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The Boulonnais is a heavy draft horse breed from France. It is known for its large but elegant appearance and is usually gray, although chestnut and black are also allowed by the French breed registry. Its origins trace to a period before the Crusades; Spanish Barb, Arabian and Andalusian blood were added during the 17th century to create the modern type. Originally there were several sub-types, but they were crossbred until only one is seen today. The smallest type was used to pull carts of fresh fish from Boulogne to Paris, while the larger varieties performed heavy draft work on farms and in the cities. During the early 1900s, the Boulonnais were exported in large numbers to the United States. Wars in the 20th century nearly led to the breed's extinction, but it revived in France in the 1970s as a popular choice for horse meat. From an estimated population of over 600,000 in the early 1900s, there are thought to be fewer than 1,000 Boulonnais presently in Europe, mostly in France. Studies as early as 1983 indicated a danger of inbreeding within the Boulonnais population, and a 2009 report suggested that the breed should be a priority for conservation within France. (Full article...)

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