The Auxois is a breed of horse that was developed in the Auxois region of eastern France. It is a descendant of the Bourguignon horse and was crossbred with the now extinct Morvan horse. In the 19th century, Percheron horses and Boulonnais were introduced into the bloodline, possibly followed by the Nivernais and Ardennais horse breeds. Foreign horse breeds were introduced into the bloodline, creating a horse that would later be bred with Ardennais and Trait du Nord stallions to create a popular large working horse.
A registry for the Auxios was not created until 1912 and the studbook was created in 1913, which allowed only the registry of those horses that were crossed between Ardennais and Trait du Nord or that were purebred Auxois horses. Despite this strict regulation, the breed did not have a set standard, even by 1917 when the breed was being considered for official breed status. The selection of a breed standard was put on hold during WWI and would not resume until 1920, after which time the standard height was set to 15.3 hands and the breed became a popular work horse throughout the region. This breed was used specifically for farm work between WWI and WWII and became popular throughout many regions for its form and ability to pull heavy loads, as well as its appearance.
As was typical for many draft breeds, the upsurge of mechanical farm tools caused a decrease in the need for work horses, so by the 1970’s, very few members of this breed remained. When horses began being bred for meat, the gene pool of this breed was allowed to remain the same, but the demand for larger horses caused the weight of the breed to change from a maximum of 1,760 pounds to over 2,200 pounds. Because the horse meat industry did not flourish, as was expected, the breed experienced another decrease until the 1990’s.
Eventually, the Auxois was bred again for farming purposes and for recreational use. Today, the breed registry holds its standards for acceptance, although horses bred using embryo transfer and artificial insemination are allowed to be registered. The Auxois Draft Horse Association, which manages the breed standard and registry of the breed, holds a yearly competition. This breed comprises only one percent of all draft horses in France and is not exported out of the country, making it a rare and endangered breed.
The Auxois reaches a height between 15.3 and 16.3 hands and a weight between 1,500 and 2,010 pounds depending upon its use. It has a strong, well-muscled body with a short head and neck. Its legs hold less feathering than other French draft horses. The registry accepts many colors including bay roan, bay, red roan, chestnut, seal brown, and grey. It is known for its gentle temperament and ability to survive through harsh conditions.
Image Caption: A harnessed Auxois horse before a competition at the Salon international de l’agriculture 2013 in Paris, France. Credit: Eponimm/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)