CHERRY CREEK CANADIANS

Canadian Horse - Breed History


Foaled in 1913, Albert de Cap Rouge was said to have
been one of the most influential sires of the breed.

bulletThe Canadian Horse as a breed did not evolve in the new world but rather traces its ancestry back to foundation stock brought to Acadia and New France in the 17th century. This was described in a report written by Dr JA Couture around the turn of the century: "All of these animals were descended from those sent out from France in the early days of the Colony. Louis XIV who liked to do things in a grand way, had instructed his Minister Colbert, himself very eager to see the Colony flourish, to send here only the best animals of the kingdom."
 
bullet1647 The first introduction of the horse to the new world occurred when a single horse, imported as a gift to Governor de Montmagny by the Compangnie des Habitants, arrived on June 25, 1647. This horse later disappeared.
 
bullet1665 King Louis XIV sent a shipment of 2 stallions and 20 mares to the colony. The remaining horses arrived on July 16, 1665, 8 of the mares having perished on the journey. These horses were some of the best, taken from the King's royal stud and are thought to have derived from stock from Normandy and Brittany which were the two most renowned horse breeding provinces of France. The Breton horse was small and noted for its soundness and vigor. The Norman horse resembled the Breton but had evidence of the infusion of oriental blood; possibly Arab, Turk or Barb, but most likely Andalusian. Much of the eventual hardiness, and prepotence of the old french canadian was felt to be due to this Andalusian inheritance.
 
bullet1667 14 more horses arrived, including a stallion and two mares for the Ursulines.
 
bullet1670 A stallion, and 11 mares were shipped. In subsequent years, other shipments of horses may or may not have followed. Sometime after this time, horse shipments from the king ceased, as Intendant Talon considered that there were now enough horses in the colony to furnish a dependable supply of colts to all who needed them. The Seineurs may have imported some horses later, at their own expense.
 
bulletThe horses were rented out to the leading farmers or "gentlemen of the country who had done most to promote colonization and cultivation". The annual fee for each horse was 100 livres, or one foal. The horse remained the King's property for 3 years. If the horse died while it still belonged to the King, the farmer paid the King 200 livres. After the 3 year period, the horse and any colts not turned over to the Intendant, became the property of the farmer. Colts given to the intendant as rent were reared at the governments expense for the first three years, then were also rented out. This program was very successful, and the number of horses in the colony increased rapidly:
 
bullet1679 there were 145 horses

1688 there were 218 horses
 
bullet1698, 684 horses.
 
bullet1709 The first regulation was issued to limit the number of horses owned by each farmer. This regulation forbade any settler in Montreal from having more than two horses and a foal, and provided for the slaughter of the surplus the next year. This ordinance proved impossible to be enforced.
 
bulletFor the next 100 years, the horses were bred, somewhat indiscriminately by the farmers. The horses were bred without concern of producing superior horses, or of perpetuating the individual qualities of the horses that they had. Although few horses were ever gelded, stallions with the most docility, soundness and vigor were probably most often chosen. Even though the horses were bred indiscriminately, after almost 100 years, the breed appearance was scarcely altered from its prototype as it still closely resembled the Norman and the Perche.
 
bulletDuring this time, the farmers primarily used their horses for going to church, visiting, racing against each other, and in the winter for drawing their sleighs. Most of the heavy farm work was done with oxen.
 
bulletThe distribution of the horses began to broaden: horses for the western settlements at Detroit and Illinois county were furnished by New France. The Canadian horse also contributed to the feral horses of the Great Plains.
 
bulletUntil the British conquest of 1780, the French Canadian bred true without any admixture of foreign horses. After the conquest, horses began to be imported from the British Isles and the USA in increasing numbers. These horses were crossed with the Canadian and contributed to the development of new and distinctive varieties within Lower Canada, as well as to the general mongrelization of the entire Canadian horse population.
 
bulletThree distinct types of horses were produced during this time:
 
bullet

Canadian Pacer: Narragansett pacers were imported to Lower Canada, as the pacer was preferred for racing over ice. These horses were interbred with the French Canadian and produced the "Canadian Pacer". "Old Pacer Pilot", a Canadian Pacer was foaled about 1826 and was an instrumental sire in some of the gaited horse lineages.

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The "Frencher" or "St. Lawrence": This horse occurred as a result of a cross between the Thoroughbred and the French Canadian. These horses had great speed and power, and are felt to be involved in the makeup of the American trotter.

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Heavy draft type sometimes also called a "St Lawrence": These were the result of a cross between a French Canadian and a draft horse (likely a Shire or Clydesdale). This type disappeared at the end of the century.
 

bullet1780 After the conquest of New France, the market for the French Canadian grew in some of the older British colonies. The horses were sent to some of the West Indies sugar islands such as Jamaica, Haiti, and Cuba. They adapted to the climate there better than did the American or British horses.
 
bullet1784 French Canadian foundation stock was predominantly located in Upper Canada.
 
bullet1789 (Date according to American Morgan Horse Association, Shelburne, VT) "Figure" later to be known as Justin Morgan, was born and later became the founding sire of the Morgan breed. Several Canadian mares can be found in the Morgan horse pedigrees. Examples of offspring with documented Canadian blood include: Black Hawk and Ethan Allan. There is also some thought that Figure was himself a Canadian. Justin Morgan (the man) resided in Vermont, in an area near Quebec. His parents resided in Quebec, so Justin Morgan visited them there frequently. It is not unfeasible that he may have brought a horse back with him on one of his visits. A study on DNA done at the University of Guelph in 1998 called "DNA DETECTIVES -Using Genetics to Pinpoint Endangered Canadian Horse Breeds" (unfortunately this article is no longer available "on-line") and "The French Connection" indicates that the Canadian and Morgan were the most closely related of the horse breeds studied.
 
bulletMore on the similarities between the Canadian Horse and the Morgan can be found in Bonnie Hendricks book "The International Encyclopedia of Horses" (1995), in which she notes the following:

The Canadian breed may well be one of the best kept secrets of the twentieth century - not because breeders of the Canadian have tried to hide the animals, but because writers of books on horse breeds apparently have not contacted Canadian authorities to inquire. The Canadian horse is an unsung hero in formation of United States (and Central American) horse breeds. The Canadian horse was well known to the American colonists. Today, however, even many Canadians are unaware of the breed, probably because of its present rarity.

Americans journeyed into Canada during the early years of this country and purchased thousands of French-Canadian horses to take home and cross with their mixed stock. The Canadians were talented trotters and pacers, and as roads were developed good roadsters were in great demand. Indeed, the New England states were literally saturated with this blood. Yet when writing about the formation of American breeds the Canadian horse has been overlooked by most writers, who refer vaguely to "horses from Canada that trotted, or paced."

Many purebred French-Canadian horses were entered into the early stud books of the Morgan, Standardbred, and American Saddlebred. Foundation sires of these breeds were often pure Canadian or were mated to pure Canadian mares.

Upon learning of the Canadian breed and gazing at the photographs, the truth about the little bay stallion Justin Morgan became forever settled in the mind of at least this writer. Justin Morgan, famous foundation sire of the Morgan breed, has always been reported to have been a mixture of Thoroughbred and Arab - though his description was like neither of those breeds, nor like that of an Anglo-Arab. In my opinion there is no other possible theory coming close to the obvious, clear ring of truth in regard to his ancestry but that he was a horse of predominant, if not pure, French-Canadian blood.
 
 

bullet1812-1820 Many Canadian Horses were sold to northern New England and west Vermont. There the Canadian was interbred with non-descript local horses to create animals with strength, endurance, and freedom from disease. These crossbred horses were used for the stage lines running between Boston and Portland.
 
bulletAfter the war in 1812, the trade in horses increased further. The numbers exported through St Johns give some idea of the numbers of horses being shipped out of Canada. In 1829, 247 horses were shipped, in 1848, 639, in 1849, 1181, and in 1850 there were 1125 horses shipped.
 
bulletBy 1847 the Canadian Horse was well known in Upper and Lower Canada, the Maritime provinces, Michigan, Illinois, New York and New England. In the eastern USA, they were used as trotters or roadsters. They were also used as draft horses for freighting or stage lines. Although Canadian Horses were primarily found in eastern Canada and the United States, the breed was playing an important role in the settlement of all of Canada, including the west.
 
bulletIn the mid 1800's there were nearly 150,000 Canadian Horses and they were to be found spread right across North America.
 
bulletBecause of their prepotency, they were commonly used for outcrossing with other breeds. Even inferior Canadian sires had the capacity to improve common stock. Because of the considerable outcrossing with inferior animals, the Canadian almost lost its separate identity and a general deterioration of the breed had begun to be noted throughout the continent.
 
bullet1857 Despite the above mongrelization of the breed, the Canadian was still very recognizable as evident by this Quote by Henry. W. Herbert:

"The Canadian is generally low-sized, rarely exceeding fifteen hands, and oftener falling short of it...

His characteristics are a broad, open forehead, ears somewhat wide apart, and not infrequently, a basin face; the latter, perhaps, a trace of the far remote Spanish blood said to exist in his veins; the origin of the improved Norman or Percheron stock being, it is usually believed, a cross of the Spaniard, Barb by descent, with the old Norman war-horse.

His crest is lofty, and his demeanor proud and courageous. His breast is full and broad; his shoulder strong, though somewhat inclined to be heavy; his back broad, and his croup round, fleshy and muscular. His ribs are not, however, so much arched, nor are they so well closed up, as his general shape and build would lead one to expect. His legs and feet are admirable; the bone large and flat, and the sinews big, and nervous as steel springs. His feet seem almost unconscious of disease. His fetlocks are shaggy, his mane voluminous and massive, not seldom, if untrained, falling on both sides of his neck, and his tail abundant, both having a peculiar "crimpled" wave, if I may so express myself, the like of which I never saw in any horse which had not some strain of this blood.

He cannot be called a speedy horse in his pure state; but he is emphatically a quick one, an indefatigable undaunted traveller, with the greatest endurance, day in and day out, allowing him to go at his own pace, say from six to eight miles the hour, with a horse's load behind him, of any animal I have ever driven. He is extremely hardy, will thrive on any thing, or almost nothing; is docile, though high spirited, remarkably sure-footed on the worst ground, and has fine, high action, bending his knee roundly and setting his foot squarely on the ground.

As a farm-horse and ordinary farmer's roadster, there is no honester or better animal; and, as one to cross with other breeds, whether upward by the mares to thoroughbred stallions, or downward by the stallions to common country mares of other breeds, he has hardly an equal.

...He is said, although small himself in stature, to have the unusual quality of breeding up in size with larger and loftier mares than himself, and to give the foals his own vigor, pluck, and iron constitution, with the frame and general aspect of their dams.

This, by the way, appears to be characteristic of the Barb blood above all others, and is a strong corroboration of the legend which attributes to him an early Andalusian strain."
 

bulletAt this time, it may also be noted that the French Canadian was of no established color. Ordinarily he was bay or black, usually the latter, standing generally but little over 15 hh, and that his weight ranged from 900 - 1100 lb.
 
bulletAs a general purpose horse, useful both on winter roads, and in light farm work, he was unsurpassed. William Evans commented that the habitants would "never possess a better or more suitable breed of horses for this country than the real Canadian of good size".
 
bulletThe horses were renowned for being extremely hardy. They had to be in order to survive the conditions that they lived in. Little used in the summer, they were let to run free in the woods, tormented by flies due to the fact that their tails were docked; in the winter, they had no shelter, and little to no feed, perhaps some straw as no hay was cured at that time.
 
bullet1867 Canadian Confederation. So many Canadian stallions had been exported to the United States that most authorities feared that there were no horses of undisputed purity of race remaining anywhere in Lower Canada.
 
bullet1885 Due to concerns about mass exportation and a realization of a need to preserve it before it was lost forever, under the guidance of Dr. J.A. Couture, the government of Quebec established a French Canadian Stud Book and a Commission to manage it.
 
bullet1886 The Stud Book was formally opened Dec 16, 1886. At this time, a law was also passed forbidding export of French Canadian Horses.
 
bullet1894 (Date according to American Morgan Horse Association, Shelburne, VT) The Morgan Registry was formed. The intermixture of Canadian blood contributed largely to the development of the Morgan horse in Vermont. The presence of Canadian blood in the Morgan is evident from Morgan characteristics such as their excellent legs and feet, and above all, the heavy, crimpy mane and tail.
 
bullet1895 La Société des Eleveurs de Chevaux Canadiens or The Canadian Horse Breeders Association was officially formed. This Association took over the Commission, and the work of inspection of the horses was inaugurated.
 
bullet1895-1901 During this period, 1801 animals were registered (628 males, 1173 females). Although the standards of admission to the registry were carefully maintained initially, they gradually became more lax and it became evident that animals of inferior quality were being registered, later on.
 
bullet1904 La Société des Eleveurs de Chevaux Canadiens amalgamated with the Canadian National Livestock Records.
 
bulletJuly 1906 Dr J.G Rutherford, Veterinary Director General, assumed the position of Live Stock Commissioner. At this time, he found that basically nothing whatsoever had been done in the previous two years in the way of registering horses.
 
bulletFeb 1907 On the advice of Dr J.G. Rutherford, the Minister of Agriculture Canada had a discussion with the officers, and members of the Société. This occured because Dr Rutherford felt that although the Organization had apparently started well, and during the first years of its existence, maintained a fairly uniform and strict standard of registration, this could not be said of the years just prior to the amalgamation with the Canadian National Livestock records. It was evident that carelessness had occurred in the inspection of the horses and their acceptance for registration, the result being that many of the animals entered in the stud book were anything but eligible either from the viewpoint of genealogy or from that of conformation. As a result of this discussion, a commission was to be appointed which would close the first Stud Book, and create an entirely new Stud Book. This new Stud Book was to include such stallions and mares which could meet a fixed and definite standard of qualification and entry. Each animal had to undergo an inspection and would only be accepted if they were a good representative specimen of the breed.
 
bulletTo be entered into the newly revised stud books, the animals had to meet the following criteria, and fit the description:

Stallions not exceeding 15.3 hh, and weighing 1100 - 1350 lb. Mares not exceeding 15.2hh, and weighing 1050 - 1250 lb. The head is broad and courageous looking, perhaps somewhat coarse, with the ears far apart, the neck thick, the frame stout, the breast full, the shoulders strong, even rather upright, the back rather long than short and sides inclined to flatness, the croup rather round or fleshy with quarters short and somewhat drooping, the muscles well let down and the tendons large, the feet tough and almost immune from disease. The French Canadian Horse is of no fixed color and although a good mover with high and perhaps rather forced action, is not inclined to maintain great speed for any length of time although there have been, and are some remarkable exceptions to this rule. His hardiness and ability to thrive under the most adverse conditions were notable characteristics.
 

bullet1909 By this time,  2528 horses and mares had been presented for inspection, only 470 of these having been registered in the previous Stud Book. The Committee inspecting the horses was composed of: Dr. J. A. Couture and M. Arsene Denis both from the Societe, M. Robert Ness and M. Louis Lavallee both from the department of agriculture, and lastly, Dr. J. H. Vigneau, a veterinarian who acted as General Secretary, and who also examined each animal for health and hereditary unsoundness.
 
bulletOf the 2528 horses presented, only 969 animals (38 %) were accepted. The 969 horses were composed of 134 stallions, and 835 mares. Only 125 horses from the previous stud book were accepted, and 345 were rejected.
 
bulletUnfortunately, primarily only horses in Quebec were inspected, with some limited inspections possibly having been done in Ontario. There was not adequate time nor funds to inspect horses elsewhere in Canada, particularly in the Prairies and Maritimes where there were known to be quite a few Canadians. In addition, it was felt that the horses elsewhere might be of dubious ancestry, and would in all probability, contain outside blood. So, even though Canadian Horses existed throughout North America, and were used and loved across the nation, this was not reflected in the stud books, which were composed only of horses from QC.  The fact that these horses located elsewhere, especially in the maritimes and western Canada, were not recognized, coupled with the advent of the farm tractor, eventually lead to the disappearance of Canadian Horses nearly everywhere, except for in Quebec and Ontario.
 
bulletAlthough frequently not recognized, it is important to remember the important role that the Canadian Horse played in settling the west. The prairies were settled upon the backs of Canadian Horses. They pulled the wagons, and helped to plow and clear the fields. Their strength, intelligence, and hardiness were legendary. These traits are so clearly exemplified by the following quotes taken from Grant MacEwan's text, "Heavy Horses, Highlights of their History", 1996.
 

"The author recalls from boyhood years a carload of eastern Canadian farm horses being shipped to Saskatchewan for sale. In it was one black Canadian mare. The freight car was derailed close to the town and with the car lying on its side, there seemed to be no way by which the struggling horses could be removed. But an attendant who hoped to throw some hay to the imprisoned and frightened animals, climbed to the car's side that had become the top as it rested in the railroad ditch. He managed to get the only exposed door open, the one at the top. Inasmuch as freight cars were eight feet wide, the open door at the top would be eight feet above the level on which the trapped horses were standing. Nobody knew how it was done but as soon as the car door was opened, one horse scrambled madly - conceivably using the other horses as stepping stones - and jumped out, through the roof as it were. It was the French Canadian horse, to be sure, and the courageous and nigh miraculous performance left a lasting impression."

"One chestnut Canadian stallion, Elegant de Yamachiche, was a resident at the University of Saskatchewan barn between 1942 and 1949 and became widely known to prairie horsemen. The purpose of his presence was to further a plan for production of a strain of general purpose horses with the chestnut color, that might find a place of lasting importance as chore teams on farms that were otherwise totally mechanized.

The project was cut short but the tireless Canadien stallion won much admiration. This writer remembers very well how at the end of a thirty-mile ride from the east side of Saskatoon to Beaver Creek and back, he was tired and sore while his mount, "Frenchie" as he was known, seemed ready to start out again."
 

bulletIn the late 1800's and early 1900's, Canadian Horses which had been entered into the "official" stud books were being sent west to improve the stock. A registered Canadian Horse stallion went to Vermilion AB, in 1897. Several Canadian Horses went to Manitoba between 1900 and 1905.
 

{As an aside, for several years, I have worked in the Canadian Horse information booth at Spruce Meadows in Calgary. Countless times, I have had senior citizens who toiled long and hard to settle on the Canadian Prairies come up to me and say, "You know, I had a horse that looked and acted just like this when I was was young and working on the farm. I never knew that it was a breed, I only knew that it was the best horse that I ever owned." It is stories such as these, that clearly demonstrate that this horse truly is a symbol of Canada and that it played an indisputable role in the settling of this entire country. - YH}
 

bulletDec 31, 1908 The Stud Book was officially closed to the addition of foundation stock after this date. After the inspections were completed, Dr. Rutherford felt that the breed had become quite diverse in type and considerable difficulty was likely to be experienced in resuscitating the old French Canadian horse. He also felt that it would be possible by intelligent selection and careful mating, to establish in a comparatively few generations, a fixed type capable of perpetuating itself and having most of the characteristics of the old, and which might even be, in some respects, an improvement on it.
 
bullet1913 On the recommendation of Dr. Rutherford, the federal government became involved in the preservation of the French Canadian horse, and a breeding program was inaugurated at the Cap Rouge Experimental Station. Twelve mares were purchased which were chosen for conformation, courage, vitality and especially endurance. One of these mares (Helene #49) was purchased bred to a stallion (Wilfrid #1012), and in 1913 produced Albert de Cap Rouge (#1489) who became a very influential foundation sire (see photo at top). The goal at Cap Rouge was to try to increase size without sacrificing vitality and endurance.
 
bullet1919 The Cap Rouge facility was outgrown. The breeding program was transferred to St. Joachim. It was operated by the Dominion Department of Agriculture, and Quebec Dept of Agriculture who jointly leased the land, and put many improvements into it.
 
bullet1920 23 mares and 2 stallions were transferred from Cap Rouge to St. Joachim. An additional 30 mares were purchased from around the province in order to get good representation of other lines of the breed. The breeding program at St. Joachim continued for 21 years. With a careful program of selection/line and in-breeding, the original 38 strains were eventually culled to 8 which supplied a uniformity of size, style, conformation, and vitality. At this time, the desired size and weight of the horses were: 1250 - 1500 lb and 5'2'' - 5'4'' (15.2 - 16 hh) for the stallions, and 1200 - 1400 lb and 5' - 5'3'' (15 - 15.3 hh) for the mares.
 
bullet1940 World war I brought an end to the program at St. Joachim. The lease for the farm was expiring, mechanical power was replacing horses on farms, and the horses were not needed for the army. Some of the horses were dispersed to newly initiated smaller breeding programs which were to be operated separately by both the federal and provincial governments, and the remaining 48 horses were sold at auction Dec 31, 1940.
 
bulletDec 1940 The Dominion Department of Agriculture planned to maintain a small herd of Canadian Horses at St. Anne de La Pocatiere, so 7 mares and 1 stallion were transferred there from St. Joachim.

Beauport de Cap Rouge
Fall 1940
The Quebec Department of Agriculture purchased 15 of the St Joachim horses and moved them to their provincial demonstration farm at Deschambaults. An additional mare and stallion were purchased as well. The foundation sire was Beaulac de Cap Rouge (#2734). All of the horses were primarily selected for size. This program did not continue the careful program of inbreeding to promote a specific "type" as was done at Cap Rouge. The objective at Deschambaults was to increase the size of the horses, and to try to decrease the spirited disposition to a more docile one. Horses from this program had names beginning with the prefix "de La Gorgendiere" or "La Gorgendiere".

 
bulletThrough the 1940's, the Canadian Horse continued to place it's stamp on horses nationwide. They made their way west into BC, to put a permanent imprint upon the stock there as well. A stallion went to the famed Gang Ranch, in the BC interior, in the 1940's, to improve the hardiness of their ranch stock.
 
bulletAlso in the 1940's, two Canadian stallions were purchased by BC Brady and shipped by rail, to Ft. St. John, in north eastern BC, to improve the breeding stock there. Some offspring of these Canadian horses escaped, and interestingly enough, strong influences of the Canadian Horse can still be seen in the wild horses roaming in the Fort St. John and Chilcotin areas today.  
 
bullet1971 Arnoldwold Viger (#3770) was purchased as an 11 year old stallion. This stallion was bred by private breeders but his lineage traced directly back to the Cap Rouge bloodlines. More refined and elegant than any of the stallions previously used at Deschambaults, this stallion was very prepotent and was consistently able to pass his distinctive looks, quality and traits on to his offspring. Proof of this was the fact that in 1978, more than 25% of the "Class A" stallions in Quebec were sired by him.
 
bullet1978 The average size of horse produced at Deschambaults was now 1450 lb and they were more docile. The need for horses continued to decline as the use of draft animals decreased. At Deschambaults, all horses were trained for driving, riding, and jumping to try to increase their versatility. Some outcrossing occured, such as breeding Canadians to Thoroughbreds to produce a strain of exellent eventers, however this was discontinued as these crosses did not benefit the Canadian breed directly.
 
bulletBy 1979, all horse training programs were dropped at Deschambaults, and few foals were being produced.
 
bulletIn 1981, the administration at Deschambaults closed its Canadian Horse breeding program, and auctioned off its stock to private breeders.
 
bulletThroughout the 1970's, the interest in the Canadian Horse dropped to an all-time low. Less than 5 registrations per year were being recorded from 1970 - 1974, and the numbers had dropped to less than a 1000 Canadian Horses in existence (estimated to be only about 400 or so). With the closure of Deschambaults, the horses were now solely in the hands of private breeders.
 
bullet1977 The Plight of the Canadian Horse was slowly recognized and individuals such as Alex Hayward and Donnie Prosperine of Ontario, set about acquiring good quality breeding stock from Quebec and then began actively showing and promoting the Canadian Horse. Their horses appeared in the Canadian Carriage Driving Classic, and were frequently seen on the Grounds of the Parliament Buildings pulling elegant carriages filled with distinguished individuals. Efforts such as these proved to be a turning point for the breed.
 


Frank Prosperine and his Canadian Horses,
in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
 

bullet1987 Don Prosperine's horses Nip & Tuck won the North American Pleasure Driving Championship.
 
bullet1989 Unfortunately, Donnie Prosperine passed away unexpectedly. The passing of this well known and respected individual was a real loss to the breed. The following excerpt is from his memorium and well describes his efforts in helping to preserve the breed:

IN MEMORIAM
DONALD PROSPERINE
1926-1989

Don Prosperine, a Director of the Canadian Horse Breeders Association from 1987 to 1989, was born and lived his whole life in the Ottawa area. He married Joyce Summers, also of Ottawa, in 1950. A sports enthusiast, he promoted amateur hockey in Ottawa, and was a keen football fan. But his greatest love was horses, and he became a great promoter of the Canadian Horse.

He first heard of the Canadian Horse from Alex Hayward at a meeting of the Eastern Ontario Pleasure Driving Society in 1977. At the time, Donnie was driving hackneys, but he called Alex to say that he wanted to find some Canadians. After an eighteen-month search, he found Windsor Minon Rosine and Windsor Minon Michette. He soon purchased two additional mares in partnership with Alex, and began breeding Canadian Horses.

When Donnie first became involved with Canadian Horses, only one horse was registered in Ontario. The following year there were four horses registered, and today there are over one hundred. His stable and equipage grew in numbers and quality, and he soon graced family weddings and official Ottawa functions with beautiful horse-drawn turnouts.

He began showing in 1980, when he took a pair of Canadians to Saratoga Springs. Donnie was instrumental in encouraging the showing and display of Canadians at the Royal Winter Fair. His horses were in the ribbons whenever they were shown. He helped put together the elegant four-in-hand of Nip, Tuck, Black Diamond and Mayflower. Nip and Tuck went on to win the 1987 North American Driving Championship. Donnie's horses also participated in many local fairs.

For two years, Frank Prosperine, Donnie's son, drove Canadians on Parliament Hill, carrying actors who represented Sir Wilfred Laurier and Sir John A. MacDonald. His horses were used in parades to open the Ottawa Exhibition and the Ottawa Winter Fair. In last year's Grey Cup Parade, these Canadians carried the award-winning football players. They were used in movies, and opened Scottsdale Farm an equestrian centre where the television show 'The Campbells' is filmed.

Maple Lane Farm, his fine estate near Dunrobin, Ontario, became an attractive centre for promoting the Canadian Horse. In addition to horses sold in Ontario, he sent horses west to Calgary and to northern Alberta, thereby creating an interest in the breed in that part of the country.

Donnie's contributions were recognized by the Canadian Horse Breeders' Association. He was named 'Mr. Canadian Horse' as the man who had contributed most to the breed in 1987. In the directors' election in 1988, Donnie was chosen unanimously. As a director, Donnie's efforts were largely responsible for the creation of an Upper Canada Division of the Association, representing those west of Quebec who shared his interest in the Canadian Horse.

He died suddenly on September 26th, 1989. His wife, family and friends will sorely miss him, as will all Canadian Horse people.
 

bulletSince that time, interest in the horse has been increasing at an incredible pace.  The upsurge in the last decade has been tremendous.
 
bulletHowever, even with the rapid growth in the breed numbers over the past ten years, the current population still only numbers approximately  6000 horses worldwide.  Even now, there are just a scant 300 or so new registrations per year.  Compare this to the worldwide population of the American Quarterhorse at nearly 3,000,000, and the yearly registrations (in the US alone) of the following breeds: Quarterhorse 150,000, Thoroughbred 37,300, Paint 64,500, and the Morgan at 3,800. and about 6000 Canadian Horses now in existence.  For more breed numbers, see the Statistics page.
 
bulletThere are now approximately 1000 members of the Société des Éleveurs de Chevaux Canadiens/Canadian Horse Breeders Association.
 
bulletThe majority of Canadian Horses still remain in Quebec today, with the next largest population being in Ontario. There are smaller numbers in each of all of the other Canadian provinces. They are still relatively unknown in the United States with only about 200 horses located across the entire nation.  See the Statistics page for more information.
 
bulletAlthough just recently upgraded from its previous "critical" status by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the  breed is still not out of the woods yet, still being classified as "rare".
 
bulletAs the breed continues to thrive, however, as with so many other good things, some just cannot leave well enough alone. There is a drive ongoing to change the breed from its sturdy type, to that of that of a "taller, more refined horse".  Seems a pity that a truly unique and historical breed such as this may become completely corrupted, just to try to emulate other types of horses which already exist in abundance.
 

This material was researched and written by Yvonne Hillsden.

 

CANADIAN HORSE REFERENCES

Prince Edward Island. Historical and Descriptive Sketches of the Maritime Colonies of British America. McGregor, J. Publ London England, 1828. Pg 55 - 56

The Norman Horse, Journal of Agriculture, Edinburgh. Vol. 12. 1841. Pg 218-231

Horses - Origin of the Morgan Breed, Barnard, George. The Cultivator. Vol. 9. Sherbrooke, L.C. 1842. Pg. 39

Twenty Seven Years in Canada West: or the Experience of an Early Settler. Major Strickland, C.M. . Vol. 1, Chapter IV. Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, London. 1853, Pg. 39

History of the Canadian Horse, Frank Forester's Horse and Horsemanship of the United States and British Provinces of North America. Vol. II. Herbert, Henry W. Stunjerd & Townsend, New York. 1857. (p. 63-65)

The American Horse, Youatts History, Treatment, and Diseases of the Horse. J.B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia. 1860. Pg. 21

Reprint from Minerve, Lower Canada, Upper Canada Village C.F. Vol IV, 37. April 1, 1867. Pg 101

The American Trotting Horse. The Horse in the Stable and the Field: His Management in Health and Disease, Walsh, J. II. F.R.C.S.. 1869. Pgs 469-523

How to Breed a Horse - Canadian Blood, Hints to Horse Keepers, Herbert, Henry W. Chapter IV. 1887. Pg 45-50

The Canadian Horse, The Horse and His Diseases. Jenning, Robert. 1890

Different Breeds of Horses. Our Domestic Birds/Animals. Henery Bergh. 1891

Types and Breeds of Farm Animals, Plumb. 1906

Pioneer Papers, #1 - Simcoe County Pioneer & Historical Society by Simcoe County Historical Society. Barrie. 1908. Pg 14 - 21

The French Canadian Horse. Evidence of Dr. J. G. Rutherford before the Select Standing Committee on Agriculture and Colonization. Ottawa, Kings Printer. March 1909. Pg 61-73

History of the Pacing Horse, Cyclopedia of American Agriculture. Bailey, L. H. ed. Vol. III. Animals. 4th ed. McMillan and Co., New York. 1912. Pg 476 - 478

Livestock - A Cyclopedia - For the Farmer and Stock Owner. Baker, A.H., MD, V.S. 1913. Pg 120 - 144, Pg 167 - 181

Canadian Farm Year Book, 1914. Pg 122

Experimental Station, Cap Rouge, Que. Report of the Sup. G.A. Langelier. Division of Animal Husbandry. Professional Paper #16, 1916. Pg 483 - 487

A History of the Percheron Horse, Compiled under the direction of Alvin H. Saunders. Breeders Gazette Print, Chicago. 1917. Pg 107 - 137

A Short Story. N. Garneau. 1919.

The French-Canadian Horse, Langelier, Gus. Dominion of Canada, Department of Agriculture, Dominion Experimental Farms, Bulletin No. 95, Kings Printer, Ottawa. April 1920. Pg 2 - 21

The French Canadian Horse, Langelier, Gus. Bulletin # 87, Dominion of Canada, Department of Agriculture. 1927. Pg 1 - 22

Horse Breeders, International Directory of Pedigree Stock Breeders. De Toll, R. 1930 - 1931. Pg 731

The Canadian Historical Review, Saunders, R. M. Vol. 36. 1935. Pg 388 - 406

The Science and Practice of Canadian Animal Husbandry, MacEwan, J.W.G. and Ewan, A.H. Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. Toronto. 1936. Pg 83

The Canadian Horse. The Breeds of Farm Livestock in Canada. MacEwan, J.W.G. 1941. Chapter 6. Pg 101 - 103 ( 2 pages). Also: The Percheron. Pg 35 - 38, and The French Coach Pg 110- 123

Twenty-one Years' Work (1919-1940) for the Improvement of the Canadian Horse Breed as carried on at the St. Joachim Horse Farm Quebec. Dominion of Canada. Department of Agriculture. Experimental Farm Service. Pelletier, J.R. 1943. Pg 2 - 24

History of Agriculture in Ontario 1613 - 1880 - Livestock and Its Improvement. Jones, Robert L. University of Toronto Press, Toronto and Buffalo. 1946. Pg 14 -15, 128 - 129, 142 - 145, 266 - 269

The Old French Canadian Horse: Its History in Canada and the United States. Jones, Robert L. The Canadian Historical Review. Vol.XXV111, No. 2. Toronto, June 1947. Pg 125 - 155

Canada Agriculture - The first hundred years. 1967

The Canadian. The World's Finest Horses and Ponies. Colonel Sir Richard Glyn, Ed. George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd, High Holburn, London. 1971

Horses - A Working Tradition. Davis Street. 1976

The Canadien: Little Horse of Iron. Heavy Horses: Highlights of their History. MacEwan, J.W. G. Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, SK. 1986. Pg 119 - 123

Founding Horses. Fraser, Andrew F. Creative Publishers. P.O. Box 8660, St. Johns. A1B 3T7. 1991

Le Cheval Canadien. Paul Bernier. Les éditions du Septentrion, 1300 av. Maguire, Sillery QC, G1T 1Z3. 1992

International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. Hendricks, Bonnie L. 1995

The Canadian Horse - A PICTORIAL HISTORY. Gladys Mackey Beattie (1981, 1999), Originally published by Gladys Mackey Beattie, North Hatley QC, 1981. Publisher 1999 Reprint: Linda Brown, Box 6203, Hinton AB T7V 1X5.

Livre Généalogique de la race Chevaline Canadienne (Stud Books), Volume 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9

 

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Updated Monday May 17, 2010

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