Working Horses of France

La Poste, the French Postal Authority, issued a set of 12 stamps featuring the regional working horses of France in a collectible booklet on April 5, 2013.

Working Horses of France
12 stamp booklet: Horses of Our Regions

The attractive stamps are sure to be sought after by horse enthusiasts and topical collectors alike. The stamps, measuring 38mm x 24mm, pay the Letter Green 20 gram rate with a total booklet value of 6.96 Euros. They were designed by Elodie Dumoulin and printed by rotogravure. Pictured below is the special pictorial cancel prepared for the booklet's release.

Pictorial Cancel
Pictorial cancel prepared for the booklet's release

Horses have been a part of the French landscape since prehistoric times when wild horses were depicted on the famous cave paintings at Niaux. There are many references to horse breeding in France throughout the ancient world, and Julius Caesar himself was said to have taken an interest in the Camargue breed. There were vast populations of regional breeds in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However the ravages of war and the increasing mechanization of modern times have put tremendous pressure on these breeds with some of the horses pictured here having populations numbered in the hundreds.

The 12 stamps depict nine French draft horse breeds set against the scenic regional backgrounds with which they are associated, with an additional three scenes of horses at work. The breeds pictured are the Breton, Norman Cob, Poitevin Mulassier (Poitier Mule), Boulonnais, Trait du Nord (North Race), Percheron, Ardennes, Comtois and Auxois.

The Breton is a family of draft horse with three distinct subtypes that has been used in military, draft, and agriculture. It was developed in the northwest province of Brittany from native stock and the crossbreeding of many different European and Asian breeds.

The Norman Cob is light draft horse that originated in the northern province of Normandy in northern France. Historically the Norman Cob saw much agricultural use. Today it is known for its lively, long-striding trot and is popular for both riding and driving.

The Poitevin Mulassier (Poitier Mule) is a draft horse from the Poitou area of France. The Poitier Mule has a history that dates back to at least medieval times. It has been used heavily for the breeding of mules, hence its name. It is known for its calm disposition and is used mainly for driving. The Poitier Mule population is dwindling and in danger of extinction.

The Boulonnais is a heavy draft horse breed. It is known for its elegant appearance and nicknamed the "White Marble Horse." Smaller Boulonnais were originally used to pull carts full of fresh fish from Boulogne to Paris, while the larger varieties were found doing heavier agricultural work.

The Trait du Nord (North Race), is a breed of heavy draft horse originally bred in western Belgium and northeastern France. Bred for size it was used extensively in mining and agriculture.

The Percheron is one of France's most reknowned breeds, originating in the Huisne river valley in northern France. It is known as an intelligent, hard-working breed. First bred for military use, it also saw extensive use in transportation, pulling stage coaches and other heavy loads. The Percheron is still seen in use as a working horse in forestry and agriculture; it is also shown and popular for riding.

The Ardennes draws its name from the Ardennes area in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. It is one of the oldest breeds of draft horse with a history that dates back to ancient Rome. The Ardennes has seen extensive military use, as well as draft and agriculture.

The Comtois is another very old French breed, believed to have descended from horses brought by the Burgundians of northern Germany during the fourth century. It is a light draft horse that saw military use in medieval times and later use in agriculture.

The Auxois is a large breed from eastern France said to be a direct descendant of the Cheval Bourguignon (Burgundy Horse). The Auxois is another particularly rare horse with one of the smallest populations of the regional breeds.

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