The development of the Percheron breed began when Moors invaded the Perche region in Normandy in AD 732, bringing with them Barb horses. These horses were left behind after the Moors were defeated and were put to great use in creating the famous Percheron. They were crossed with huge Flemish horses, creating a large, muscular breed.
Originally, the Percheron was used as a war as a war horse, bringing many soldiers into battle, but as time went, such horses were no longer needed, so the role of the Percheron changed to that of a carriage. The Percheron was well-fitted for the job for several reasons. It was(and still is) elegant, strong, and able to trot all day.
When the train was invented, providing a faster means of travel, the Percheron was once again out of a job. It didn't last long, though. People wanted fast horses to replace the oxen in agricultural uses, and others needed a strong, sturdy animal to haul heavy loads from the dock to the railroad, to be loaded onto trains. The Percheron fitted the job description.
Americans, too needed heavy draft horses, so a few Percherons were imported in 1839 and 1851, followed by a large number in the 1870s and 1880s. The Percheron increased in popularity, though World War I and the use of cars and trucks threatened the survival of the breed. By 1954, only 85 remained. Several people, however, were dedicated to breed, persevering until that number grew to over 2,000.
Today, Percherons have a much different purpose: sport. People cross them with various athletic breeds, including Thoroughbreds, warmbloods, and Spanish breeds, creating a large and strong, yet athletic horse that can be used in dressage, jumping, and eventing.
Breed Description and Uses
Though large and strong, standing 16.2 to 17.2 hand high, Percherons are more energetic than your typical draft breed. Their legs have no feathering, also uncommon among draft breeds, and they are born black, graying as they mature.
Many people use the Percheron for driving competitions, hay rides, and even dressage.