Height: Canadian Horses average
from 14 to 16 hands in height.
Color: Brown, black, chestnut or
bay; rarely gray.
Markings: A blaze and white
stockings are acceptable.
Physical characteristics: Long,
wavy mane and tail; strong, powerful
and agile with natural balance;
versatile, easy-keeping and hardy.
Personality: Energetic, gentle, willing.
Like many breeds, the Canadian Horse is a product of its environment. Early settlers in the North American territory of New France found themselves isolated by mountains. In 1665, King Louis XIV sent a shipment of Breton and Norman horses to assist the settlers with cultivating the land. Since England and France were at war, they had no contact with the English to the South, and therefore no opportunity for outcrossing with other bloodlines.
With regular shipments of horses coming from France until 1671, the French
colonists established a genetically distinct breed of horse that became known
as the Canadian Horse. The name was derived from the term Canadien, gener-
ally meaning “French-speaking.” It was a fitting name for a horse with origins in
France and a foundation in the French colonial area of Canada’s St. Lawrence
Valley. The strong, even-tempered, easy-keeping Canadian Horse plowed fields,
pulled carriages, carried riders, and more. Its pluck and stamina earned it the
In the 1800s, the breed had earned a reputation in the United States, as Cana-
dian Horses were frequently employed along stagecoach routes in New England.
They were soon sought out by breeders seeking to improve and develop other
breeds, particularly the Morgan, American Saddlebred and Standardbred.
Today, the Canadian Horse maintains the hardiness, stamina and agility to
succeed in various driving and riding pursuits. The breed is currently on the
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy critical list, which is defined as an
estimated global population of less than 2,000. However, the advocacy of the
Canadian Horse Breeders Association is helping to improve the breed’s status,
and the future looks promising for the Little Iron Horse that could.
Visit the Canadian Horse Breeders Association at www.lechevalcanadien.ca and the
Canadian Horse Heritage and Preservation Society at www.chhaps.org to learn more.