In 1665, Louis XlV, the Sun King, ordered the shipment of 14 royal horses to New France for use as mounts and breeding stock. Similar shipments were made every year until 1671. While the breeds brought to New France are not known for certain, they probably included Normans, Bretons, Arabians, Barbs, Friesians and Andalusians. Under harsh winters and demanding frontier life, their descendants evolved into a sturdy, tough, medium sized horse noted for its predominantly black colour. Dubbed ” the little iron horse”, Canadians became widely popular and great numbers of them went to the U.S., to become significant contributors to American breeds such as the Standard-bred, American Standard-bred and Tennessee Walker. There is some speculation that Justin Morgan, foundation sire of the Morgan breed, may well have been a bay Canadian; his description was typical of the breed, than and now.
By the late 1800’s , Canadian enthusiasts realized that so many horses had been exported that its survival in Canada was under threat.
Nevertheless, admirers of the Canadian continued to maintain the breed, and in 1994, a movement began to have the Canadian declared Canada’s national horse. A 1995 private member’s bill was deemed not-votable, while other bills introduced in 1998 and 1999 were defeated by the Bloc and killed by prorogation respectively. Finally, Senator Lowell Murray introduced a private member’s bill into the Senate which passed on November 8, 2001. M.P. Murray Calder, author of two previous bills, sponsored Bill S-22 into the House of Commons. It was approved by a vote of 166 to 58 ( the Bloc Quebecois felt that only Quebec had the right to claim the Canadian Horse) on April 30. 2002.
Ever since, Canadian breeders have been working enthusiastically to promote their beloved ” little iron horse”.
There are now over 5000 Canadian horses registered and they are not only spreading beyond the borders of Quebec, but are again receiving attention from the U.S. and further afield. There are Canadian – only classes and even horse shows – one of the first was held in Nanaimo, B.C. – and Canadians are starting to appear more often in open competitions. In 2008, the Canadian shared a stamp issue with another pioneer breed, the Newfoundland pony.
The above report was submitted by WI member Laura Lee Life. Laura is the Agriculture Convener for the Baldonnel W.I. branch. The report was based on information published in the Pacific & Prairie Horse Magazine.
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