The Canadian Horse was officially deemed to be the “National Horse of Canada” in Parliament in April of 2002. The journey to arrive at this momentous achievement was a long and arduous one.
The Canadian Horse is a breed of horse unique to Canada. It descended from a mixture of French breeds from Normandy and Brittany that no longer exist today. These founding horses were sent to Canada by King Louis XIV during the 17th century. Over the next 350 years, through selection of only the fittest individuals, the breed became uniquely suited to the rigors of living in Canada, and evolved into a genetically distinct breed in its own right.
The Canadian Horse is one of the oldest recognized North American horse breeds, with the first breed registry and stud book established in 1886.
Despite all the changes and upheavals of the past three centuries, many Canadians can still be found that exhibit the substance and hardiness of their ancestors, and still resemble the horses noted in Canadian historical etchings and paintings, such as the painting by Cornelius Krieghoff shown here.
Of note is the fact that that “the Canadian, bred in isolation for so long, does still appear to be genetically distinct from the popular racing and riding breeds, reinforcing the need to give high priority to its conservation” (DNA Detectives, 1998 Canadian Horse Annual).
C. Krieghoff: Sleigh Race Across the Ice, 1861