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Sheldon Creek Canadiens

Canadien Horse History


The Canadian Horse

Le Cheval Canadien

The Canadian Horse is a little known treasure of Canada with a history that goes back 350 years to the early days of colonial Canada. This rare breed has a colorful and near tragic history leading to its growing popularity today. Currently, The Canadian Horse is being considered to be officially recognized as Canadaís National Horse.

The Canadian descends from the royal horses originally sent to the "New World" by King Louis XIV of France in the mid-1600s. The bloodlines of the Royal horses contained Norman, Barb, Andalusian, and Arabian ancestry. The royal French horses bred for hundreds of years in the Quebec region were isolated from influences from outside of breeds. Eventually, the French horses developed into there own breed; the Canadian Horse or Cheval Canadien. The Canadian Horse evolved under adverse conditions including harsh weather, scarce food, and extremely hard work. As a result of these conditions, the Canadian became smaller in size with successive generations. Canadians emerged a very tough, strong horse that is tolerant of inclement weather conditions and an extremely "easy keeper". Because of these traits, the Canadian Horse is often called "The Little Iron Horse".

By the mid-1800s, the Canadian Horse numbered approximately 150,000. They could be found throughout Canada and the United States. The Canadian Horse was used for crossbreeding to improve the strength and hardiness of other breeds. One of the greatest legacies of the Canadian Horse is its contribution to the foundations of other breeds. Those breeds include the Morgan, Standardbred, Tennessee Walker, and American Saddlebred.

The Canadian Horses were exported in great numbers for the Boer War, the American Civil War, and to work the sugar plantations in the West Indies. Because of the large number of exportations, the number of Canadian horses began to dwindle rapidly. With the inventions of mechanized farm machinery, the Canadian Horse almost became extinct. During the 1960ís-1970ís there were fewer than 400 Canadian Horses in existence. By the late 1970ís, the demise of the Canadian Horse was finally recognized. Efforts were made by diligent breeders to bring the Canadian Horse back from extinction.

Today, the breed is gaining in popularity. The Canadian Horse now numbers around 3000 horses. The Canadian Horse is still classified as "threatened" on the American Livestock Conservancy List.

The Canadian Horse is truly an all-purpose animal. From its beginning in New France, the Canadian horse was very valuable for plowing and as a carriage horse. Breeders value the Canadianís strength, willingness, and minimal food requirements. The mares are extraordinarily fertile, and often reproduce until the age of 20 or older. The historian Taillon depicts the Canadian Horse as follows:

"Small, but robust, hocks of steel, thick mane floating in the wind, bright and lively eyes, pricking its sensitive ears at the least noise, going along day and night with the same courage, wide awake beneath its harness; spirited, good, gentle, affectionate, following his road with the finest instinct to come surely home to his own stable. Such were the horses of our fathers."

The Canadian Horse typically stands 14-16 hands and weighs 1000-1400 lbs. Although usually black, they may also be dark brown, bay or chestnut. Their finely chiseled heads, arched necks, and thick, long, wavy manes and tails-all reminiscent of their Barb and Andalusian ancestry, characterize them. They have strong, sturdy legs and short cannon bones often exceeding 9" in circumference. Their feet are exceptionally well formed and tough, and generally require little more than routine trimming. The Canadian Horse is renowned for its kind, sensible sociable nature, intelligence and willingness to please.

The following is excerpted from the Canadian Horse Breeders Website.

"Good natured and truly versatile, the Canadian can be found doing almost any type of equine discipline.  Perhaps best known for their driving ability, Canadian Horses have won many prestigious driving awards including the 1987 North American Pleasure Driving Championship, the 1991 Grand Champion Whip at the Canadian Carriage Driving Classic, the Presentation Award at the 1997 Pairs Driving Championship, the Limit Preliminary Division at the 1997 High Country CDE, the 1998 Preliminary Single Division at Gladstone, and the 1998 Advanced Single Horse Championship at Fair Hill.

"Their calmness, hard working nature and people oriented personality makes the Canadian Horse ideal for use in the tourism industry.  They can be found working at Upper Canada Village, African Lion Safari, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Ross Farm Museum, Fortress of Louisbourg, Colonial Williamsburg, Heritage Park, and the Cardston Remington Carriage Museum.  Canadians are also used by the Montreal Mounted Police, Calgary City Police, and can be found pulling the Caleches of Montreal and Quebec City.

"Whatever the interest...Dressage, Hunter Jumper, Eventing, Endurance, Trail, Packing, Ranch Work, Mounted Patrol, Logging, Carriage Driving, Combined Driving, Wagon Rides.....There's a Canadian for Everyone!"

Angela & Paul Giordano

8648 Rubia Drive

Elk Grove, California 95624

(916) 681-3706