Breton Horses: Breed Profile

The Breton horse may have a smaller draft than your average, but this breed packs a lot of power in this smaller package. Bretons are suited to everything from driving to horseback riding, and the breed’s three subtypes create a wealth of diversity and versatility. Hardworking and hardy, the Breton is a beautiful French breed.

Variety Introduction

weight: 1,250 to 1,700 lbs

high: 15 to 16 lots

Body type: Draft body with short, powerful legs

Most suitable: Farm work and driving

Life expectancy: 25 years

The History and Origin of the Breton Horse

Breton horses originated in the Brittany Mountains in France, but how these horses first appeared in the region remains a mystery. Those Breton ancestors were bred with Eastern horses during the Crusades, and they proved to be ideal military horses in the Middle Ages. The influence of other breeds during the Crusades led to the creation of different Breton breed styles, including light riding and heavier lead types. Crossbreeding continued until the 1900s, when Arabian and purebred bloodlines were introduced to create another breed type.

Today, three breed subtypes exist and the Syndicat des Eleveurs de Cheval Breton manages the Breton breed. All breed types are registered together, and since 1951 the official stallion register has been closed to outside breed influences. Breeding is still concentrated in France, as the stall register will only register horses from Brittany or Loire-Atlantic.

Brittany horse size

Breton horses belong to three different breed types, each with slightly different physical characteristics. The Corlay Breton is a smaller version of the breed and sits between 14.3 and 15.1 lots. It has draft characteristics, but it is also smaller in stature due to the Arabian and purebred hybrids.

Postier Breton was influenced by Hackney and the British Norfolk Trotter. It has an average height of 15.1 hands, and its lighter build makes it an excellent wagon.

Heavy Breton is the largest type. Averaged between 15.2 and 16.2 hands, it was influenced by larger draft varieties like Ardennes and Percheron. Its shorter legs mean that while it’s not very tall, it’s quite powerful.

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Breeding and Use

Breeding practices were once concentrated in Brittany, but programs do exist throughout France (although horses must be born in certain regions to be eligible for registration). The Brittany has also been exported and you can find this breed all over the world.

Due to the existence of multiple breed subtypes, the Brittany is extremely versatile. These horses are still used for farm work, but the different breed types add versatility, and you can find Breton horses as carriage horses, horseback riding, and more.

colors and markings

Traditionally, Breton horses have chestnut coats and flaxen manes and tails. However, other colors do appear in the breed, and you’ll see Gulf, Rowan, and Grey Brittany.

Oceane2508/Getty Images

Oceane2508/Getty Images

Unique Characteristics of Breton Horses

While many breeders focus on breeding larger lead horses for increased strength, breeders in Brittany take a different approach. With an increasing focus on maintaining breed purity, Brittany horses are still smaller than many draft breed horses. Breeders are constantly striving to produce horses that can withstand the rigors of conditions and still provide the strength of a traditional lead horse.

Diet and Nutrition

Bretons need a diet consisting of forage and concentrate to meet their caloric needs. Since Bretons are much heavier than regular horses, they need more hay and grass each day to maintain their weight. These demands will add to the heavy lifting for the horse, so it’s important to make sure you can afford to feed this breed.

Common Health and Behavioral Issues

Bretons face some of the health problems that usually affect horse racing:

  • Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM): Horses with EPSM cannot metabolize starch and sugar, which can lead to muscle weakness and wasting. These horses often struggle with vigorous exercise. While there is no cure for EPSM, careful dietary management can help reduce symptoms.
  • trembling: This neuromuscular disorder usually occurs in select breeds and causes twitching or shaking of the hind legs. Tremors are usually chronic, but may be relieved by massage and exercise.
  • Scratches: Bretons have visible feathers on their legs that can trap moisture and dirt on the skin, causing scratches, a skin condition. Thorough, regular grooming can help prevent this.


Bretons will benefit from regular grooming. Curry can help relax muscles and support a shiny, healthy coat. Thick feathers on the legs require extra attention, especially in muddy or wet conditions. If the horse is driven, a butt or braided tail can help keep it from getting tangled in the harness.

Champion and Celebrity Brittany Horse

The Brittany is a relatively rare breed, especially in the United States. While there aren’t many champions and celebrity Bretons, the breed itself has a long history dating back to the Crusades, so meeting any Breton in person is a privilege.

Is a Brittany Horse Right for You?

The Breton horse is a versatile breed, and you can choose from three subtypes to find a horse that suits your needs. Strong, hardy, and smaller in size than many other draft breeds, the Brittany is easy to tackle. While taller breeds like Clydesdales and Percherons can be difficult to ride simply because of their height, the Brittany’s height makes it more manageable, especially for a person who rides alone.

How to Adopt or Buy a Breton Horse

While there is much to love about the Breton horse, this breed is still rare in the United States. Some definitely exist, but it’s hard to find Brittany for sale in the country.

If you have a heart for this breed, then you may need to budget to import this horse from France. Import shipping costs alone can range from US$3,000 to US$10,000, pushing up the price for Singapore and Malaysia. Don’t forget to also budget for costs such as quarantine and transportation from the quarantine facility to your barn.

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