The improvements made by heavy draft horse breeders during the late 1800’s were manifest to the most casual observer, and that improvement, it is almost needless to say, had been due in a great measure to the introduction of imported blood.
For a long time, practically nothing had been done in this direction, though in Pennsylvania and some other eastern states an English shire bred stallion would be brought over for the use of our neighborhood.
The product of the native mares and these stallions bought better prices than the common stock, and the benefit that accrued from the mixture of the blood even in that small way was plain to be seen. The result was invariably a stronger, larger and better horse than could have been obtained by breeding the native mare to a native stallion, and gradually there sprang up a desire among breeders to go on with the work, and see what would come of it.
The first importation of importance, west of the Alleghenies was undertaken by the Fullington‘s, of Union County, Ohio who brought the Percheron stallion, Louis Napoleon, from France, and by Dr. Brown, of Circleville, Ohio, who imported another Percheron the same year. This was in 1851. These stallions became locally celebrated, and progeny was sought after eagerly. Five or six years later, Louis Napoleon was brought to Illinois by Mr. Cushman. He remained in De Witt and Woodford counties for a time, and then passed into the hands of the Dillons, of Normal, in Nebraska.
It was about this time that the Percherons began to be called the Normans, and the term, although a misnomer, has stuck to the breed ever since.
In reality, there is no such a breed of draft horses in France, the Normans being bred there for speed; but be that as it may, the name has clung to the Percherons in America until they came to be recognized as Normans.
In making up the stud book of imported and native purebred Percherons four years ago, the authors found it advisable, in order to avoid confusion, to unite the names and the breed is now known as the Percheron-Norman.
In the hands of the Dillons, the Percheron-Normans attained widespread celebrity, a fact which was the means of inducing others to go into the business. Large numbers of French heavyweight draft horses were brought to Ohio and Illinois within the succeeding few years, and the business has been steadily increasing ever since.
The largest importer and breeder of Percheron-Normans
in America at the time was Mr. Dunham, of Wayne, DuPage county, Illinois. Mr. Dunham brings more horses to the country and breeds more than all others put together. Last year he imported nearly 200 Percherons. He now has at his place, according to the testimony of judges, the most extensive stable of draft horses in the world. His establishment is in splendid shape, and a model of the kind.
Mr. James Perry, of Wilmington, Illinois, is another big importer of heavy draft horses. Mr. Walters of Baltimore, was one of the earliest importers, and was instrumental in having Du Huys’ celebrated work on the Percheron translated from the French. He withdrew from the business several years ago, and has returned to his first love lately. Mr. Bock, of the Spirit of the Times, was also quite an importer in 1875, but since that time he has done nothing at it; and William Warden, of Minnesota County Iowa, may be classed among the retired importers, he having at one time dabbled quite extensively.
The Clydesdale breed of draft horses is of more recent introduction than the Percherons. They were imported originally from Canada, but of late years several gentlemen have gone into the business of importing directly from Scotland. The largest importers of Clydesdales in America are the Powell brothers, of Springboro, Pennsylvania, and next to them comes the firm of Smith and Powell of Syracuse, New York. The leading importer of Clydesdales in Nebraska is Robert Holloway of Alexis. His stud is more valuable, probably than the Powell’s, and he is a larger breeder, but not so extensive an importer. He has paid larger prices for stallions than any man in the United States, and among his high-priced animals are the celebrated Donald Dinnie and Johnnie Cope. Simon Beatty, of Annan, Scotland, in connection with Mr. Blodget of Waukegan, do a large importing business and handle the finest horses that are to be had.
Mr. Moffett, of Pawpaw, Illinois, has also quite a number of valuable Clydesdales, and is a large breeder. Mr. James de Becca is probably one of the largest dealers in heavy draft horses in the west. A Clydesdale horse society was formed in this country, and a stud book is in the course of preparation.
There are a few representatives of other breeds scattered about throughout the country, but the efforts of importers and breeders seem to have concentrated on the Clydesdale and Percheron Normans. Some years ago a lot of English cart horses and Suffolk punches were imported, but they did not meet with favor. They were not what the people wanted, and their color - a sorrel - was against them. Complaints of defective feet and other defects brought them into this repute.
About 250 Percherons were imported last year, and every year the number increases. Of this number only a few were brood mares, importers finding it more profitable to deal in stallions, which are used to cross with native mares; the same is true of Clydesdales. A blooded draft stallion of the two breeds named all the way from $1000 up to about $3000 and about $2000 would be a good average.
The prevailing color of the Percheron is gray, fully 90% being of that hue. They weigh from 1200 to 1800 pounds, are compact rebuilt, short rumped, large and strong barreled, have excellent legs and feet, and are quick and active of movement, and exceedingly docile.
They are famous for their use in the omnibus and diligence lines in Paris and other French cities, and attempts are constantly being made to ring in counterfeits.
Originally they weighed from 1100 to 1400 pounds, but they have been numerously and generously crossed with the heavier and coarser drafts of Holland and the north of France until they have gained considerably in size and muscle.
The low flat country around about Flanders was the home of the heavy draft horse, and it was from there that the English made their first importations. The draft horse of Flanders came into notice as far back as the eighth century, and to this day England imports largely from there.
The Clydesdale is usually a bay, largely marked white about the face and feet, but its colors are varied, and unlike the Percheron, it has not so distinctive a distinguishing mark in this particular.
Many prefer the Clydesdale to the Percheron, however, on the grounds of color. Each of the breeds has its special advocate, neither of whom will admit that the other has any point of superiority over the breed which is the one that is especially in favor at that time and place, and in that company.
Unprejudiced judges of draft horses say that as a rule the feet of the Percherons are rather better than those of the Clydesdales, while on the other hand, the Clydesdales have better hindquarters than their French rivals.
It is held that the breeders of the Scotch draft horses damaged their breed by a long course of overfeeding and enforced idleness, whereas the French make it a point to work their horses from the time they are two years old. They never geld their Percheron colts, and are thus enabled to make better selections for their studs, as they have the pick of all. This practice is also said to have improved the temper of the French horses and made them remarkably gentle
It is claimed, too, that the Percheron-Normans are the more hearty and easily kept of the two breeds. This however is a matter of expert opinion merely, and the best judge differs when it comes to a discussion of the merits of the rival breeds. One thing that has injured the Clydesdales in the public estimation is the fact that a great number of Canadian graded horses have been brought into the states and palmed off as pure imported stock when in point of fact they are three or four degrees removed from the parent stock.
Importers are doing their best to break up this business, and their efforts are being crowned with partial success. With the completion of their studbook the task will be made easier.
Evidence of the good that has come from the importation of foreign draft horses is that they are now in use in the streets of Chicago and other large cities. Traces of Percheron and Clydesdale blood are to be detected in the conformation of three out of four of the teams employed by express and by individuals and businesses that do heavy hauling.
A good team of fine graded draft horses will sell from $500-$900, and they are as sure of a sale as beef cattle. There is no chance about it. They are as good as money in the bank, for the demand is always greater than the supply. Good heavy draft horses are found invaluable for heavy hauling of every description from the teaming in the lumber regions and on the lines of railroad extensions to pulling drays over the paved streets of cities.
Horse breeders and importers found the business to be one of large and certain profit, though some of the pioneers nearly burst themselves by paying fancy prices for stallions when the excitement ran high. The draft horse breeding business is now on a solid foundation, and the success that has attended the labors of the operators of late proves that there is money in it for draft horse breeders.