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The Boulonnais Draft horse is the most elegant of all draft horses and traces to the cavalry mounts of Julius Caesar.
The Boulonnais Draft horse is energetic, easy, active and very gentle in nature. From the Boulogne District of France, this breed traces to the horses left behind by the cavalry legions of Julius Caesar, before he left to invade England. Later the Crusades and the Spanish occupation of Flanders brought a further influx of bloodlines from Oriental and Andalusian horses to the Boulonnais area. Even more Andalusian blood was introduced from stock coming from Germany and this influence is still seen in the Boulonnais horse of today the most elegant of draft horses.
Called the Boulonnais horse as long ago as the 1600’s, there were two types, a smaller horse less than 16 hands in height, known as the Mareyeru (used to make express fish deliveries from Boulogne to Paris) and the large Boulonnais, standing over 16 hand, which is still being bred.
The head of the Boulonnais horse is very distinctive, showing clearly the influence of oriental out-crosses, with a straight profile, prominent eye sockets, and open and lean jowl and a flat wide forehead. The eye is usually larger; nostrils are open and the ear are very small and erect.
The neck is thick but very gracefully arched. There is more slope to the muscular shoulder than in other draft breeds and the withers are prominent. Another feature of the Boulonnais horse is the good front, or forehand, being rather unique among draft breeds.
The skin is silky with prominent veining and the mane is fine and bushy. The body is compact and deep with a broad and straight back, wide chest with ribs well spring as those of an Arabian. Combined with the expression of elegance, the whole outline gives the appearance of majesty.
The limbs of the Boulonnais horse are strong with prominent muscular projections in both forearm and thigh. Other points are the short, thick canon, the lack of feathering and the large, solid joints. The quarters are round and muscular with a characteristic double muscling of the croup. The tail, which is bushy also, is set very much higher than in other draft horses. This breed’s action is exceptional in draft horse, being straight, relatively long and very swift and energetic. The breed has stamina and can maintain a stead speed over a long period of time and distance.
The Boulonnais horse stands from 15.3 to 16.3 hands in height and the coat color is most often gray in all its shades, but there are occasionally bays and chestnuts, which once upon a time were much sought after. The Boulonnais possesses the elegance of a much lighter weight horse.
From heavy fighting in two world wars, numbers of the breed were lost. Then with the improvement to roads and the decline of the need for heavy draught, the Boulonnais became mainly a meat source. This last member of famous war horse blood is not populous today. The American Association is currently importing and working to build a solid breeding base to help preserve the Boulonnais horse.