According to research, the Canadian horse was introduced to New France in July of 1665. The first load of twelve horses was sent by King Louis XIV. There is no record of the breed or region of France from hence they came; some writings mentioned the Royal Stud Farm, others that they were purchased by the Compagnie des Indes occidentales. What is known for certain is that shipments arrived on a regular basis.
The first ones were given to religious orders and to gentlemen who had an avid interest in agriculture. A notarized contract obliged the new owners to breed the animals, maintain them, and return a foal after three years to the Intendant. This foal was then entrusted to someone else who was then bound by the same conditions of care and reproduction. In case of breach of contract, there were provisions for fines of one hundred pounds. This very regimented breeding system allowed for their rapid development in the French colony. The myth of the Canadian horse being abused is unfounded. It would have been very difficult to neglect such a valuable work animal, as well, unfulfilled legal obligations were very costly.
In 1671, Intendant Talon wrote in his report to the King that it was no longer necessary to send shipments of horses since there were a sufficient number for trade.
From 1665 to 1793, the horse population in New France grew from 12 to 14,000 animals. To the end of the French regime in 1760, the horses sent from France are the only ones to be developed in the colony. Contact with the English to the South was forbidden because England and France were at war. The topography of the Appalachian mountains was also a formidable obstacle to outside communication. At that time there were no roads and the only means of long distance travel was by foot or by canoe.
For almost one hundred years, the horses multiplied in a closed environment without the benefit of other blood lines. Their common source, lack of cross breeding, and their rapid reproduction created a particular genetic group giving rise to a unique breed: the Canadian horse. Why Canadian? Because in 1867, the year of Canada's confederation, the generic term 'Canadien' solely referred to French speaking. At that time, it was natural for the horse, being originally from France and having started its spread through the French colonial area of the St. Lawrence Valley, to be named 'Canadian'.
Eight years later, in 1895, veterinarian Dr. J.A. Couture founded the Canadian Horse Breeders Association which still operates today. In 1999, the Quebec Government recognized the Canadian horse as part of its heritage. Later the Federal Government followed suit giving it NATIONAL recognition. If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Canadian horse, historian Paul Bernier has written a book called Le cheval canadien, available through the Québec District SEPCC.
Dr. J.A. Couture set breeding standards for the Canadian Horse. In 1895, the Canadian Horse Breeders Association was created.
Now they are on the endangered breed list with only approximately 6000 of this breed being registered in the world.
Canadian Horses are registered through the Canadian Livestock Registry ( CLRC).