Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science
Breeds of Livestock - Breton Horse
The Breton horse originated in France. It is used for heavy draft and farm work. It stands 15 to 16 h.h.
The Breton horse has a long history with many differences in opinions. It has been said that the breed dates back four thousand years or more to the time it was brought into Europe by Aryans migrating from Asia. Others have said that the breed comes from smaller horses that were bred and improved by Celtic warriors on their conquest of what is now Great Britain.
A population of horses ridden by the Celts that were probably descendants of the steppe horses were found in the Breton Mountains for many years. At the time of the Crusades, these horses were bred to Oriental stallions and mares, leading to the Bidet Breton. Two types of Breton horses existed at the end of the Middle Ages. They were a northern Brittany pack horse called the Sommier and the Roussin, meaning cob, which originating from the Mountain Bidet that is finer and more slender than the Sommier.
The Bidet Breton was wanted by many military leaders during the Middle Ages due to its comfortable gait, which is said to be between a brisk trot and an amble. Many crossbreeds were also made in the following centuries in order to meet the needs of production to the economic needs of various periods.
There are also three types of Breton horses. The small Breton draft horse (Center Mountain), considered the real descendant of the ancient Breton horse, it has the same general features as the Breton draft horse but is smaller with a more dished face. This horse is easy to keep and is gaining popularity being very hardy and enduring. The Breton draft horse is heavier with more bulk. It is a strong, muscular compact horse. The Postier Breton, having remarkably airy and easy gaits, is very close to the draft horse and is of the same size. This a more beautiful, distinguished type.
Because of the quality and popularity, the Breton is the most numerous of the draft horse in France. It also has been widely exported around the world.
The Breton is still used as a work horse on small farms by market gardeners and to gather seaweed due to its power, hardiness, and energy. The Breton is mainly bred today for meat production in France.
Reference:Hendricks, Bonnie L., International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds, Univ of Oklahoma, Press, 1995.
Images:Bernadette Charvet Machado, Curitiba, PR, Brazil.