Percherons and Clydesdales – two of the biggest horse breeds in the world. They’re big, beautiful, and powerful – what’s not to love about these gentle giants?
Both breeds are famous for their impressive size and stellar looks, and they’ve both got some pretty unique traits that set them apart.
So let’s explore what the Percheron and Clydesdale have in common and what makes them unique.
Percheron vs Clydesdale: The Similarities
Originally from Europe, Percherons and Clydesdales are a type of horse known as a draught horse (or draft horse in the US). They both played vital roles during the Industrial Revolution, thanks to their impressive size and strong bodies that made them big favourites for strenuous work.
One thing that these two totally separate breeds share is their intelligence and level-headedness. They’re reliable and hard-working companions to have by your side, making them the perfect choice for any farmer.
But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. So, what are the differences? Glad you asked!
Percheron vs Clydesdale: The Differences
While these two large horse breeds do have some things in common, it’s their differences that really help us tell them apart.
Country of Origin
Originally bred in southwest Scotland, Clydesdales are known for their gentle and calm personalities – qualities which make them perfect for use on a farm. They were even used as cavalry horses during the war and later became excellent draught horses, pulling heavy loads and carts.
Percherons, on the other hand, have their origins in France, specifically the Le Perche province near Normandy. They were initially bred for wartime strength in the 1800s. After the war, they found a new purpose on farms, where their strength came in handy for pulling heavy carts and cargo and helping with logging.
Over the years, Clydesdale horses have proudly kept their heritage intact, maintaining a pure bloodline. That’s why you’ll usually find Clydesdales being bred only with other Clydesdales.
Percherons saw a degree of breeding with Andalusians and Thoroughbreds. This led to a gradual evolution of the breed into a smaller more athletic horse compared to their ancestors.
Today, they’re known for their Arabian characteristics, with their elegant necks, strong jaws, and refined eyes.
Because of their adaptability, Percheron horses are more suited for crossbreeding than Clydesdales. They can comfortably mix and match with other Thoroughbreds and warm-blooded breeds.
A Blue Roan Percheron
When it comes to leg feathers, Clydesdale horses take the spotlight. These horses have those thick, feathered lower legs that look like a fashion statement.
But those feathers serve a practical purpose too – they protect Clydesdales from all the mud and water they encounter on those Scottish farms.
Percherons, on the other hand, have some hair on their feet, but you won’t find those heavy feathers seen in Clydesdales. Watch our video on why clydesdales have hairy feet below
Clydesdales are mostly bays – you’ll see a lot of them rocking that rich coat colour. Sometimes, you might spot a chestnut, grey, or black Clydesdale, and some even show off a roan coat pattern.
Many of them also come with cool white markings on their faces, lower legs, and even spots on their bellies.
As for Percherons, they have a diverse coat game. Black and grey are the popular picks, but you’ll also find chestnut, sorrel, and bay coats shining bright. White markings, however, are a rare sight among Percherons.
In the height department, Clydesdales slightly edge out Percherons. After all, they hold second place (after the Shire horse) in the “largest horse breed in the world” category.
Clydesdales stand tall at 18 hands when fully grown. Plus, they have a slimmer and less muscular build compared to their Percheron pals.
Percherons measure between 16 and 17 hands in height, making them a bit shorter than Clydesdales. But don’t underestimate them – they compensate with a more muscular and robust physique.
When it comes to weight, Clydesdales are lighter. Their less muscular build puts them at a range of 820 to 910 kg (1,800 to 2,000 lbs) when they reach their full size.
Percheron horses, with their more muscular and wider frames, easily outweigh the Clydesdale. These powerhouses can tip the scales from 500 to a hefty 1,200 kg (1,100 to 2,600 lbs)!
Which is Easier to Ride, The Percheron Or Clydesdale?
Deciding between riding a Percheron or a Clydesdale? Well, you’re in for a treat because both these gentle giants are a joy to ride!
Thanks to their easygoing nature, both breeds are a breeze to train, making them fantastic choices for horse riding. They’ve got discipline, level-headedness, and loads of patience, which means you’re in good hands when you’re up there in the saddle.
Now, while both breeds are fantastic riding companions, many draught horse riders seem to lean towards the Clydesdales as their favourites. These Clydesdales are all about pleasing their riders and giving it their all when they’re on the job.
But don’t count the Percherons out just yet! With their Andalusian and Thoroughbred genes, they’ve got some serious athleticism going on. They can reach impressive top speeds when it’s time to hit the racetrack.
Whether you choose to ride a Clydesdale or a Percheron keep in mind that these are wide-bodied horses and you’ll need riding gear that is specifically designed for draught horses.
Is the Percheron or Clydesdale Better for Driving?
Both horse breeds are an excellent choice for driving and have the size, stamina and strength needed to make heavy pulling work a breeze.
The Budweiser Clydesdales are world-famous for their harness-pulling ability and their sheer strength has won the Clydesdale breed a lot of fans.
However, many draught horse riders express their preference to work with Percherons when it comes to pulling carriages and for use during parades. Even in Disneyland Paris, Percheron horses take the spotlight as the breed of choice to impress the crowds.
The Clydesdale Horse Breed On Strathorn Farm
Located in the United Kingdom, Strathorn Farm Stables and Riding School has been working with Clydesdale horses for decades and helped rewrite the breed’s future.
George Skinner, the current owner of Strathorn Farm, established the riding school with his wife Ruth in 1991 after dedicating his life to working with Clydesdales. In fact, George’s father Daniel worked Strathorn with Clydesdales as far back as 1939, an George himself used them on the farm in the early 1950s – as soon as he was old enough!
George is the current honorary president of the Clydesdale Horse Society and has worked with Clydesdale horses for almost his whole life. Together with his wife, Ruth, George has played a pivotal role in the preservation and promotion of this hard-working horse breed.
Testimony to the Skinners’ hard work to save this once-endangered horse breed is the fact that Strathorn Farm took champion-ridden Clydesdale at the Blair horse trials in 2022 with King Edward.
George also competed at the 2022 World Clydesdale Show in Aberdeen, with his pair of Strathorn-bred Clydesdales and his drey, which was hand-built by himself and local craftsmen.
King Edward and Kalli taking champion at Blair in 2022
A Brief Summary: Percheron vs Clydesdale Horses
Now that we’ve explored the unique features that set these two magnificent horse breeds apart, let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve learned:
- Country of origin: Britain (southwestern Scotland)
- Bloodlines: Mostly purebred
- Leg feathers: Heavy
- Common colours: Bay
- High white markings: Common
- Height: 17 – 18 hands
- Weight: Between 820 to 910 kg (1,800 to 2,000 lbs)
- Activity best suited for: Driving and riding
- Country of origin: France
- Bloodlines: Has some outcrossing
- Leg feathers: Moderate
- Common colours: Gray and black
- High white markings: Rare
- Height: 16 – 17 hands
- Weight: Between 500 to 1,200 kg (1,100 to 2,600 lbs)
- Activity best suited for: Driving
What are the largest horse breeds in the world?
These are the biggest horse breeds in the world:
- Shire horse
- Clydesdale horse
- Percheron horse
- Belgian draught horse/Belgian draft horse
- Dutch draught horse/Dutch draft horse
- Suffolk punch horse
- Australian draught horse
What is the world’s rarest draught horse breed?
The American Cream Draft is known as the rarest draught horse breed in the world. There are currently only 400 registered American Cream Draft horses.
Which is the tallest horse in the world?
The tallest horse in the world was the Shire gelding Sampson, also known as Mammoth, bred by Thomas Cleaver of Toddington Mills, Bedfordshire, UK. This magnificent horse was born in 1846 and measured a staggering 21.2½ hands.
Not only was Sampson incredibly tall, but he was also a heavyweight, weighing in at a whopping 1,524 kilograms (3,359 pounds).