The Breton is a draft horse with great strength and durability that is native to France. It is an ancient breed old over thousands of years. Brittany is a province in northwest France and origin place of this breed.
There are many theories about its history. One theory is that they might be developed when Aryans migrated to France and brought horses with them. Other theory is that maybe smaller horses were bred by Celtic warriors in the period of their invasion of Great Britain. However Brittany is known about their breeding skills for good horses since the Middle Ages, developing distinctive breeds including the Breton horse in the Breton mountains. During this period Oriental horses were crossed with native mountain horses, which resulted with a military horse, known as the Bidet Breton with a comfortable gait that is something between an amble and a brisk trot. The number of types varied in different time periods, from two to four, being more or less heavy and used as packhorses (Sommier and Roussin), amblers, for riding and driving. The influence of many crossbreeds through the centuries resulted with a breed that is well adapted to the economic needs in the country. These crosses included Boulonnais, Percheron and Ardennais horses and at the beginning of the 20th century Brittany’s breeders focused on genetic program. At that time was produced the famous Postier Breton by crossing mares with Norfolk stallions.
In 1909 was founded an open studbook which was officially closed in 1951 in order to the preservation of the purity of the breed. The studbook contains separate sections for each type of the breed. Since 1920 outside bloodlines are not allowed to be registered in the studbook. The most recognizable sign for the Breton horse is a brand on its left side of the neck that is a cross surmounting a splayed, upturned V.
The overall appearance of the Breton is an attractive horse with short and square body, characterized with a well proportioned head with a straight profile set on a slightly short but strong neck. Nostrils are large open, it has kindly eyes and small, mobile ears that are set low on the head. Withers are muscular, shoulders are sloping, chest is broad and muscular, back is short and wide and it has a sloping croup. The legs are feathered, short and very powerful with sound cannon bones, broad joints and well-formed hooves. Mane and tail are often flaxen and the tail is usually docked.
Today there are three types of Breton horse. This divide is made according to their size and the area that are coming from. The first is the Corlay type which is the smallest and considered to be the real descendant of the original Breton. It’s been a mixture between Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines that makes this type great in local races, due to ancestry’s speed qualities. It stands between 14.3-15.1 hands and has more dished face. This type has decreased in numbers in the past few years, which makes it an extremely rare. It is used for light draft and under saddle work.
The second type is Postier Breton developed from the Norfolk Trotter and the Hackney blood and is used for harness and light farm work. They were used mainly for pulling mail coaches, thus comes their name- Postier. Its average height is 15.1 hands, has a very attractive gait and is exported to many other countries.
The third type is also the largest, massive and more beautiful, distinguished type, called Heavy Draft Breton. It is developed from a crossbreed between Ardennes and Percheron bloodlines. It stands between 15.2-16.2 hands high. This type is very strong, muscular compact and used for the hardest draft work in the agriculture, in the meat market and as war horse in the past.
The most common coat color is chestnut, but can also appear in bay, gray, red or blue roan. Beside the draft work, harness and for meat production, the Breton horse is spread all around the world, used for crossbreeding with other breeds in order to improve and create many draft breeds and produce mules. They have improved the Canadian Horse, created the Swiss Freiberger, crossed with Anglo- Arabian stallions and produced carriage horses and had significant influence on the German Schleswig.
Solve this horse puzzle of a horse breed with great stamina, hardiness and strength that has a wonderful temperament. Change places of the jigsaw pieces by using your mouse and see the final image of an agile, calm, easygoing and friendly Breton horse.