Hailing from the Perche Province of Normandy from whence it acquired its name, the Percheron is a breed of French draught horse which likely developed during the 17th century. The exact nature of its evolution is uncertain, although various breeds have contributed to the Percheron bloodline over the course of its history, including the Thoroughbred, Arabian and Andalusian.
Noted for its willingness, stamina and sure-footedness, the Percheron has been the equine of choice in many capacities, serving as a war horse first and foremost, a carriage horse, a travelling circus horse, a working farm horse, and in haulage, transportation, forestry work and competition.
Not only was the Percheron widely enlisted during WWII but it served much earlier in the American Civil War (after which breed numbers diminished considerably), and in 1900, 325 Percherons were shipped from Britain to South Africa during the Boer War.
Characteristically grey in colour due to early selective breeding, the Percheron is perhaps the most popular, well distributed and easily recognised draught horse in the world. First imported to America in 1839, today breeding programs for the Percheron exist internationally. The breed has been threatened time and again in times of war, with the advent of mechanisation and because of diminished quality breeding stock; however, enthusiasts have always ensured its preservation.
The largest example of working Percherons exists at Disneyland Paris, where a team of horses pull trams on the park’s main street.