Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario, Canada
May 24, 2009
From the Upper Canada Village Website
The Canadian horse breed was recognised in early 2002 by the Federal Government as the National Horse of Canada. Upper Canada Village is reminding the public that it is home to 18 Canadian horses, the result of efforts that began only a few decades ago to help reverse the trend of a diminishing breed. Today, visitors to Upper Canada Village are able to learn about the fine qualities and contributions to the early settlement of Canada attributed to the Canadian horse.
In 1978, Upper Canada Village acquired a stallion and two mares as the foundation for its stable of Canadian horses. This step was taken for two reasons.
Firstly, the Canadian horse represented more accurately than any other breed still available the type of horse found on most farms in eastern Ontario during the 1860s. Canadians were a logical choice for an historical site seeking to recreate conditions on farms and in villages of that period.
Secondly, the Canadian horse in the late 1970s was desperately in need of protection and promotion. This sturdy little horse first arrived in New France in 1665 from the stables of Louis XIV. In time it had acclimatized itself to harsh Canadian conditions, giving the breed a hardiness found in no other.
In 1759 when the British captured Quebec, however, the fortunes of the Canadian horse began to decline. Inbreeding with new supplies of other horses brought over by British immigrants occurred, and French Canadians moved west with their Canadian horses. Later, thousands of Canadian horses were also shipped south to be used as cavalry mounts and pack horses in the American Civil War, never to return home.
By the end of the 19th century, only a small number of pureblood Canadians were left. By 1978, when the Village made its first purchase of the breed, there were few Canadian horses outside of Quebec. In Quebec, numbers were still declining and the breed was in the endangered status. Upper Canada Village was, therefore, motivated by an interest in preserving and promoting part of Canada’s livestock heritage. Just as artifacts are collected and preserved by the Village, so are historical breeds of livestock, especially those threatened by extinction.
Since acquiring its first Canadian horses, the Village has been the place where many have seen and become interested in this breed. The Village has answered countless inquiries and frequently provided special livestock tours. Its horses have been featured on CBC –TV Ottawa, as well as in numerous periodicals.
The Village is particularly proud of the role it has played in promoting the horse. “There are now numerous Canadian horses in Ontario and in various western provinces,” says Dave Dobbie, Manager at Upper Canada Village. “Staff have acted as advisors to other sites such as Heritage Park in Calgary, when they purchased their own Canadian horses.”
The story of the Canadian horse is a regular part of the message Upper Canada Village staff give to the thousands of visitors who pass through the site each year. The Canadian horse breeding program at the Village continues today. Outside horsebreeders are also encouraged to bring their mares to the site to be serviced. The Village has offered Canadian horses for sale to the public and other historical sites on occasion, too.
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