The British Percheron Horse in essentially a heavy draught horse possessing great muscular development combined with style and activity. It should possess ample bone of good quality, and give a general impression of balance and power.
Grey or black, with a minimum of white. No other colour is eligible for entry in the Stud Book. Skin and coat should be of fine quality. Colour will tend to lighten in older horses.
Stallions should not be less that 16 hands 3 inches in height and mares not less than 16 hands 1 inch, but width and depth must not be sacrificed to height and maturity.
Wide across the eyes, which should be full and docile; ears medium in size and erect; deep cheek, curved on lower side, not long from eye to nose; intelligent expression.
Strong neck, not short, full arched crest in case of Stallions; wide chest, deep well-laid shoulders; back strong and short; rib wide and deep, deep at flank; hind quarters of exceptional width and long from hips to tail, avoiding any suggestion of goose rump.
Strong legs and full second thighs, big knees and broad hocks; heavy flat bone, short cannons, pasterns of medium length, feet of reasonable size, of good quality hard blue horn. Limbs as clean and free from hair as possible.
Typical of the breed; straight, bold, with a long free stride rather than short snappy action. Hocks well flexed and kept close.
Stallions – 18 to 20 CMS.
The Percheron Horse originated in the area known as “La Perche” in the north west of France. Here in 732 A.D. Arabian Horses abandoned by Moors after their defeat in the Battle of Tours were crossed with the massive Flemish stock and from this cross came the Percheron type which has endured for twelve centuries.
During the Crusades, further infusion of Arab blood was made; Arab sires procured in the Holy Land were bred to the Percheron. In the early 1800’s the French Government’s Stud at La Pin introduced further Arab blood into the
Percheron breed by covering selected mares with two outstanding Arab sires. Now all contemporary Percheron’s share this common heritage descending from the foundation stock that originated in La Perche.
The Percheron Horse Society of France was founded in 1883, to safeguard the breeding of pure stock and from this small district of La Perche. Pure-bred breeding stock has been exported all over the world with each nation except U.S.S.R., having an official Breed Association to ensure the preservation of the pure-bred Percheron, and so the Percheron Horse remains genetically pure with registered animals.
Introduction of the Percheron into England came about at the conclusion Of the First World War. Many farmers serving with ’tile British Forces in France became familiar with the Percheron and impressed with its docility, activity and power and ability to work both in mud and on hard surfaces. At the conclusion of activities the Percheron was imported to England as a general workhorse and large numbers were to be seen working through out the arable counties of East Anglia and the Fens in particular and they quickly spread to other parts of the country.
The formation of the British Percheron Horse Society took place in 1918 and during 1918-1922, 36 stallions and 321 mares were imported from France and the merits of this clean-legged animal were unmistakably recognised, and membership of the society grew steadily. The main aim of the Society was to encourage the breeding of a clean legged draught horse with short legs, short back, ample bone, powerful, active and quick in work with a good temper and easy to handle.
During World War Two and immediately afterwards, there was a rapid increase in farm mechanisation and a consequent decline in the numbers on heavy horses seen on farms. However, a strong nucleus of Percherons remained on farms in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Co. Durham, and Hampshire. Enthusiasts have since kept the breed alive and active and now in the 90’s with energy crises and oil shortages, there is a tremendous amount of interest in the breed with many new studs being started in various parts of the country. The demand for the Percheron has been such that export sales have been made to Canada, Australia and many other parts of the world to the extent that the Percheron is now a leading breed in the world of Heavy Horses.
Mares – 16 to 18 cwts.
One of the most docile and good-natured of any breed, yet in no way showing any sign of sluggishness or dullness. In stables, or out in the dense town traffic, nothing appears to upset them. This placid nature makes it possible to switch from the environment of the farm to that of the busy town, with the minimum of risk or delay, an often-troublesome period with some other breeds.
Owing to the almost lack of feather and the type of skin, the Percheron can be adequately cared for by the less experienced men we must accept today, with much less risk of galls, itchy legs and poor coats, than would be the case with many other breeds. Their docile nature makes them extremely good to handle.
The hoof of the Percheron is of good hard blue horn and very little foot trouble is experienced. The legs too have plenty of good quality bone and despite the body weight usually maintained, stands up very well indeed to the hard roads and permanently studded shoes.
As a worker they are willing and genuine almost without exception, and capable of working good loads continuously without undue strain. A pair will take up to 2 tons net load (almost 4 tons gross) on the old type of dray with iron tyres, or even a little more on the modern rubber tyred type, averaging 2 loads a day up to 5 miles radius and still maintain good condition. The ability to do his work and maintain condition is, it is thought, due to two inherent factors; firstly a very strong constitution and secondly their temperament, which denotes an almost lack of nervous tension.
Despite the placid nature of the Percheron, they are capable of a good showing with plenty of action when required for showing. A well-matched team of either dark dapple or light greys, properly handled, can make a very fine display. Again, their nature makes them good to handle and very popular with the public.
Anyone interested in the draught horse for commercial use would be well advised to give the Percheron serious consideration.
Characteristics of the British Percheron
In recent years pure bred Percheron’s have performed well in Heavy Horse Driving Trials and during the “Route de Poisson” where distances of up to 17Km are covered at a trot. Percheron horses crossed with lighter breeds are known to make good riding horses for Hacking and Hunting.
Use of the British Percheron
Percherons have many uses and to name a few, they are used for ploughing, logging, obstacle driving, they are shown “in-hand”, in turnout and agricultural classes, Both pure and part bred Percherons have recently become a very popular choice as a riding horse.
The British Percheron Horse is ideal for cross breeding and the Society has a part-bred register. The part-bred must be 50% Percheron i.e. either out of a pure-bred registered Percheron or by a registered Percheron Stallion.
Both pure-bred and part-bred Percherons are ideal for riding. An example of this was “Flight Hill Belle” a half Shire, half Percheron mare who was the Champion Ridden heavy horse at the Shire Horse Show 2003. Flight Hill Belle went on to win the heavy horse ridden class at the East of England show 2003.
Percheron Part-bred Sugarlump Bravo is by a Percheron stallion out of a Thoroughbred mare and is owned by Mrs Jean Bailey of Bedfordshire.
Jean has been competing at dressage with Sugar since 1999 and he has won to date 169 points and has competed at every level up to Prix St. George. He has gained points at every level up to advanced and is about to do his first intermediate 1. Sugar mainly competes at Patchetts Equestrian Centre Herts and occassionlly at Addington’s in Bucks, he competes in the open section which is the highest level.