Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Allison Price
Two breeds that are often associated with large, gorgeous draft horses are the Clydesdale or the Percheron. Although they share many physical characteristics due to their size, they are also very different. They are sometimes confused for each other despite being completely different breeds.
We’ll show you how to distinguish these majestic horses by comparing them with Clydesdales and Percherons.
|Height||16-17 Hands||17-18 Hands|
|Weight||Maximum 2,600 lbs||1,800 – 2,00 lbs|
|Origin||France||Britain / Scotland|
|Bloodlines||Some outcrossing||Mostly pure|
|Common Colors||Gray or Black||Bay|
|High-Wave White Leg Markings||Rare||Common|
|The Best Suitable For||Horseback riding||Driving|
Let’s begin with the obvious: Clydesdales as well as Percherons, both are large draft horses with a long history of European exports. Both share a calm, intelligent, and level-headed demeanor. They were both working horses and helped to lay the foundations for farms and cities during the Industrial Revolution.
They were large and strong, making them ideal for heavy farm work, and especially for pulling cargo. Both were vital for agriculture, industry and war.
There are differences
Although Percherons and Clydesdales have many similarities, they can still be traced back to where they came from.
Percherons are a French breed that hails from the west regions. They were bred in 1800s to be the “Great Horse” of wartime victories. ( source Percherons are a French breed that hails from the western regions of France. They were bred in 1800s to be the ultimate “Great Horse” for wartime victories.
Clydesdales are a British breed, and their name is derived from their native homeland of southwest Scotland. ( source They were originally bred to be sturdy workhorses and calm, trainable horses. They also found another job pulling heavy wagons or delivery carts outside of wartime.
The Clydesdale bloodline remained closer to its original origins and was pure. However, Percherons included some cross breeding with Andalusians, Thoroughbreds, and the Percheron evolved into the smaller, more athletic Percheron that we know today.
They are most distinctive in their physical appearance around their legs. The Clydesdales’ thick, feathered hair is a signature feature of the lower half. Percherons can have silky hair and thicker hair on their lower legs. However, their feet don’t have the same ‘feathers.
The thick, white fur at the feet makes Clydesdales a popular choice for exhibitions and shows, but it also serves a practical purpose. While those feathers can be difficult to maintain and groom, they protect the lower legs from water and mud, which is a common problem on Scottish farms.
Clydesdales are perhaps the most flashy draft horses. They are known for their elegant movement and long stride. Clydesdales are known for their elegance and movement.
The Percheron’s physical characteristics are notable for their Arabian blood, which is reflected in arched necks, strong jaws and prominent eyes.
The Percheron’s original crossbreeding makes it more suitable for crossbreeding than a Clydesdale. Clydesdales are usually bred to Clydesdales. However, Percherons can cross with Thoroughbreds and other warmblooded horses to further refine their riding and showing abilities.
Percherons have a rainbow of colors in their coats.
Percheron registries make some distinctions regarding coat colors. American registries will accept any color, while British and French registries will only register black or gray coats. Percheron born with gray fur that has faded to gray over the years. A solid-colored coat is preferred, but some white markings are acceptable.
Clydesdales will primarily sport a Bay coat. They can have chestnut, gray, or black coats, and sometimes even roan. They will usually have one solid color but they can also have white markings on their face, lower legs and even on their belly. This is the exact opposite of Percheron where solid coats are common and rare white markings.
Both horses are large and impressive. Percherons can reach up to 18 hands in height while Clydesdales are 16-17 hands tall. The Clydesdale is smaller than the Percheron, and has a more compact muscular build. (source)
The Clydesdales are the lightest breed in terms of size and strength. They can typically weigh between 1,800 and 2,000 pounds while Percherons can swell to 2,600 pounds.
Which is easier to ride?
Despite their size, these horses are perfect for riding due to their calm temperaments, gentle nature, and trainability. Although it might seem counterintuitive to put a green rider so high above the ground, they could not have asked for a better mount as a beginner.
Many draft horse riders have a special affinity for the Percheron. They are known for their willingness to please their owners and for their patience. (source)
Percherons are also bred with warmblood and thoroughbred genetics in order to produce a horse that is both suited for riding and has the best traits.
Riding a Percheron, Clydesdale or Clydesdale can be quite challenging. The balance and posture of a draft horse is different. Custom tack will also be required for draft horses as standard horse-sized equipment is too small.
Which one is better suited for driving?
Both the Percheron and the Clydesdale are exceptionally well-suited for driving.
Clydesdales are loved as driving horses and have many fans. They are also often associated with harness pulling due to their association with the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Percherons make excellent driving horses! Percherons are often the first choice when it comes to carriages and parades. Disneyland Paris is an example of a park where Percherons make up 30% of the horses. (source)
Both horse breeds are capable of pulling larger wagons than their predecessors.
It is easy to find draft horses in a herd. Although they may look similar in stature and size, the key to understanding each breed’s strengths is their differences.
Although a Clydesdale may be slightly lighter than a Percheron in weight, they are usually taller. Percherons have a more solid coat, while Clydesdale breeders prefer white markings. Clydesdales are known for their classy movements in the show ring. However, judges may prefer the Percheron’s refined physical appearance.
They are gentle giants but they can be a great companion horse, friend, or riding horse for all skill levels.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!