Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

BREED SPOTLIGHT: The Canadian – eh…

The Canadian Horse or Cheval Canadien is one of Canada’s best kept secrets. It is a true, recognized horse breed, inherent only to Canada

The Canadian was first developed between 1665 -1670 from horses sent to Quebec from France of the best horses of King Louis IVX stables to reward his men who had gone to settle the “new world.  The limited number of horses in the colony meant that they were highly valued, and their geographical isolation meant that the stock remained pure. Over the next century, natural and human selection molded a rugged and versatile breed: strong, dashing, and quick. Close to Canadian heritage The Canadian horse was used for farm work, transport, riding, and racing, earning the nickname “little iron horse” as their strength was legendary.  It was said that the Canadian was capable of generating more power per hundred pounds of body weight than any horse of other breeds.   Truly, these Canadian horses were known to excel at any task they were asked to do.

By 1800, this breed had become well known in the United States and the Canadian horses were used on stagecoach routes throughout New –England as well as being used to improve other stocks,  playing a pivotal role in the formation of the Morgan, the American Saddlebred, and the Standardbred. Though the Canadian horse was celebrated for what it could do, no breed association was ever established in the United States, and there was no documented effort to maintain the purebred population.

The demand for Canadian horses remained strong throughout the 1800s, and thousands of horses were exported from Canada to the United States many of them becoming cavalry horses for the Civil war.  As so many of the Canadian horses were exported or lost during the War,  the breed was nearly extinct in Canada by 1880.  In 1886, a small group of breeders in Quebec formed a studbook for the Canadian horse and an association, the Societe des Eleveurs des Chevaux Canadiens, was formed in 1895. With both the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Quebec maintaining periodic breeding programs the breed declined with fewer than 400 horses remaining by 1976.

Since then, the breed society has been revitalized and up until the last decade, Canadian Horses could only be found in Quebec.  With the majority of Canadian Horses still remaining in Quebec, the Canadian can now be found again in nearly every Canadian Province as well as many American states with the future of the breed is looking brighter than at any time in the past century.

Today, The Canadian stands between 14 – 16 hands and are solid and well-muscled with a well arched neck set high on a sloping shoulder.  One can say that the overall impression is one of a round, sturdy and well balanced horse.  Predominately black or bay in colour, they are energetic  without being nervous and are versatile and adaptable for many of riding and driving styles.

Happy riding…eh – Larissa

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1 Comment»

  dsolanook wrote @

Fascinating…. the pictures in your post show beautiful black horses. I had never heard of this breed before.


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