The Percheron is an ancient breed of horse that precedes the documenting of pedigrees by several centuries. The original homeland of this horse breed is Le Perche, a district of Normandy, which is about 50 miles southwest of Paris, France. The benign climate, fertile valleys with adequate annual rainfall and gentle rolling hillsides created the perfect environment for these horses and the people of Le Perche were known for raising fine horses. The horses were traded for goods worldwide. It is believe that during the eighth century and later during the middle ages, the Percheron mares were mated with Arabian stallions.
The breed is known for a docile temperament, intelligence, ease of handling and enjoyment of chores. The French utilized Percheron horses because the horse could trot up to 10 miles per hour while pulling heavy stage coaches. These light colored grey and white horses were easily visible at night. At that time, stage coaches were called diligencies by the French royalty and horses that pulled the stage coaches were referred to as a diligence horse.
It is believed that the first Percheron was imported to the United States by Edward Harris of Moorestown, New Jersey in 1939. The majority of Percheron horses were imported to America during the latter 19th century. American farmers came to favor the endurance of the Percheron horses. Teamsters appreciated the horse’s strength for loading and unloading cargo. The invention of the farm tractor after World War II lessened the demand for the Percheron but Amish farmers still prefer the Percheron when available.
Today, Percherons are utilized mostly as recreational horses. The breed is often seen in parades, pulling hayrides or sleigh rides through the countryside. The breed is often utilized today in commercials and business promotions. Due to the gentle nature of the breed, the horse is often utilized for hitching and haltering demonstrations at fairgrounds.
Photo is courtesy of Pleasant Hill Percherons 2 as uploaded by Carl Wycoff at Flickr’s Creative Commons.