The Canadian Horse
The Village is Proud of its Preservation & Promotion of the Canadian Horse
Upper Canada Village is proud to be the home of over 20 Canadian horses. This breed was recognized by the Federal Government in 2002 as the National Horse of Canada, but its story within Canadian history starts more than three hundred years ago.
The first members of this small but sturdy breed of horse arrived in New France in 1665 from the stables of Louis XIV. They quickly acclimatized themselves to harsh Canadian conditions, and the breed became renowned for its hardiness. Its numbers increased to around 14 000 by the 1790s.
Following the transfer of New France to British control in 1759, new immigrants brought different breeds of horses with them and interbreeding began to change the breed’s characteristics. In the early 1860s, thousands of Canadian horses were shipped south to be used during the American Civil War in which more than a million horses were killed. By the end of the 19th century, only a small number of pureblood Canadian horses were left. By 1978, when Upper Canada Village acquired its first Canadian horses, the breed was endangered.
As a living history museum which preserves and presents many different aspects of Eastern Ontario’s history, Upper Canada Village was ideally suited to protect and promote this important part of Canada’s agricultural history. At the same time, the Canadian horse represents more accurately than any other breed still available the type of horse found on most farms in eastern Ontario in the 1860s, and was therefore the perfect fit to represent 19th century life in an accurate way.
Since acquiring its first Canadian horses, the Village has been a place where many people have seen this breed for the first time, and have become interested in its history.
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. Visitors see this “little iron horse” doing a variety of work at the farm, pulling a boat, operating a drag saw, and driving several types of horse-drawn vehicles. Village horses have been featured in books, movies, and TV presentations.
In addition, the Village’s Canadian horse breeding program continues today. New foals are born every year or two within the Village, and outside horse breeders are also encouraged to bring their mares to be serviced. The Village occasionally offers Canadian horses for sale to the public and to other historical sites.