Everything You Need to Know About Percheron Horses
As one of the most popular draft horse breeds in the United States, the Percheron horse is incredibly versatile and performs well in several capacities. Often called the “gentle giant” Percherons are fascinating creatures that are certainly a sight to behold!
So, what is a Percheron horse? Percheron horses are powerful draft horses that were once used primarily as war horses. Percherons have a large, muscular build, often weighing between 1,800 and 2,600 pounds. Although they are large, Percherons are gentle and even-tempered, making them well-suited for both beginner and advanced riders alike.
Percherons are exceptionally beautiful with a captivating presence and demeanor! It is no surprise that equestrians and horse lovers alike favor Percherons above many other horse breeds. In this article, we will look at some of the fascinating aspects of this draft breed!
What Exactly is a Percheron Horse?
Percheron horses have a large, muscular build. When they reach maturity, most Percherons weigh between 1,800 and 2,600 pounds and stand between 15 hands (60 inches) and 19 hands (76 inches) in height! With this massive frame, you may assume that Percherons are best handled by experienced equestrians.
However, the calm and willing demeanor of Percherons makes them well-suited for any rider or horse owner! Despite their large size, most Percherons have an average life expectancy of between 25 and 30 years, similar to many other horse breeds.
Percherons come in all colorings including black, chestnut, bay, gray, roan, and sorrel. Some Percherons feature white markings although this is not favorable in show circuits. In France, the only Perherons allowed in the national registry are black Percherons. This is not the case in the United States.
Purebred Percherons are highly competitive in horse-pull circuits as well as English and Western riding styles. Percherons are often bred with smaller breeds like Thoroughbreds, resulting in a smaller riding horse that inherits the calm demeanor of the Percheron.
Many equestrians have fallen in love with some of the common characteristics of the Percheron including their willingness to please, stamina, friendly demeanor, and strong work ethic.
The History of Percheron Horses
Like many horse breeds, the Percheron Horse has a fascinating history. Originating in the Perche province in Normandy France, the Percheron was originally bred as a warhorse. Throughout the 1800s, the Percheron breed was further developed by the nation’s breeding farm, Le Pin, which still breeds Percheron horses to this day.
Percherons first arrived in the United States sometime during the mid-1800s. By the early 1900s, Percherons were among the most popular draft horses in America. While they were historically used as farm and driving horses, Percherons have maintained their popularity in other areas.
How to Know if a Percheron Horse is Right for You
At first glance, Percheron horses seem like an ideal fit for any equestrian or horse owner! While they are certainly versatile creatures, there are a few things you should consider when deciding if Percherons are the right horse breed for you.
You must consider the activities you wish to perform with your Percheron. Most Percherons today are used as riding horses, excelling in both Western and English riding styles. Additionally, Percherons are excellent for pulling carriages or hayrides, or for use on farms. Riders who are looking for an athletic horse for jumping, racing, or endurance, however, would likely be disappointed in a purebred Percheron as this is not an area in which the breed excels.
The Cost of Owning a Percheron
You must also determine whether you are willing and able to handle the higher dietary requirements of such a large horse breed. Percherons are among the largest horses today, and as such, eat more than an average-sized horse. Fully grown Percherons eat up to 30 pounds of hay and over 5 pounds of grain each day. You may also need to supplement their deity with vitamins and minerals depending on the quality of feed you have to offer.
Not only does this amount of food require adequate storage space but it will also increase the cost of owning a horse.
In addition to the cost of feeding a large Percheron, you must consider any additional medical or grooming needs of your horse. Most of the time, Percherons are healthy horses with few health problems. While rare, some Percherons are prone to developing Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy or Osteochondritis Dissecans. Both of these conditions require additional care and attention to prevent further damage or disease.
To learn more about the expenses that come with owning a horse, check out my article What Does it Cost to Own a Horse? Complete Expense Guide.
Fun Facts About Percheron Horses
Like virtually every other horse breed, Percheron horses have their fair share of fun facts.
Percheron Horses Powered the Pabst Brewery
Perhaps the most well-known Percherons in the United States, the Pabst Brewery relied on Percherons in the 1800s. Percheron horses bred by the Pabst family powered the mills of the brewery and even delivered beer in Chicago! In addition to powering the Pabst Brewery, the Pabst family competed with their Percherons in the 1904 World’s Fair.
The Majority of Percherons Today Live in the United States
Since they were first introduced to the United States in the mid-1800s, Percherons have maintained their popularity. Today, the majority of Percherons in the world reside in the United States. The Percheron Horse Association of America currently boasts over 3,400 members in the United States although this certainly does not account for all the Percherons in America.
Percherons Were Popular During the Great Depression
There are very few things that did not die off during the Great Depression. During this critical time in our country’s history, Percherons continued to grow in popularity. In fact, over 70% of the purebred horses in America at that time were Percherons.
Percherons Love Disney World
Disney World is known for its beautiful horse-drawn carriages. Many, if not all, of these carriages, are pulled by captivatingly beautiful Percheron horses. Percheron horses working at Disney World undergo intense training to ensure they can handle the many distractions of their environment including crowds, children, and loud noises. By the time Percherons are ready to pull carriages at Disney World, most are between the ages of 6 and 10 years old.
Some Percherons Are Talented Jumpers
While large draft horses are not typically known to excel in jumping, Percherons may be an exception! Although not every Percheron excels in this area, some Percherons and Percheron crosses add ‘talented jumper’ to their extensive and versatile resume.
Percherons Prefer the Outdoors
All horses enjoy time outdoors and Percherons are certainly no exception! In fact, Percherons require more time outdoors than most other breeds. This is perhaps due to their large size. Many Percherons quickly become anxious when they are left inside a stall for hours on end.
How Much Do Percheron Horses Cost?
If you are considering adding a Percheron to your equestrian family, you are likely wondering how much this breed costs. The cost of a Percheron varies greatly, ranging from $1,000 to over $10,000. This cost, of course, is determined by several factors including the age of the horse, the horse’s pedigree, and the level of training the horse has completed.
As with every horse breed, it is important to note that not all Percherons will have a pleasant, easy-going demeanor! Although this is certainly common for Percherons, there will always be variation amongst any breed. It is important to take your time to watch the horse and interact with the horse before you make your final decision.
The Percheron horse is a beautiful creature with stunning size and a pleasant demeanor. For many riders, this is the perfect combination of attributes! Although they are one of the largest horse breeds in America, Percherons are an excellent choice for new equestrians or beginner horse riders. Once the rider overcomes their fear of the size of a Percheron, they will find the horse to be calm and pleasant, instilling confidence from the start!
Young equestrians are not the only horse lovers who admire the Percheron. The Percheron breed is favored by equestrians in all practices and of all levels of experience. With a fascinating history and wide variety of uses, the Percheron may just be your equine soulmate!
What is the largest horse breed in the world? While there are certainly exceptions both inside and outside of these breeds, the largest horse breeds in the world include the Shire Horse, Clydesdales, Belgian Draft, Dutch Draft, Percherons, and the Suffolk Punch, Dole, and Brabant. These horses, all draft horses, exhibit a calm demeanor and often perform well in a variety of capacities. To know more, visit my article Top 8 Biggest Horses & Horse Breeds.
What is the strongest horse breed in the world? It is no surprise that one of the largest horse breeds is also one of the strongest horse breeds in history! The Belgian Draft Horse maintains the title of strongest horse breed, excelling in impressive pulling contests around the world. Many of the other candidates on this list are also large draft horses.
What are the most popular horse breeds? While the list is constantly changing, the most popular horse breeds in the United States include the following: Quarter Horse, POA, Mustang, Thoroughbred, Haflinger, Paint Horse, Appaloosa, Welsh Ponies, Tennessee Walking Horse, Missouri Fox Trotter, Arabian, Percheron, Standardbred, Belgian, and Hanoverian.
Want to know more about some of our favorite horse breeds? Check out my article What Friesian Horses Are Used For: Ultimate Guide.
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