The History of the Breed

The ancestors of the Canadian Horse were sent to Lower Canada (today’s Quebec) between the years of 1647 and 1670. Many of the French landowners were knights and nobles that had been transported from the elegant streets of Paris to the mud tracks and bush of the St Lawrence Valley. These settlers found life very difficult and to ease the burden, King Louis XIV of France sent horses from his own stables. These horses were of Norman, Breton and Andalusian bloodlines. Breeding in isolation for almost 200 years, they became a distinct breed all their own.

Canadian Horses cleared and worked the land, carried children to school, pulled the cutters and carriages and provided great entertainment for their masters in the form of racing. They endured brutally cold winters, mosquitoes and flies in summer, poor feed and long hours of work with little rest. They became smaller in size, but hardy. The Canadian gained a reputation for its stamina and vigor-thus the title “Little Iron Horse”.

Many Canadians were sold to the United States and were entered into the stud books of such breeds as the Morgan, Tennessee Walking Horse, Standardbred, and American Saddlebred. More Canadian Horses were exported out of Canada for the Boer War, and for working the sugar plantations in the West Indies. These pressures on the population, along with the importation of heavy draft horses for farm work and later the advent of mechanized farming, caused the breed to almost become extinct.
From a population of about 150,000 in the mid-1800’s to a low of only 400 registered animals in the late 1960’s, the Canadian Horse almost disappeared. Most of the world forgot about this Little Iron Horse; even many Canadians are unaware of its existence. Luckily, due to the efforts of a handful of dedicated breeders, the Canadian Horse now has a population of about 4000. No longer on the critical list of Endangered Species, it has made a remarkable comeback.