The Quick Guide to Percheron Horses


Known as the gentle giants of the equine world, Percheron horses are a popular breed in North America and across Europe. A powerful draft breed with an excellent temperament, it’s easy to see how this beautiful breed got its reputation.

If you’re contemplating a Percheron horse, we’ve got everything you need to know about the breed in our helpful guide. 

Percheron Horses Breed Overview

Percheron horses stand at between 15 to 19 hands and weigh up to a whopping 2,600 pounds. This makes them one of the largest horse breeds, just behind Shire horses, Clydesdale horses, and Belgian horses.

Percherons are a muscular-looking breed, as well as deep and wide through the chest. They have a very level crop paired with large hips.

Much of this horse’s appeal to equine enthusiasts comes from its beautiful face. Percherons have a broad forehead with large eyes and ears. Their mane is often left to grow long down their broad neck like in many draft breeds.

However, Percherons don’t have the feathering on the lower legs that many other draft breeds have. 

They come in a variety of colors, with gray and black being the most popular in Europe and North America. French Percherons, in particular, are known for being born with a black coat that changes to gray when it’s a yearling. Other colors include:

  • Chestnut
  • Bay
  • Roan
  • Sorrel

Percheron Horse Breed History

No one is entirely sure where these giants originated from. It’s been theorized that they descend from the horses found in the Le Perche region in France as far back as the Ice Age!

Other experts think Percheron characteristics are more closely related to the Boulonnais horse, which was commonplace in the invasion of Brittany in the late 1400s. To further complicate things, some experts say the breed is descended from Barb stallions used in the Battle of Tours in 732 and left behind by riders. 

However, they ended up there; what we do know is they descend from the native mares of Le Perche. These mares mated with Arab stallions in the Middle Ages, and the breed was recognized during the Crusades. 

The breed grew in popularity with commerce and trade. By the 1700s, Percheron horses were popular coach and farm horses as they had more energy than other draft breeds. 

News of the breed’s capabilities spread to North America, where the breed was in high demand for import.

Percheron Temperament

Despite its large stature, the Percheron is energetic with a calm, friendly personality and an excellent work ethic. They’re intelligent and willing to learn, as well as easy to keep. This makes them a great horse for many different purposes such as driving, work, and riding. 

Percheron Grooming Requirements

You might think as the Percheron lacks the feathering of other draft breeds, its grooming requirements may be less. But due to where they descend from, Percheron’s coats are thick to defend them from cold. In colder climates, the coat may become heavier and need even more grooming than usual.

If the mane is left long, this will also take a regular, dedicated grooming routine to keep it clean and knot-free.

Because of the height of these horses, most owners will need a stool to reach the withers and forelock.

Percheron Horses Health

Percheron horses are a very healthy breed, and the average Percheron will live to 25 years old. 

As with all horses who are often in muddier conditions, they may be prone to pododermatitis. This is also known as “scratches”. You can manage this condition with ease, as well as prevent it with good hoof care. 

Percheron Horse Diet

Due to their sheer size, Percherons eat more than the average horse. They’ll eat more than 5 pounds of grain a day, alongside up to 30 pounds of hay. Depending on the quality of feed, you should also supplement vitamins and minerals into their diet. 

Percheron Horse Uses

Percheron horses are a great option for many equine enthusiasts. But you must ensure you’re comfortable with a horse of this size first and foremost. 

For riding, Percherons excel in English and Western riding styles thanks to their trainability. But you’ll also see them often in horse-pull circuits, thanks to their size and power.

Can Percheron Horses Jump?

While Perchecons excel at many areas of equine interest, jumping is not one of them. While they can jump, it can put undue stress on their bodies and cause health problems, especially in the hands of an inexperienced rider. If you want a jumping horse, a Percheron would not be the best option in most instances.

Fun Percheron Horse Facts

As part of their rich and varied history, Percheron horses are responsible for powering the Pabst brewery in the United States! All throughout the 1800s, the brewery relied on these powerful horses to power the mills to make their brews, as well as delivering beer.

While the breweries may have moved on to more modern methods, you can still find working Percherons in Disneyland of all places.

This breed can be found pulling the beautiful horse-drawn carriages that you’ll find scattered around the park. They’re not the only ones, though; you’ll also find Quarter Horses, Gypsy Vanners horses, and even some Shetland Ponies.

The frequency of Percherons in the United States shouldn’t surprise you either. The vast majority of Percherons now live in America. The breed association here boasts more than 3,400 members across all 50 states, and this is only a fraction of the number of Percheron owners.

Is a Percheron Horse Right for You?

Percheron horses deserve their title as gentle giants. They’re a large, muscular breed, but this burly look shouldn’t intimate you by any means. The breed is renowned for its friendliness, intelligence, and eagerness to learn. Provided you can deal with the size (and the food bill!) Percherons make an excellent choice for many riders.

You can learn more about all things equine on our blog.

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