Epoch’s Percheron Horses
As you pull into Epoch, one of the first things you will notice about the property is the barn with an American flag on the roof. If you are lucky, you will catch a glimpse of Epoch’s gentle giants, Jake and Willis. But who are Jake and Willis really?
History of the Percheron
The Percheron is a French breed of draft horse. Like wine, horse breeds are named after the region from which they come. Percherons are from the Le Perche province in France, located about 50 miles southwest of Paris. They were originally used as a war horse, but as warfare changed in the 1800s, so did their purpose. Breeders in Le Perche were being asked for horses that were able to pull heavy loads of people and goods. Percherons were also used in agriculture to pull plows and wagons. They were a desirable draft animal because they worked faster than oxen and could usually pull more due to their large size.
Percherons were first imported to America in 1839. With the advent of the automobile, they were not used as regularly for human transportation but were still very common on farms. Percherons hit their peak in 1920. During the Great Depression corn was cheap, so keeping a horse running was less expensive than keeping a tractor running. However, when WWII broke out, people were more inclined to use tractors due to the age of the people left to run farms.
After WWII, percherons lost favor, as not many people had the desire to home such a large animal due to the cost of keeping them. A large reason for the breed remaining in America was because of the Amish. Amish communities use Percherons to pull carriages and for logging carts.
Percherons at York Mountain
Andrew York began his winery in the late 1830s and constructed it himself (if you are unfamiliar with Epoch’s history check it out here). The rolling hills of York Mountain add to its beauty but make bringing in building materials difficult. Percherons were essential in keeping York Mountain operational. Their strength and endurance made them perfect for hauling grapes or building materials, and their gentle demeanor made them excellent riding horses.
Today, Jake and Willis have a much more relaxing lifestyle. The Armstrongs purchased the Percherons hoping to integrate as much York Mountain history as possible into Epoch. Willis was the first horse to arrive to his new home on York Mountain. The original intention was to work the horses in the vineyard to reduce the use of tractors, however, the rows were not wide enough to fit two horses side by side. Also, Jake and Willis grew tired after a few hills in the steep vineyard. ; ) Now they are Bill and Liz’s personal riding horses and occasionally pull the wagon for them. And of course, when they are out grazing, they make the views from the Tasting Room all the more beautiful!
Before coming to Epoch, both horses hailed from Amish communities in Ohio. Jake was used for logging and had never been ridden until he arrived at York Mountain. He now loves pulling the cart and going for rides with Liz. Willis is eager to please and will do anything you ask him – with gusto! Wills’ favorite treat is peppermints and Jake’s is apples.
Percheron Fun Facts
- Registered Percherons are only black or grey
- Manes and tails can be black, grey, chestnut, roan, or sorrel
- Some white is okay but too much is undesirable
- They are known to have very thick manes that can be wavy
- Jake has very thick hair and does not like when it gets cut
- The feathering that is common on the legs of draft horses is much shorter on Percherons
- They stand 15-19 hands tall or 60-76in
- A horse is measured from the ground to his withers
- Jake and Willis are both 19 hands
- Percherons weigh 1,800-2,600lbs (1 ton is 2,000 lbs)
- Jake is 2,500 lbs and Willis is 2,300 lbs