France, like Great Britain, has several breeds of draft-horses. Standing out prominently, as superior to all others, is the ancient Percheron.

He has a most interesting history, which is too voluminous to be recorded here. The student will be interested in perusing "The Percheron Horse," by Charles DuHays, which, through the efforts of William T. Walters, of Baltimore, has been translated. The illustrations enable one by comparison to judge of the improvement which has been made since it was written. A good idea of the general character of the best specimens of the Percheron before the breed took on its present distinctive draft type may be secured by studying the illustration of Success. (Fig. 38.)

Neither the kind, number nor character of the French horse is known prior to the battle of Tours. In 732, the Saracen chief, Abderame, was defeated by Charles Martel, at Tours, in one of the most famous battles of history. The invading army, 300,000 of which it is said were slain, was from the East, as were also the horses which the cavalry rode. While these horses were not supposed to have been of any particular breed, the fact that they were from the Orient gives assurance that they were not of the heavy-draft type, but had, without doubt, some of the characteristics of the horses which later were used to give style, stamina and speed to more phlegmatic varieties. The large number of eastern horses secured as a part of the spoils of victory must have had a marked influence on the native horses of France. As time went on, agriculture improved, the care of the horse and his food became better and more abundant, and the natural result followed - larger and better horses.


Fig. 38. Success. Owned by M. W. Dunham, Wayne, I11.

An indifferent picture of an historical Percheron before the breed assumed the heavy-draft type.

War still continued to be the chief and paramount vocation of large numbers of able-bodied men. As implements of warfare were improved and made more deadly, recourse was had to coats of mail for protection. At first these were of light weight, but, as the efficiency of weapons was increased, the armor was also increased in weight, until it not infrequently outweighed the warrior who wore it. Simultaneously with the increase of the weight to be carried, came an increase in the size and weight of the war-horse. Just how this was accomplished is not certain, but it is believed that resort was had to both English and Danish stallions. Later, the post-roads opened through the country also had an effect on the size and character of French horses in many districts.

The change from the old type, which had some of the characteristics of the Oriental horse, to a more distinctive draft type was accomplished by 1760; but, between this date and 732, many unrecorded influences were operating, without doubt, to change the small Arabian types of the horses of LaPerche to a larger draft type. As late as 1873, I saw a few specimens of the modified Oriental horses in the districts which had long since adopted a larger animal of the draft type. Up to 1820, the draft-horses of France lacked the symmetry and finish which they now possess. It is not an easy task to harmoniously unite two varieties of horses so dissimilar as the Oriental and the English draft. Although the draft-blood was introduced as early as 1760, up to 1820 it had not been satisfactorily united with the Oriental and native blood; for, about the latter date, a systematic effort was made by the Government to eliminate the coarseness which had been introduced by the free and frequently injudicious use of draft-blood. About 1820, two noted gray Oriental stallions, Godolphin and Gallipoli, were introduced into the Government stables at Pin. These two prepotent stallions fixed the style of color and fastened it on an already susceptible breed. The refining process went on rapidly and the French heavy horse became a well-defined prepotent breed, which still shows some Arabian characteristics harmoniously united with prominent draft qualities. The importation of these horses into the United States began about 1851, twenty-five years before the publication of the first Percheron stud-book in America. The Percheron Horse-breeders' Association is the oldest draft-horse breeders' society, and was organized and published a stud-book several years before the Society Hippique Percheronne was organized in France.

G. W. Curtis says, "One of the stallions imported in 1851, under the name of French Horse, was sold to Dillon & Co., of Normal, Ill., and was shown under the name of 'Norman.' The early importers were at liberty to give any distinctive breed-name to the animals imported, for, as yet, there was no stud-book in France. Some of these early importations were from the old province of LaPerche, some from Normandy, some were purchased in the city of Paris, and some were gathered from no one knows where, - though all appeared to have the general characteristics of the Percheron."

It will readily be seen how natural it was, under the circumstances, to attach different breed-names to horses purchased in different localities; and, the name being adopted, right or wrong, how difficult it was to change it. In 1876, when the first volume of the stud-book was being prepared, the distinguishing name "Norman" was adopted. Mr. J. H. Saunders, then secretary of the Stud-Book Association, changed it to "Percheron Norman," which name was afterward ratified by the Association. This was unsatisfactory to some of the importers and breeders of the French draft-horses, since the distinguishing breed-name which had been used was of value, being in the nature of a trade-mark. So other stud-book societies were formed, and we now have three of them. (See Live Stock Registry Associations, Appendix.)

Percheron stallion, Calypso 25017 (44577).

Fig. 39. Percheron stallion, Calypso 25017 (44577). Imported by Dunham, Fletcher & Coleman, Oaklawn Farm, Wayne, 111.