The Percheron Horse originated in the small district of La Perche in north-western France. Here the Arabian horses abandoned by the defeated Moors at the Battle of Tours in 732AD were crossed with the massive Flemish stock, native to the rich, fertile province of Flanders. From this cross came the Percheron type which has endured for twelve centuries.
In the early 1800’s the French Government Stud at Le Pin introduced further Arabian blood into the Percheron breed, by mating selected mares with two of the outstanding Arabian sires then obtainable in Europe. All contemporary Percherons share this common heritage, descending from the small genetic reservoir of foundation stock which thus originated in La Perche. In the early 1900’s, only horses bred in this original area were entered into the French Percheron Stud Book.
The Societe Hippique Percheronne (France) was founded in 1883 and pure bred breeding stock have been exported to Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Union of South Africa, the United Kingdom, the USSR, and the USA. Registered animals in these nations trace directly to the nucleus of foundation stock originating in La Perche. Today the Percheron is known throughout the world as the leading breed of draught horse.
It is said that the first Percherons introduced to Australia were with a convict shipment from Canada and were in fact the first draught horses to come to this country, hence the high percentage of Percheron type horses in use at “Old Sydney Town”. Records from the RAS Sydney going back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s show a reasonable number of Percheron horses in led classes. These Percheron lines probably died out as no records of progeny from these horses can now be found.
The first definite steps to establish registered Percheron Horses in Australia were taken by the late Alex J. Melrose, MLA who in 1913 purchased a colt and two fillies in France. They arrived in South Australia in 1914 to be the nucleus of “Kadlunga”. The Melrose family have remained active breeders ever since, making further importations of sires on a regular basis.
In 1922 six mares and a stallion were imported from Canada by the late F.B.S. Falkiner, “Foxlow”, Bungendore, NSW, and a further mare, thrice champion at the Royal Winter Fair, Toronto in 1934.
The late J.S. Anderson “Newstead South”, Inverell, made major purchases from “Foxlow” followed by the complete acquisition of the NSW Department of Agriculture’s Percherons in the early 1950’s and sires from “Kadlunga”. After Mr Anderson’s death, “Newstead” was dispersed in 1975 and following this sale the first positive steps were taken to form a breed association and register in Australia.
Since 1978 seven stallions (one bred in France) have been imported from the UK while a stallion and several mares have arrived from Canada: the first Canadian and French imports in over forty years.
Today in Australia there are close to 1,000 purebred Percheron horses, with numerous crossbreds.
The South Australian Mounted Police are using part Percherons and the Victorian Police are using Percheron Drum Horses, with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories using Percherons for the production of anti-venine for the treatment of venomous snake and spider bites.
In its time, the Percheron has undertaken every role from war horse, coach horse, farm horse, to gun horse and riding horse. Percheron breeders were able to breed the horse to suit conditions. The Percheron Horse is essentially a draught horse, massive, deep, short in his coupling, heavily muscled, strong in this topline, rugged and straight in his bone, with feet of reasonable size with quality hard blue horn and legs as clean and free from long hair as possible. He must be neat in his head and neck and well balanced throughout.
There must be the unmistakeable evidence of quality in general; his action is strong and bold, with a long free stride.