Although the history of Percherons is not known exactly, there are several theories about where they might have been descended. Some claim that they are descendents from the horses that lived during the ice age. Others believe that Percherons have relations to the Boulonnais horses that were used by the Romans during their invasion of Brittany. A third group holds their beliefs that the horses are related to a group of Arabians.
With all these different opinions, there is one common belief. That belief is that the horses can be traced to Normandy at an area called La Perche.
Percherons today are known for their use in heavy draft work, but during approximately the 8th century, the heavier native and cob stock were crossbred with Arabians and other Oriental horses. From this breeding came a better fit horse for light draft work and riding.
Today's preferred colors for Percherons include black and grey, but other colors such as browns, sorrels, and bays are acceptable to register.
Even though its ancestors were rather large, the modern day Percheron has elegance that is shown in several ways. First of all its head is ideal size, it has a rather lean figure, clean cut, and has a broad with between its eyes. Being able to have a strong deep chest is another great feature of the horse so long as the shoulders do not stand out compared to other parts of the body.
The average Percheron today weighs approximately 1600 lbs and up and measures about 17 to 18 hands which translates to a length between 68 and 72 inches at the shoulder.
Another type of draft horse is referred to as the Shire. This horse has been traced back to the times of the Roman conquest and is in many paintings that date back to the 15th century. Whether or not the Shire was used by knights in battle is still a debate but it is sure that the ancestors were adapted to be used as plow horses and used to pull wagons due to their large size and great power. Some are still used in this same fashion in Britain today.
To improve the horse, it was mixed throughout history with several other breeds of horses and there have been accurate records produced dating as much as a thousand years back proving that the Belgians and the Flanders crossed the Shires with other breeds. With the Shire being brought to America in 1853, it seemed as though the Percheron was going to lose the battle for the better draft horse but all in all the Percheron came out on top as the preferred horse.
Typical Shire colors include black, grey, brown and bay and although there is an occasional white Shire, it is quite a rarity. Standing approximately 16.5 to 17.5 hands or 165-175 inches, the Shire is almost as large as the Percheron and has many of the same features. Having a convex or "Roman" nose, large eyes, large prominent shoulders and a thick body, this horse is definitely one of power and magnificence.