All this is unfortunate, since these books, as well as the French Stud-Book, record but one breed of horses. Then, too, these various registers have different standards for admissions to registration. The Percheron society requires that all animals imported after January 1, 1884, must be recorded in the Percheron Stud-Book of France. The National Register of Norman Horses admits all draft-horses of French draft-blood, no matter to what family they belong. There is also a stud-book published in the United States known as the National Register of French Draft-Horses, with somewhat elastic rules for registration.
It is unfortunate that the breeders of the noble Percheron should have become divided into three somewhat hostile camps, and still more unfortunate that horses should, at this late date, be admitted to registration without full guarantee of breeding and of merit. Far better make the rules, even of the Percheron Stud-Book, still more rigid, and allow colts only a provisional registration; which could be changed to permanent registration when they reached five years of age; if, after examination, they were found to be worthy of propagating the breed. We must adopt something of this sort for all the breeds if we ever succeed in preserving the high standard seen in recently imported horses. In no other way can we hope to produce an American variety of Percherons better adapted for heavy work than those brought over at great pains and expense. The Percheron is capable of improvement; why not have a home-breed as much superior to the average foreign horse as the American Merino is superior to the imported Spanish Merino? The breeders of trotters and Holstein cattle are on the right track, and will win out at the end.
Already something is being done to change the somewhat objectionable light colors to dark ones. The coarse heads and goose rumps, formerly all too common in all of the draft-breeds, are becoming rare, and they can be entirely eliminated only by official and rigid selection. Our government is not paternal, and cannot and should not do this work, since the associations have the power to do it, and can do it better than the government officials. Which society will be the first to adopt more rigid and better rules for registration of horses?
The color of most Percherons is gray of varied shades. Sometimes it is quite light, becoming nearly pure white in old age. Again, the striking light and dark dapples are seen, and dark grays, almost black, with a few white hairs. Comparatively few blacks have, as yet, been bred, although dark colors are sought and are more common than formerly. The American purchaser prefers darker rather than lighter colors; hence the effort in France is to produce darker colored animals than formerly. So, too, in the United States, dark grays are sought rather than light grays. It will take many generations to entirely eliminate the light colors, so long one of the characteristics of the breed; but this will be accomplished in time if Americans persist in preferring dark- rather than light-colored draft-horses. This preference is not founded on a fad, for, other things being equal, dark-colored horses are to be preferred to light-colored ones.
Fig. 40. Paquerette. Grand champion Percheron mare. Kindness of Breeders' Gazette.
Fig. 41. Deguardi 11340. Kindness of Breeders' Gazette.
Owned by Geo. B. and Chas. P. McPherson, Hereford, S. D.
The body of the Percheron has something of the pony compactness. Legs shortish with massive forearm, but clean and closely knit, especially below the knee, with pastern-joint free from "feather." Most specimens have fine heads. The true Percheron head is clean, expressive in all parts, of moderate size, topped with beautiful ears and well set on a magnificent flexible neck, although it is large at the base, where it is broadly attached to rather oblique shoulders, all of which give the appearance of strength with style and elasticity, with no suggestion of the pig's neck. All of the draft-breeds are remarkably free from bone diseases, considering their great weight and their severe work. The draft-horse of whatever breed has a thick skin, which is not as sensitive as is the skin of the warm-blooded horse. The not over-sensitive, thickish skin, coupled with difficult work and great weight, all tend to certain skin diseases which, fortunately, usually only injure the symmetry of the limbs and in most cases are of a mild character. The feet are firm, and usually a little more rotund and erect than are those of some of the other draft-breeds. The weight of the mature Percheron stallion, except in rare cases, is from 1,500 to 1,800 pounds, and that of the mares from 1,200 to 1,700. Grade Percherons are quite variable in weight, owing to the wide difference in the size of their nondescript dams.
Fig. 42. Percheron stallion, Picador 27370 (48373). Owned by Dunham, Fletcher & Coleman, Oaklawn Farm, Wayne, Ill.
The illustrations, it is hoped, will give some help in the study of both the dark- and the light-colored Percherons; but the reader should not be satisfied until many individuals of this breed, under both unfavorable and ideal conditions, have been inspected. Flesh and comparative idleness combined sometimes deceive the purchaser as to harmony and beauty of outlines and courage and endurance.