According to information the Percheron horse originated when Charles Martel, King of Old France overcame the Muslem army between Tours and Poitiers in central France.
It is speculated that among the horses used by the French for horse breeding were a number of Arabian Desert horses. The French captured these horses after turning back the invasion by the Muslem and other nations from the East.
It is widely accepted that the breed originates from the Le Perche province near Normandy in France. The original Percheron horses were bred as early as 732 AD to be use in the war in Central France. They were light, sure-footed, and spirited, yet strong enough to carry a knight in full amour. When the war ended, the demand for these willing workers increased in both the Agriculture and Transport sectors. However it demanded a heavier, stronger and larger horse. The Percheron as we know it today was born, a reliably, easy to handle, hard working draft horse.
When breeding later resumed, another Arabian influence is said to have occurred. Two Le Pin Arabian stallions GODOLPHIN and GALLIPOLY were allegedly used to help the breed recover. It is believed that the Arabian played a fundamental roll in the development of the Percheron. Unfortunately the French kept very few records. During the French revolution all breeding was suspended, and the breed was near extinction during the late 1700’s.
During the early 1800’s Jean La Blanc, sired by Gallipoly (Arabian) was born in 1823 in Le Perche. All Percheron horses can be traced back to this superior stallion, which sired over 400 foals.
The development of French draught horses continued and buyers began demanding larger horses. Horses form other districts in France were being used to enlarge the horses of the Perches district from a 454kg - 545 kg coach horse to a 1157kg draught horse. As the French draught horses became more popular amongst buyers some horses were being labeled as Percherons and were bred more for size, weight and strength. The first Percherons were established in America in the 1840's.
In the early 1900’s the French government established a stud in Le Pin to further improve the breed and increase the numbers of these sought after horses. The USA government census in 1930 revealed that there were 3 times more Percherons in the USA than all other draft breeds together, all either imported from France or bred locally in America from imported stock.
World War II and the invention of the farm tractor again had the breed on its knees. Fortunately some dedicated farmers, mostly the Amish kept the breed alive during the draft horse depression 1950’s & 1960’s. The late 1960’s saw a renaissance in the draft horses business in the USA and France, as many rediscovered the usefulness of these draft horses.
The French has exported Percherons to Argentine, Australia, Canada, Japan, USA, UK, Russia and South Africa. Currently there are two varieties within the breed. The “Diligencier” or Driving Percheron and the “Trait” or Draft Percheron. The Driving Percheron is a type able to rapidly pull medium loads. Essentially it is tall, and higher in the middle and at its flanks. Its shoulder are more sloping and its croup less descended. Its trot is sprightly, with long strides. The driving Percheron is destined for sport and prestige driving, for rapid pulling and leisure uses. The Draft Percheron is a large draft hosre capable of pulling large loads. It is tall and heavy, its hindquarters are particularly muscular and its croup is more sloped. The draft Percheron is destined for farm work, hauling logs and heavy pulling.
The Docking of horse’s tails has been illegal in Great Britain since 1948; the practice has never been legal or accepted in SA. However, foal’s tails are still docked in America today.