Breeding Franches-Montagnes Horses


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Knowledge concerning nature
  • Performing arts
  • Social practices
  • Traditional craftsmanship
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Description

Noble, docile, supple and robust: these are just some of the qualities attributed to the last Swiss breed of horses, known colloquially as "Franches-Montagnes". The tradition of rearing horses in this region stretches back far into the past. From the 17th century, the court of the Prince-Bishop of Basel prized the unparalleled beauty and strength of the horses from Jura, which gave rise to the Franches-Montagnes after several stages of crossbreeding. The various Jura types were called cheval du Jura or cheval des Franches-Montagnes from the 19th century onwards. This relatively lightweight workhorse for agricultural and military use is medium-sized and good-natured with a solid bone structure. Its breeding became organised at the end of the 19th century, especially under federal government control. Breeders began to set up unions, and at the same time the stallion Vaillant served at the Jura stud farm, becoming a founding father of the breed in its current form. A street in Saignelégier still bears his name, which is quite a rare achievement for a horse! Breeding gathered pace in the 20th century, helped by various events and institutions, the most emblematic of which remains the Marché-Concours national de chevaux (National Horse Fair) in Saignelégier. The modern Franches-Montagnes is a versatile horse with an international reputation and ideal qualities for tourist, leisure and sports uses.

Image gallery

  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1992: presenting a horse © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1992: Roman chariot race © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1991: eight young girls perform a quadrille on horseback © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1991: race for chariots pulled by four horses © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1990: chariot parade © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1989: a crowd of horse enthusiasts attends the show © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1992: presenting a horse © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1992: Roman chariot race © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1991: eight young girls perform a quadrille on horseback © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1991: race for chariots pulled by four horses © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1990: chariot parade © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)
  • National Horse Fair, Saignelégier, 1989: a crowd of horse enthusiasts attends the show © Archives cantonales jurassiennes (ArCJ)

References and documentation

Publications
  • Jean-Pierre Beuret, François Noirjean, Clément Saucy : Franches-Montagnes. Pays du cheval. Porrentruy, 1997

  • Germain Carnat : Essais historiques sur l'élevage du cheval du Jura. Berne, 1934

  • Louis Crelier : Vaillant, musique originale du spectacle du 100e Marché-Conours, mis en scène par Gérard Demierre (Disque compact). Neuchâtel, 2003

  • Stéphane Goël : La dernière bataille du cheval suisse. Le cheval des Franches-Montagnes a-t-il un avenir ? (Vidéocassette TSR). Genève, 1999

  • Pierre-André Poncet : Le cheval des Franches-Montagnes à travers l'histoire. Porrentruy, 2009

  • Syndicat chevalin « Haut de la vallée de la Sorne (HVS) » (Ed.) : 100ème anniversaire 1911-2011. Bassecourt; 2011

  • Vincent Wermeille : Des chevaux et des hommes. L'élevage passionné du Franches-Montagnes. Saignelégier, 1995

  • Vincent Wermeille : Les éleveurs du Haut-Plateau. 100 ans du syndicat chevalin du Haut-Plateau Montagnard, 1906-2006. Les Bois, 2006

Documentation