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Breed Survives in North America Despite its Shaky History:


By Liz Cornell Laurie Neron


In the late 1600s, the settlers and farmers in New France (the French colonies of North America) desperately needed horses. France’s King Louis XIV decided to ship many of his mares and stallions to the new region to help support the colony. The exact origins of the horses he sent are unknown, but the bloodlines probably included Bretons, Normans, Arabians, Andalusians, Barbs and Belgians.


A Breed is Born The early stock thrived in the Quebec region. For 200 years, herds grew in relative isolation, developing into a distinct breed. The result was the new breed of horse called Le Cheval Canadien or the Canadian Horse. These horses became known for their muscular, compact


bodies, heartiness, solid feet and great work ethic – both pulling a cart and under saddle. They even earned the nick- name “the Little Iron Horse.” Canadian Horses over time were acquired by people just over today’s border in north- ern United States as well as western Canada. By the mid-1800s, the breed’s population reached an


estimated 150,000 horses. All that changed, however, in the 1860s.


Le Cheval Canadien


Into War During the Civil War, the Union Army imported thousands of these tough Canadian Horses, both for pulling artillery and to serve as cavalry mounts. An estimated 30,000 of them died during the conflict, and those who survived would lose their identity with the breed. Over the years, Canadian Horses continued to be exported for use in additional wars and for cross-breeding, helping develop the Morgan, Ameri- can Saddlebred and Standardbred breeds. In 1895, veterinarian Dr. J.A. Couture set the breed stan-


dards and founded the Canadian Horse Breeders Associa- tion (CHBA). The CHBA still operates today to manage the breeding and registration of Canadian Horses.


In Danger By the mid-1970s, the breed was in serious trouble, drop- ping to a mere 400 registered horses. This sparked a move- ment to preserve the breed, part of an interest in preserving all things Québécois, from the language to the culture. Le Cheval Canadien is, after all, an integral part of the French history of Quebec and Canada. Passionate breeders made a concerted effort to save the breed.


TOP: The endangered Canadian Horse is described by the Live- stock Conservancy as “solid and well-muscled, with a well-arched neck set high on a long, sloping shoulder.” Here is stallion Three Fold H-Aragorn Anarchy, an exceptional example of the breed.


Warmbloods Today 53


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