- Boulonnais -

The Boulonnais originated in the Northwest of France. It is a very ancient breed, although it was not officially recognized as a breed until the 17th century. The Boulonnais developed from heavy draft horses of pre-Christian times, and owes its quality and spirit to early infusions of Arabian and Barb blood during the 16th century.

This breed is often described as the Thoroughbred of the heavy horse - they have an exceptionally fine head for a horse of their size, combined with an excellent free-flowing action. In fact, the Boulonnais have such an admirable turn of speed that they were commonly used as carriage horses. They also have very fine skin with delicate veins, which has led to their being compared to polished marble.

As well as the large Boulonnais there was the Mareyeuses, or the "Petite Boulonnais", which was a smaller build, standing at between 15 hh and 15.2 hh. This swifter animal was used to transport fish from coastal regions to Paris quickly The Mareyeuse has virtually disappeared and the numbers of the Boulonnais itself were greatly depleted during the Second World War. They are noted for their stamina and endurance and are able to maintain a steady speed over great distances. Due to their quality they are often used to improve other draft bloodlines in much the same way as the Thoroughbred is used to improve riding stock. Sadly, their use is somewhat limited now, although the preservation of the breed is ensured by the vigilance of the French National Studs and the larger types are bred widely for use in the French meat industry.

In appearance the Boulonnais is a very large and heavy horse, standing up to 17 hh. They have a fine head as noted, with expressive eyes. The neck is nearly always gently curved and very well set to a nicely sloping shoulder which allows for their action. They have a broad chest, powerful quarter with clean legs, and often have flat hooves. The legs are very powerful and have very well-made large joints. A peculiar feature they tend to have is a bushy tail, which could be a throwback to their eastern influence. The predominant color is gray, although bay and chestnut are not uncommon.

 

Return to Horse Breeds page