The Breton Horse
The Breton horse is stocky and has rather short legs for its lanky height of 15-16.1hh, but despite this it has a lively trot and seems to enjoy being active; these characteristics link back to the Norfolk Roadster blood which was sprinkled in throughout the breed‘s history, as well as infusions of other Cold Blood Horses like the Boulonnais. It is a universally renowned breed and a popular choice for the breeders of draught horses from all over the world when it comes to improving their particular breed through crossbreeding. Strangely enough it is also frequently used for the creation of mules in countries such as India.
The Breton is yet another European breed which was affected by the Middle Eastern horses like the Arabian which were brought home after the Crusades. Its homeland is Brittany, a province in the northwest of France which they inhabited for many years. No one is entirely certain of how they arrived, but they are believed to be the descendants of the ancient Celtic warriors’ warhorses.
Throughout the history of this particular breed there has always been two or more variations – during the Middle Ages, there were two identified types: the Sommier and the Roussin. The former was a descendant of northern-bred stock and used mainly for pack and agricultural work; the latter was much lighter in bulk, found primarily in the south of Brittany where it was commonly used as a saddle horse, favoured for its easy, ambling stride.
The Breton of today is no longer considered to be a riding horse, but there still are different variations of the breed: the Heavy Draught Breton, the Corlais Breton, the Postier Breton, the Trait Breton and the Central Mountain Breton. Only the final three types are recognized. The Heavy Draught Breton and the Central Mountain Breton both share infusions of Ardennais and Percheron blood, but the latter is smaller than the former. The Corlais has infusions of Arabian and Thoroughbred blood; it shares many of its features with the other Breton horses, but unlike the rest it has a more dished head. The Postier is a coach-horse of sorts, a result of crossings with Norfolk Roadster and Hackney stock from England during the nineteenth century.
The Breton matures quite early in its life. It is a popular choice in the French horse meat trade due to the high yield and good quality of meat it produces. Thankfully it is still esteemed as a draught horse and it is not uncommon to see Breton horses working in vineyards. Black is a rare colour for the Breton horse; the majority will have coats of chestnut, though red roans, bays and greys are not unknown to occur.