By PetMD Editorial on Dec. 20, 2009

The Comtois is a horse breed that originated in France centuries ago. This horse is of average height, and is used mainly for farm and heavy draft work such as hauling wood in the high-altitude pine forests of France and the hilly vineyards of Arbois.


Physical Characteristics


The Comtois stands from 14.1 to 15.1 hands high (56-60 inches, 142-152 centimeters). It has two common colors: bay and chestnut. Its most remarkable features, however, are its thighs and legs, which are well-muscled and quite powerful.

The Comtois’ head is distinct from most other horses: rather than being long and tapered, it is quite square. Its eyes are alert and bright, showing the horse’s keenness. The withers and ears, meanwhile, are both well-set. The neck is not arched or sloped like that of most horse breeds, but rather straight and stocky; the neck’s chunky look can be attributed to well-developed muscles. The breed also has a broad and deep chest, a wide croup, rounded ribcage, and short, but powerful loins.

Its well-defined tendons, joints, and feet give the Comtois its sure-footedness and good sense of balance, which in turn make the Comtois an ideal heavy draft horse for high-altitude and mountainous terrain.


Personality and Temperament


The Comtois is a lively and spirited horse; aside from its abundance of energy, it is recognized for its stamina. In fact, a horse show is held annually at Maiche to choose the Comtois that excels in these characteristics.




Much like other draft horses, the Comtois is a hardy breed. But to develop endurance, hardiness, and surefootedness in Comtois horses, it is best to rear them in high-altitude places. However, the Comtois is highly adaptable and can flourish almost anywhere, even in remote and semi-wild breeding farms.


History and Background


The Comtois is thought to have descended from horses brought into France in the 4th century by the Burgundians, a people who emigrated from what is now northern Germany. These ancestors of the Comtois breed proliferated in the Franche-Comté region and was mainly used by the French for pulling heavy loads. But in times of war, the Comtois also served as army horses. They became mounts for cavalry and pulled cannon or other artillery. Napoleon even took them with him during his campaign in Russia.


Aside from serving as a war horse, the Comtois was used in various breeding experiments in Burgundy during the 19th century. Breeders infused Percheron, Boulonnais and Norman blood into the Comtois to further enhance its stock. Then in the 20th century, Ardennais stallions were bred with Comtois mares with positive results. The modern Comtois has better leg structure but is still known for its hardiness and sure-footedness.

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