Normandy Horses – The Percheron

Percheron Horses
Percheron Horses

For more pictures of Percheron horses see our Facebook page album:

You don’t have to drive far through the Lower Normandy countryside before you realise that two large animals rule – cows and horses.  Well, lets face it, you’ve got to do something with all that grass.

The Percheron, a famous horse breed local to where we now live,  originated in the middle ages in the heavily forested countryside of the Perche region, east of Alençon and south west of Paris in Lower Normandy.  Its ancestors are thought to have been Arabs brought to Europe by the Moors and crossed with the local forest horses. As an aside, Arabs are also commonly kept and bred in this area – in fact, our neighbour is a breeder of Arabs and rides them in Endurance races. But that’s a story for another day!

In appearance the Percheron is normally a grey or black, although chestnut and bay are not unknown. In size it is generally between 16 and 17 hands, with a long arched neck, a full mane, powerful chest and hindquarters.

The Percheron is a gentle natured and docile horse, but its strength and implacable character made it a perfect mount for heavily armoured knights in the middle ages. In domestic use it was used for centuries as an outstanding general farm worker, and Percherons have been exported all over the world. In the USA the Percheron was first used for draught work and transportation in the French colonies of Florida and the Louisiana Territory, including pulling stagecoaches. These days it is often still used as a logging horse and it is popular for carriage driving. It has also been crossed with thoroughbreds to produce a quality heavyweight hunter.

Despite its size it can also be ridden and is easy to handle – I’ve seen both large men and small children riding enormous Percherons at fairs, such as the annual Medieval Fair at Bourg-le-Roi. The only problem the children seem to have is making a Percheron feel anything when they kick its flanks!

Each year in August there is a Percheron Horse Fair at the Manoir de Courboyer in the Perche, a short way down the road to the east of us, while November sees the annual “Percheron Foals and Fillies Fair” at le Mêle-sur-Sarthe, just north of us and a few miles east of Alençon.

Percherons also feature regularly at displays held each week at the Haras du Pin, the wonderful national stud farm to the north of Alençon, and at the Manoir du Courboyer in the Perche, where you can see them all year round and take carriage rides in summer.

Some links to sites devoted to Percheron Horses:

More links to Percheron sites:

And another horse breed from this region, of which more on another occasion:

6 thoughts on “Normandy Horses – The Percheron

  1. My great grandfather and his brother raised and sold Percheron horses in Kent and Ottawa Counties, Michigan, USA during the initial height of their popularity which lasted from the early 1870’s until the crash of 1893. They were farmers in Byron Twp. Kent County on the western side of the state.
    I have visited Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan many times with my family and have always been impressed with the horses. The Percheron is the island favorite and is used to pull everything from large freight wagons to carriages. Mackinac is a tourist destination and the streets can get pretty crowded with bicycles and pedestrians interspersed with horse drawn wagons and carriages as it is a non-motorized island. The Percherons appear calm and seemingly unaffected by it all. I think they like people in general.

    1. They’re wonderful beasts – powerful yet gentle and calm. If only we humans were the same! 🙂

  2. Netta Rowlands 21 Aug 2011 — 10:40 pm

    we are looking for a partner for a percheron we got when she was 2 now she is 4yrs. old and going well in either chains or shafts

    she came from pintiere stud we think nearAlecon, does anyone know it?

    the girl who bought her has forgotten how she got in touch with them.

    if anyone has any thoughts on the French type thick stocky and very quiet
    please let us know Netta and Wynn Rowlands -0044-1352 -840664

    1. I can’t find any stud (Haras) called la Pintière – sorry.

  3. This is the breed that my grandfather always favored. He stressed that it was so important to have stock that you could trust with your life and he had always had good results with these gentle smart and reliable horses. He said Morgans were ok, did not particularly care for Clydesdales, but that you could not beat the Percheron as they were so gentle and would take commands well without spooking, over reacting or surprising you with a sudden unwanted movement. I remember him saying that a Percheron/Morgan mix was a real good horse. To him they were like work partners, work hands and partners in the work and farm. They worked for you, but you had to work with them and look after them well because they had to trust you so you could trust them. A lot has been lost in our rush to embrace technology.

  4. my grandfather shod draft horses in Michigan. Of course, he was a huge man. Percherons were common clients. I love these sweet-hearted giants. They’re incredibly beautiful and gentle, and, of course, massive and willing to pull their weight on any farm.My grandfather shod them at a time when draft horses were commonly used on the farm.

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