once they touch the electric fence they remember. It is for their safety...
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Anonymous - 2013-08-29
I purchased a 2 year old 1/2 Percheron 1/2 quarter horse paint, who is 16.2 right now. He is gorgeous, sweet and really friendly and lovable. I was wondering when I should start riding him, he will be 2-1/2 in November. As I was told they develop lot slower..

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-09-01
    When I was growing up we had quarter horses and quarter horse mixes. We would start working them at 2 years, and then by about 3 years we were starting to get on them.
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