The Canadian horse is a breed of horse that was developed in Canada during the late seventeenth century. This breed was developed using French light and draft horses as well as some Andalusians, Arabians, Normans, and other breeds. The horse was eventually given the nickname “the little iron horse” because of its ability to withstand grueling work conditions. Initially, foals were leased or sold to clergymen and gentlemen farmers as property of the king, but population numbers grew so large by 1709 that owners were limited to two adults and one foal and remaining horses were to be slaughtered, although this was not enforced.
By the eighteenth century the Canadian horse moved south into areas of what is now known as the United States, where they lived as feral horses away from most or all human influence. Some of these horses were captured and taken to Sable Island, where they helped develop the Sable Island horse. In the late eighteenth century, horses from the United States and the British Isles were imported and bred with the Canadian horse to develop a breed that would be practicing driving, riding, and light draft work by the nineteenth century.
The population of Canadian horses was estimated to be at about 150,000 in 1849 and many were shipped to other areas including the West Indies and the United States, where they helped develop breeds like the Paso Fino and the Morgan horse. This breed was used in the American Civil War, which helped to cause its near extinction by 1880. The Canadian Horse Breeders Association was created in 1885 to develop a new breeding stock in order to save the breed, but by 1940, all of the breeding stock was sold due to mechanization.
There were only about four hundred Canadian horses left in the world by the 1970’s, but popularity grew after the horse was once again used in competitions. By the 1990’s, this breed held a population between 2,500 and 3,000 individuals and the need for a breed standard was met by the Canadian Horse Heritage and Preservation Society in 2002, although the Canadian Horse Breeders Association was and is still in charge of official registry.
The Canadian horse reaches a height between fourteen and sixteen hands and a weight between 1,000 and 1,350 pounds, depending upon the sex of the horse. The arched neck is elegant and supports a relatively short head. Although this horse is muscular it is also graceful in appearance and has a thick mane and tail. Members of this breed are typically dark bay, black, or brown in color although rare individuals can be chestnut or gray in color.
The Canadian Livestock Records Corporation has established a naming system that is used to identify individual Canadian horses, although this is only required for horses that are from the original purebred bloodline. The first part of the name or prefix denotes the breeding establishment where the horse was born, followed by the name of the foal’s sire and the actual name of the foal. The name of the foal begins with a letter that is assigned to the year that it was born. Today, this breed is typically used for driving and riding as well as almost every type of equine competition, light draft work, and stock work. The Canadian horse is the national animal of Canada and a heritage breed of Quebec.
Image Caption: Canadian Horse. Credit: David Campbell/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)