Get to Know the Top 10 Main French Horse Breeds: Quick Facts and Overviews

Other than amazing food, chefs and diplomacy, France has also produced amazing Top 10 Main French Horse Breeds. 10 most common and popular French Horse Breeds are: Ardennais, Auxois, Boulonnais, Breton, Comtois, French Trotter, Percheron, Poitevin, French Saddle Horse (Selle Français) and Trait du Nord.

Table of Contents (Horspedia)

Ardennais French Horse Breed (What Is Ardennais Horse Like?)

The Ardennais horse is a stocky, compact draught horse with very large bones.

It originated in the Ardennes region of France, where the severe climate of the region still produces immensely tough horses of medium height that are ideally suited to farm work (similar to the Belgian Ardennes horse breed).

Ardennais French Horse Breed

The Ardennais horse breed was developed during the nineteenth century when various outcrosses developed two specific types.

The lighter Postier-type, now rare, was developed from Arab, Thoroughbred, Percheron and Boulonnais, whereas the heavier draught was a result of Brabant blood.

The Ardennais is a horse of tremendous gentleness and docility. The Ardennais horse is also bred for its meat.

Ardennais Horse Breed (Quick Facts and Specs)

  • main colours: roan, bay & chestnut
  • size: 15.3 h.h. (157 cm)
  • characteristic: hardiness
  • uses: all types of draught work

Auxois Horse Breed (Quick Breed Overview)

Auxois Horse is the modern version of the old Burgundian heavy horse, which is known to have existed at least as far back as the Middle Ages.

Since the nineteenth century, infusions of Percheron, Boulonnais and Ardennais blood have been added and the present-day breed – called the Auxois – is a heavier type than the old horse of north-east Burgundy. Selective breeding also produces predominantly bay or red roan colouring.

Auxois French Horse Breed

Like its near relatives, the Auxois is an extremely hardy and willing worker, with the equable temperament typical of this type of draught horse.

In appearance, the Auxois horse type resembles the Ardennais and the Trait du Nord. It is strongly built with a relatively little feathering on the legs.

Auxois French Horse Breed (Quick Facts and Specs)

  • size: 5.2-16 h.h. (155-160 cm)
  • main colours: bay & red roan
  • characteristic: hardiness
  • uses: draught work

Boulonnais French Horse Breed (Origin and Breed Overview)

The Boulonnais comes from northern France and is a descendant of the ancient north European heavy horse.

It is thought to have received infusions of eastern blood as early as the time of the Roman invasion of Britain when Numidian cavalry was stationed on the coast of Boulogne.

Boulonnais French Horse Breed

Eastern blood was certainly also introduced during the times of the Crusades; the Andalucian, too, has had its effect on the breed.

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Although it is a heavy draught horse, the Boulonnais also has great intelligence and is a very active animal.

The influences of its infusions of eastern blood are apparent in its oriental characteristics, which include a refined, graceful head and a well-proportioned physique.

Boulonnais Horse Breed (Quick Facts)

  • size: 6-16.3 h.h. (160-167 cm)
  • main colours: grey, bay & chestnut
  • characteristic: prominently veined skin
  • uses: draught work

Overview of Breton French Horse Breed (The Original and its Three Types)

The original Breton horse was a small draught or carriage horse indigenous to Brittany in northwest France.

Breton French Horse Breed

However, cross-breeding with various other breeds has resulted in the emergence of three distinct types of French Breton horse breed.

The 3 types of Brenton French Horse are:

  • Draught Breton Horse,
  • Corlay French Horse
  • and Postier French Horse type.

These are the Draught Breton, containing infusions of Percheron, Ardennais and Boulonnais blood. The Breton Postier is a horse with a good, active trot, and contains Norfolk Roadster and Hackney blood.

The Corlay horse types, which are rare, if not actually extinct, are a lighter type of carriage or riding horse containing Arabian and Thoroughbred blood.

The Draught Breton, an early maturing horse, is bred for its meat as well as being used for agricultural work.

The Postier is used for light agricultural work and for improving less developed stock. Both are active animals and have a good disposition.

Breton French Horse Breed (Quick Facts)

  • size: 16 h.h. (160 cm);
  • main colours: blue & red roan, chestnut

Breton Postier horse type comes with slight variations. Its size is 15 h.h. (150 cm), with bay colour, occasionally black.

  • characteristic: calm temperament
  • uses: draught & light agricultural work

Comtois French Horse (Breed Overview and Origin)

The Comtois horse breed is a light draught horse of the Franco-Swiss borderland, where it is thought to have existed since the sixth century AD.

Comtois French horse breed is related to the Ardennais horse breed and the environment it has lived in has made it sure-footed, active and extremely hardy as well as making it is ideally suited to working in the hill country.

French Horse Breed Comtois

The Comtois is rather a plain-looking horse, with a large head set on a straight neck; it has a long hack, and the strong hindquarters typical of a hill-bred animal.

French Horse Breed Comtois (Quick Facts and Specs)

  • size: 143-153h (147-157 cm)
  • main colours: roan
  • characteristic: hardness
  • uses: light draught work

French Trotter Horse Breed (90% of all French Trotters Descend from 2 Stallions)

A world-class harness racehorse, the French Trotter was developed in the nineteenth century by putting Thoroughbred, half-bred and Norfolk Roadster stallions – all imported from England to Norman mares.

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Two particularly influential English horses were “Young Rattler” and “The Heir of Linne”, both foaled in the first half of the nineteenth century.

French Trotter Horse Breed | World-class racehorse

Over 90 per cent of modern French trotters trace back to five descendants of these two prepotent stallions, namely, Conquerant, Lavater, Normand, Phaeton and Fuchsia.

More recently, American Standardbred blood has been introduced, but the French Trotter is a larger and more upstanding horse than the American Standardbred – and necessarily so, for ridden trotting races are still popular in its native country. This is a raw-boned type of horse, with the typically sloping muscular quarters of the trotting horse.

French Trotter (Quick Facts and Specs)

  • size: 16.2 hh (165 cm)
  • main colours: black, brown, bey & chestnut
  • uses: harness racing and riding
  • characteristic: toughness

Percheron French Horse Breed (Origin and Proportions)

Originating in the Perche region of France, only those horses which are actually bred in 4 French departments are considered to be Percheron French Horse breed.

They are:

  • Departments of Perche-Sarthe,
  • Eure et Loir,
  • Loir et Cher
  • and Orne.

Only horses bred in these departments are admitted into the Percheron Stud Book and considered Percheron french horses.

Percheron French Horse Breed

On the other hand, those horses which are bred in other French regions have their own stud books. It is still possible to discern in the modern Percheron’s physical appearance its Arabian ancestry. The Percheron horse is also more highly strung than the other heavy horses.

The Percheron horse breed is well proportioned and, despite its size, has both beauty and grace of movement. It has a fine head for a horse of such a powerful build and combines stamina and endurance with considerable freedom of movement.

This is a popular breed, particularly in the United States and in Britain.

Percheron Horse Breed (Quick Facts and Specs)

  • size 16-17hh (160-170 cm)
  • main colours: grey & black
  • characteristics: hardness
  • uses: draught work

Poitevin French Horse Breed (Origin and Genetic Drawbacks)

The Poitevin horse derives from horses imported from several countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark.

The French Horse Breed Poitevin was originally used for work on the marshlands of the Poitou region, for which its large feet made it extremely suitable.

Poitevin French Horse Breed

However, Poitevin’s main use today is in the production of mules, which are obtained by mating jackasses with the best of the Poitevin mares.

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The Poitevin horse breed is considered to be a poor equine specimen, combining many conformational defects with very limited mental capacity.

The biggest genetic drawbacks of Poitevin French Horse Breed are:

  • the head is heavy,
  • neck short and straight,
  • shoulders straight,
  • back is long and
  • hindquarters are sloping.

Poitevin Horse Breed (Quick Facts and Specs)

  • size: 16-17hh (160-170 cm)
  • main colours: usually dun, although some bays & browns occur
  • characteristic: poor conformation
  • uses: breeding mules

Selle Français (French Saddle Horse) Origin and Facts

The name Selle Français (French Saddle Horse) dates only from 1965, although the studbook for the breed is a continuation of the Anglo-Norman studbook.

In the nineteenth century, Norman breeders used Thoroughbred and half-bred stallions from England to cross with their useful-but common-Norman stock. This is how the French Saddle Horse was created.

Selle Français (French Saddle Horse)

More recent infusions of Thoroughbred, French Trotter and Arabian blood have resulted in the good-quality Selle Français.

This is a strong horse of good conformation and temperament, which is well suited to competitive sports such as showjumping and eventing.

French Saddle Horse Breed (Selle Français) Quick Facts and Specs

  • size: 152-163 hh (155-167 cm)
  • main colours: predominantly chestnut although all solid colours may be found
  • characteristic: the good jumping ability
  • uses: riding

Trait du Nord French Horse Breed | Origin and Facts

A horse of fairly recent origin. Its studbook was first opened in 1919 after the breed had been fixed at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Trait du Nord French horse breed comes from the same part of France as the Ardennais horse breed.

It also contains Ardennais, Belgian and Dutch blood.

Trait du Nord French Horse Breed

Trait du Nord horse breed is a powerful but gentle draught horse and like the Ardennais – exceptionally hardy. It is in fact a bigger, heavier version of the Ardennais horse breed.

Horse breed Trait du Nord has a large head which is set on a huge neck, and a strong, muscular body and hindquarters.

French Horse Trait du Nord (Quick Facts and Specs)

  • size: 16-17hh (160-170cm)
  • main colours: grey & black
  • characteristic: hardness
  • uses: draught work