If horses can feel prde, then the Percheron horse can be proud of its heritage. They helped plow fields in many countries, worked in circuses and sacrificed themselves to battle in various wars. So, of course, mankind repays this gentle creature by eating them or using pregnant mares in the inhumane manufacture of hormone replacement drugs.
There are some Percherons who are actually valued and work in fields, pulling a wagon or being ridden. But they are few and far in between.
Percherons are big, muscular horses, which translates into a lot of money for butchers and abattoirs. Horse meat is considered a delicacy in such countries as Italy, Austria, Iceland, Japan, China and the Percheron’s native France. Horse meat is also used in the pet food industries of many countries and for feeding large carnivores in zoos all around the world, including the United States. Percherons only need to grow into yearlings before they are considered ripe enough for harvesting. This makes them one of the ideal breeds for horse meat and that is where the majority of them go — to the abattoir.
Pregnant Mare Urine Harvesting
Belgians are the breed found most on Premarin farms, but many other draft breeds and draft crosses can be found suffering there, too, including Percherons. What are these farms like? Think urine mills. Premarin is short for pregnant mare urine. Mares are impregnated, stand in stalls up to 20 hours a day for the entire pregnancy with their nether regions hooked up to a urine collecting device and then, when they foal, the foals are taken away and are usually killed (although some are sold) and then she is impregnated during her foal heat nine days later.
Pregnant mare urine is the main ingredient in hormone replacement therapy drugs such as Premarin. It is unknown how many horses have died as a result, but a conservative 2004 estimate from MSNBC at one million per year. Although this inhumane industry has been drastically reduced since 2003, many mares are still milked for their urine.
The Lucky Ones
Those not destined for the dinner table wind up having busy lives. Percherons are intelligent animals and can learn just about anything a patient trainer will teach them. They are mostly used in harness than under saddle, pulling wagons, agriculture equipment, hay rides, in the logging industry and as stars in parades. They are still seen in some entertainment venues like equestrian dinner theatre, circuses or in petting zoos.
Percherons are also used to breed Thorcherons, a half-Thoroughbred half-Percheron sport horse. However, they do not have the jumping ability that a slimmer warmblood does, but they have an avid following. The Percheron is also used in the breeding programs of rare draft horse breeds, such as with the Vladimir Heavy Draught.
“The Ultimate Horse Book.” Elwyn Hartley Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing; 2005.
“Album of Horses.” Marguerite Henry. Rand McNally; 1962
Wikipedia. “Percheron.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percheron