Percheron holds the front place among the French coldblooded breeds. He was named after a fertile region of France west of Paris named La Perche, that covered greater part of Eure et Loire, Orne, Sarth, Loire et Chere, Eure, Mayenne, Loriet and Seine et Oise.
Percherons exclusive characteristic, in comparison with other coldbloods, is that he has a great deal of the Oriental blood, which shows in his predominant gray color. Most of the Arabian and Barb blood came to France during the reign of the Moors who occupied the entire southern part of the country and when defeated at Poitiers in 732 left the country leaving behind them many of their refined horses, which were later crossbred with the indigenous mares who laid the foundation from which most of the French coldblooded breeds later derived.
The second historical event, that influenced the French breeds was the invasion/occupation of the northern territory in the IX and X centuries by the Normans, who brought with them coldblooded horses and were also very dedicated/intensive horse breeders. Hence it happened so, that in France remained a breeding in two directions. In the south is/was bred mostly refined oriental horse, mainly the Angloarab, whereas in the northern half of the country is/was dominant the coldblooded type from which the Percheron is the most refined and who has from all the coldbloods most of the Oriental blood inherited not only from the times of the Saracens and later from the Christian Crusades, but also from much later imports of the Arabian stallions to the region; during the twenties of the last century there were still active in Perche two Arabian stallions, Godolphin and Gallipoli, from which the Percherons inherited the more refined head, predominant gray color, livelier temperament, more refined shapes, lightness of movement and greater endurance at work in comparison with other coldblooded breeds/types. The Percherons (not gelded) were used with great success in pulling “omnibuses”, stagecoaches, and heavy draft, in the country as well as in the cities. The popularity of these horses reflects in the French horse/animal arts, like by Rosa Bonheur fro example (See picture above).
The Percheron is a breed that from all the coldblooded breeds proved to be the best for the work/use in the tropics. At one time there was such great demand for the Percherons in Americas that the breeders in Perche could not satisfy it, hence they were buying foals from Picardy, Bretagne and Flanders, fattening them up on their rich pastures and selling them as Percherons (“Percheronized”). A pure blooded and especially very refined breed of these horses had/has also the Great Britain, besides their own coldblooded breeds in which they reached greater caliber than France.
In France there were/are recognized three types: large, medium and small. Both, the smaller types are more balanced and correct and are one of the best among the coldblooded breeds, because in comparison with the heavier breeds they are more correctly build, have longer hindquarters, longer and more slanted shoulder blade, but they are still sufficiently wide and deep, well closed in, longer and nicely flexed necks, dry more refined head, dry fundament, quicker, livelier, and sharper temperament, roomier and quicker gaits and greater endurance.
The French breeders believe that the heavier type of the Percheron came from the influence of the coldblooded Noriks that were during the Napoleonic wars stolen in Austria to be used for breeding in Perche. However, the origin of the heavier form is more likely founded in the heavier type of the Boulogne mares from the northern seacoast lands. The heavier type is not as refined (see photo), they are big and heavy-footed, with rougher heads, slightly bulged (Roman nosed), thicker and shorter necks, longer and softer backs, short and steeper hind quarters with lymphatic legs.
In color the Percherons are mostly dappled grays or blacks and around 1950ies they were mainly bred for export to Brazil.