Originating from west-central France, the Poitevin Horse is a draft-type breed

However, this interesting breed has never been bred for draft ability, nor has it been used for draft labor to a noticeable extent since the primary traditional use for it was in the production of mules.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about this unique breed, keep reading!

Poitevin Horse Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Poitevin Horse:

Height (size) 15.3 – 17.1 hands high
Colors Any solid coat color, including striped dun, tan-colored with black mane and tail and primitive markings; white marking are minimal
Country of Origin France
Common Uses General riding, driving, light agricultural work in vineyards

Poitevin Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

The most significant initial use of the breed was the breeding of mules, who were prized for their strength and endurance, and that is where the name Mulassier comes from.

The name Poitevin is derived from the name of its native region, the Poitou.

Different Origin Theories

Due to the morphological resemblances between the Poitevin and the remains of ancient horse breeds in the Poitou area and the Mesolithic remains close to the Echire and Surgeres, many believe they are related.

However, such claims have yet to be confirmed by scientific studies.

Another theory is that the Celts may have also introduced horses to the Poitou area during their migration to France starting in 450 BC.

Additionally, records show that a Roman bishop requested a mare from this area from the Count of Poitou in the 10th century.

The ‘modern’ Poitevin may trace its ancestry back to the horses of Flemish or Dutch origin brought to the marshlands of Poitou in 1599 by engineers working on land drainage.

The Brabant, Friesian, and a particular type of Flemish work horse that was well-liked in the 13th century were among the breeds that the engineers brought with them.

The emergence of the Poitevin, a big, heavy, slow horse ideally suited for marshy terrain, was the result of crossbreeding between these different imported horses and indigenous stock.

The Production of Mules

The huge Baudet du Poitou breed of donkey was crossed with Poitevin mares to produce large Poitevin mules, which were in high demand for agricultural and other tasks in many countries including Russia and the United States, and were known for their hardiness.

However, the mule breeding industry, which was dominant throughout the entirety of the 18th century, suffered a setback when the government decided to cross the Poitevin breed with light-weight Norman and Thoroughbred horses in an effort to breed cavalry horses for the French troops.

The new horse was named Anglo-Poitevin and was a half-blood produced by crossing Thoroughbreds with crosses utilized by the army.

But, a number of private breeders objected despite financial incentives because they believed that the offspring of crossed horses would produce poor quality mules.

The crossbreeding also altered the traits of the breed which were beneficial for work in the marshlands, such as their large hooves and a calm temperament.

19th Century Developments

In the 19th century, the Poitevin got some blood from other breeds: at the beginning of the century, a few Percheron stallions were brought into the region; between 1860 and 1867, around ten Bourbourienne stallions were used; and more considerable use was made of Breton stallions, which was welcomed by some breeders and criticized by others.

With Breton influence the head became more square and the ears shorter, and the Poitevin lost weight, the legs became too long and too thin, and gray coats became more common.

The old-styled Poitevin was progressively disappearing by 1861.

There were also uncertainties over whether or not the Poitou mule had maintained the same level of excellence that it had in the past.

Because of the high levels of inbreeding and the lack of attention paid to the selection of breeding stock, the big Poitevin mares became more difficult to find.

At this time, many Poitevins left were a cross of Breton and old-type Poitevin bloodstock.

But there was still a difference between real Poitevin horses and mixed-blood horses, so farmers who preferred the old-type Poitevin horses kept breeding them, and that stock served as the foundation for the formation of the breed studbook created in 1884, with a horse section and a donkey section.

The studbook was closed in 1922.

20th century

Around 50,000 brood mares produced 18,000 to 20,000 mules annually at the beginning of the 20th century.

However, with the rise of mechanization in the early 20th century, the mule breeding industry fell into a downward spiral and eventually went out of business.

By 1922, it was difficult to sell Poitevin foals, and as a result, the population plummeted rapidly since there was no longer any economic incentive for breeding.

The breed declined quicker than other draft breeds because mules were bred more than purebred horses.

By 1945, the only viable economic possibility for farmers was the production of meat.

However, the Poitevin was unprofitable for the production of horse meat because it is a slow-growing breed with heavy bone, so breeders preferred to invest in other types of breeds.

Between the years 1970 and 1990, the population of the Poitevin ranged from 250 to 300 animals, with an annual average of 20 new horses being registered in the studbook.

By the early 1990s, the world’s population had fallen to its lowest point in history.

In 2006, the Poitevin was still regarded as the most endangered breed of horse in France due to the fact that there were less than 100 foals born each year.

A few dedicated groups who collaborate with the French National Stud are responsible for the breed’s continued existence.

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

Alternative Names

“Mulassier”, “Poitevin Mulassier”, “Trait Mulassier”, “Poitou horse”


Gentle and calm, but can be stubborn

Physical Characteristics

The head is long with a convex profile  and long ears.

The neck is long and the shoulders are sloped.

The chest is wide and deep, and the withers prominent.

The back is broad and long, and the hindquarters are powerful.

The legs are well developed, strong, and with large joints.

The hooves are big which is an advantage in wet environments.

The mane and tail are abundant and thick, and legs are well feathered.


Any solid coat color, including striped dun, tan-colored with black mane and tail and primitive markings; white marking are minimal

Height (size)

15.3 – 17.1 hands high






1,550 – 2,000 lbs (700 – 900 kg)

Blood Type


Common Uses

General riding, driving, light agricultural work in vineyards


Generally healthy

Popular Traits




Country of Origin



Mares indigenous to Poitou region, Brabant, Friesian