The Marble Mystery of the Draft Breeds

There is a quote found on the American Boulonnais Horse Association that helps to paint a visual picture of this very distinctive and majestic animal.

“He stands on the headland overlooking the choppy waters of the Channel, the salty sea wind tossing his heavy mane and bushy tail, otherwise still as a marble statue. His neck is proudly arched, his dark eyes surveying the water below. He is the master of  green fields, equally at home bearing the weight of an armored knight or pulling heavily-laden carriage. He is strong and gentle, swift and brave. Unusually graceful, with the elegance of a much lighter horse, he stands tall and proud, more than 16hh of muscle, heart and speed. He is a Boulonnais.”

This is truly one of the most unique and rare breeds of the draft horses.  The origins for this horse truly come far and wide. From the Boulogne District of France, this breed has origins that go back to the calvary of Julius Ceasar when he left to go and invade England. The Crusades and the Spanish occupation of Flanders carried in bloodlines from Germany and the Orient.

As long ago as the 1600’s these horses were referred to as the Boulonnais.  As with many of the breeds there were two types, based on size. The smaller, sometimes called the Mareyeru (meaning horse of the tide), were used to carry fish from Boulonge to Paris. They were quick and strong enough to get this fish delivered. It was about a 200 mile trip. The Boulonnais that is still being bred today is the larger draft horse version.

The few Boulonnais that are around today are mostly gray and fade to white with age. Only 15% of the breed are black, chestnut or bay. The bloodlines have dwindled greatly. In the early 1900’s it is estimated that there were over 600,000 Boulonnais in France. Today the estimate is 700 in France. Currently the American Boulonnais Horse Association is working to get a stud program established in the United States.

As far as the physique of the breed, they have a short head  with a sweeping forehead. Boulonnais have a very wide chest and a thick and muscular chest. They have the strong legs of a draft horse and tend to have very thick manes. They are typically between 15.1 to 16.3 hands. Registered Boulonnais will have an anchor brand on the left side of their neck.

This is another great draft horse breed. If you get the chance to see a registered Boulonnais,  don’t miss it.