Boulonnais Horse

The Boulonnais is a draft horse that is found mainly in the north of France.

They are used for agricultural work and are known for their strength and good temperament.

Read on to learn more about this hardworking breed!

Boulonnais Horse Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Boulonnais horse:

Height (size) 14.3 – 16.3 hands high
Colors Most commonly gray, but can also be chestnut and black
Country of Origin France
Common Uses Farm work, general riding, meat production

Boulonnais Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

The Boulonnais is believed to be the world’s oldest draft horse breed, with its origins supposedly dating back to about 54 – 55 BC.

The origins of the more modern-day looking Boulonnais horse may be traced back to the 12th century Crusades.

The strong warhorse is thought to have been developed in the French region of Boulogne by crossing French breeds with German and Arabian breeds brought to the region by invading Roman armies.

Even though the horse was originally developed for French knights to ride in battle, it quickly became a popular choice for the general public.

In the 17th century, Spanish Barb, Andalusian, Mecklenburg horses from Germany, and additional Arabian bloodlines were added to the Boulonnais to create the modern-day type of the breed.

Initially, several types of Boulonnais were developed, and slowly refined to two types by the 19th century.

One was a heavier type suitable for agricultural and industrial work (as well as the meat market).

The other was a lighter and smaller type that was often used to transport cartloads of fish from Boulogne to Paris.

This was a significant change for the breed, which, up until that time, had been mostly black or dark bay in color.

However, fish were frequently transported during the night, and light gray horses were much easier to spot as they pulled carts along roads that were not lit up.

It didn’t take long until most Boulonnais horses were gray.

Until the 20th century, Boulonnais horses were continuously crossbred and experimented with, and because of it a tremendous improvement was made in this horse breed.

Boulonnais horses were prized by the people of France because of their beauty and their ability to work hard.

It was used by the French army to haul artillery and wagons as well as for ordinary transportation.

As a result of the demands of the Industrial Revolution, the Boulonnais horse grew considerably larger in size during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

These decades saw an increase in the importance of having horses that were strong but also athletic.

However, following the World Wars, the Boulonnais horse became practically extinct.

Broodmares got scattered throughout the war years, and many other horses were used as warhorses.

Fewer than a thousand Boulonnais horses remained in existence after World War II.

Most of them were in France and a handful in other European regions.

However, during the 1970s, the Boulonnais and several other French draft horses were reclassified from the category of draft horses to that of meat horses.

The decision to classify the Boulonnais as meat horses is said to have saved them from extinction.

This also led to a large increase in the average weight of Boulonnais horses in the 1980s.

In modern times, every three years, the Boulonnais compete in a 24-hour carriage race known as the “Route du Poisson” (the Fish Route).

This event commemorates the historic transport of fish to Parisian marketplaces by French draft horses (which took almost 24 hours).

The Boulonnais still have a population of fewer than 1,000 people, and the majority of their stud farms are supported by the government.

The Boulonnais is regarded as one of the most beautiful draft horse breeds.

It’s fine veins and cream-colored coat have earned it titles such as “White Marble Horse” and “noblest draft horse.”

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names



Docile, social, easily trainable

Physical Characteristics

They have a relatively short head with prominent eyes, and a wide forehead.

The ears are small and upright.

The neck is well-muscled and gracefully arched.

The withers are well-placed, and when compared to other draft breeds, the shoulders are more sloping.

The back is short and straight.

The hindquarters are broad and sturdy, and the tail is placed high.

The chest is broad and the legs are short, solid, and have flat joints.

The lower legs lack the typical feathering.

The majestic demeanor comes from their oriental lineage.

Both the mane and tail are soft and full.

They are a strong and agile breed with splendid and energetic gait.

The Boulonais is also called the “Draft Horse Thoroughbred”, because it is energetic, lively, and possesses excellent gait which makes it very elegant.


Most commonly gray, but can also be chestnut and black

Height (size)

14.3 – 16.3 hands high






1,400 – 1,650 lb (635 – 750 kg)

Blood Type


Common Uses

Farm work, general riding, meat production



Popular Traits

Elegant heavy horse



Country of Origin



Local French horses, Arabian, Spanish Barb, Andalusian, Mecklenburg