PERCHERONS - A "Bit" of History

The ancestors to the modern day Percheron originated in the Perche region of France. Originally developed as war horses, and later refined as mail-coach, or Dillegence, horses, Percherons, with an Arab influence, were more light footed and spirited than some of the other draft breeds. Over time, however, the breed started taking on the characteristics of a heavier, taller draft animal, particularly in the United States.

The last half of the 19th century saw a huge growth in Percheron population. They were the heavy horse of choice for both the American farmer and city teamster. Due to their strength, speed and intelligence, they were also the most trusted breed for fire fighters. By the 1930's, the breed was so popular that US government census showed that there were three times as many Percherons in the United States as all the

percheron team on carriage

A team of grey percherons owned by Cedar Knoll Farm, Lisbon, CT / Photo: Elaine Joseph



other draft breeds combined. During their hay-day, the Percheron breed was very versatile — not only as farm animals, fire horses and city hitch horses, but as circus horses as well as gun horses in WWI & WWII. Following WWII, with the advent of a modern, mechanized world, the Percheron breed nearly fell into extinction. Had it not been for the persistance of a few farmers, including many within the Amish community, all draft breeds would have been in danger of extinction. Since that time, however, the draft horse has seen a renaissance, and they are once again plowing the fields and pulling carriages for pleasure and show. Percherons in particular have become popular in the ever-growing commercial carriage industry.

Eight year old Percheron gelding owned by Cedar Knoll Farm, Lisbon, CT / Photo: Elaine Joseph


Characteristically, Percherons are either black or grey in color (grey horses are born black and dapple out over time until they become pure white, usually by age 12). Other colors, such as roan and bay, can also be found, however. Percherons commonly stand between 16-18 hands high, weighing in at 1700 - 2200 pounds or more. Due in part to their Arab influence, Percherons sport a very refined head, delicate ears, and elegant gait, with very light feathering on their legs.

blue roanBlue Roan Percheron

black percherons plowing

Black Percherons, owned by Breezy Acres Farm, Mansfield, CT, plowing a field. This image is copyrighted and may NOT be used without written permission / Photo: Elaine Joseph


This website has been designed as an educational and informational resource about the Percheron draft horse.

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