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Canadian Horse - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the Canadian Horse Canadian Horse Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The Canadian Horse arrived in Canada in 1665 when King Louis XIV of France sent twelve horses to New France. By 1671, a report to the same king indicated that there were sufficient horses being bred so no new shipments of horses from France were required.


A very strict breeding system was implemented with the arrival of the very first horses sent to the French Colony as such horses were a necessity for the survival and the building of the colony, and strict enforcement of policies regarding the care of the horses was also enacted faithfully, with fines of up to 100 pounds in place for non-compliance.

The Canadian horse flourished and did indeed help to ensure the building of Canada. There is no record of which horses the King sent to the colony, but the quality of horse breeding in Normandy was and is undisputed. What is known is that for over 100 years, the horses from France were the only ones developed in the colony. Because France and England were at war,so there was no contact with the English horses to the south of Canada, plus the Appalachian Mountains formed a natural barrier that was quite an obstacle to surmount in those days, there being no roads at that time.

Because of necessity and royal mandates, the reproduction of the Canadian Horse was rapid; because there was no source of out crossing a genetic group was created and protected, giving rise to the unique breed. In 1895, the Canadian Horse Breeders Association was founded.


The horse is judged acceptable according to a point scale with a certain number of points allocated according to areas of the horse’s physical make-up and temperament as per the preferred breed standard.

The head is short and lean with straight lines and cheeks that are well-developed, but not fat. Ears are set well apart and short. The eye is bright, kind and intelligent. The shoulder of the Canadian Horse is sloping, long and well muscled. The back short, broad, straight and strong, with withers that are broad and long. A slightly sloped croup is also broad, long and muscled. The tail is full at attaches high.

The Canadian Horse is deep through the girth with long and well sprung ribs. The Chest is also broad. The limbs are clean, straight with the long forearm and thigh well muscled. Canon bones are short, broad and flat. The fetlocks are broad and thick but also lean and clean. Original colors were usually black, or dark, but bays and chestnuts are acceptable. Height ranges from 14 to 16 hands


The registered Canadian Horse always has a three-part name: the name of the herd, then the given name of the horse’s sire, followed by the horse’s given name, all in this order. One can tell a lot about each individual horse simply by knowing the name of the horse.

Of course two horses deriving from the same herd, will share that herd name, but this does not mean they are siblings, or are even related, because the herd name can be a farm name, or any name given by the owner of the mare, that is not already in use or registered with the association.

Also a proscribed letter of the alphabet is assigned each year to foals born in that year, and the foal’s given name must begin with this letter. In the eventual case of repeated letters (years later), the name must be followed by a 2nd, 3rd, etc.


The description of the original Canadian Horse type, could well be identical with the breed the Americans produced and called the Morgan horse, and there is great assumption by many historians that Justin Morgan was a typical Canadian Horse of the time ( once called the French Canadian).

The first known influx of the Canadian breed was in 1616, when marauders from Virginia brought these horses home. So in the time period of Justin Morgan, it was not only possible that horses from Canada were in America, but quite likely.

This original French Canadian horse type was described as a long-lived, hardy, easy to keep horse of great endurance. It was an animal heavy enough for the farmer or as a roadster, while also being a good riding horse and the breed produced both trotters and pacers and the size and breath of Justin Morgan and other conformational details certainly describe the French-Canadian breed.


Out crossing was practiced to such a degree, in the improvement of other horses, that the Canadian breed almost became extinct, and many were in use in the very building of America, even being shipped to the West Indies. After the close of the American Revolution and until the War of 1812, many Canadian horses found a huge market in America. In the mid-1800’s the Canadian horse came by the hundreds into New England, and was valued as the perfect roadster.

By the end of the 1800’s the breed in Canada was in great danger of extinction and a stud book was established to record the best of the remaining horses. Having been protected by the federal government, operations were ended in 1940, but the Quebec government reestablished the stud under the provincial Department of Agriculture, at which time the Canadian horse was bred into a taller, more refined horse, suitable as a hunter or jumper, although traditional breeders resisted and concentrated their efforts.

In 1979, the remaining herd was sold and the Canadian horse was threatened again and still needs to increase its numbers to be safe, in spite of the efforts of committed breeders.


The Canadian is a good all around horse and has received considerable acclaim as a carriage driving horse and in coaching events. The breed is tough working, dependable and can be a jumper, or a trotter with fine action. The Canadian is an honest horse with a big heart and much to offer.

Today, the Canadian Horse is being bred as the traditional style of Canadians that excel as a driving horse and also the more contemporary style that is sought for riding and dressage

Canadian Horse Free Jumping Driving in the snow Canadian Horse Mare and Foal
All photos © and courtesy of Cherry Creek Canadians.

The photo at the top of the page and the first one on the left, above, ©Diane C. Nicholson of Twin Heart Photo Productions, the others ©Cherry Creek Canadians.

Article © HorseShowCentral.com. Reproduction of any portion of this copyrighted website without written permission of the publisher is prohibited and subject to legal action.

Other site pages that offer information about the Canadian breed: horses, breeding, industry supplies, shows, event calendar, etc.

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