The Canadian Horse is a breed developed in Canada from French stock in the 17th century. They are well loved in Canada where they have been bred for the last three centuries. A stocky, stout animal with great endurance and stamina, they earned the nickname “the little iron horse” as they helped pioneers brave the elements and settle the vast and harsh countryside.


Horses first arrived on the shores of “New France” in July of 1665. A load of twelve horses were sent to the colonies by King Louis XIV. As there is no record of the animals’ bloodlines, no one knows what the foundation stock was or what part of France they came from. It is known that they arrived in shipments on a regular basis in order to provide transportation for colonists and to power farm equipment.

Initially, the horses were given to religious orders and farmers. Both groups were bound under contract to breed the animals and return one foal to the Intendant every three years. This foal was then given to someone else who was bound under the same type of agreement. If a person broke the contract, they were fined one hundred pounds. This program accelerated the breeding and trade of the Canadian horse so much so that by 1671 shipments from France had ceased. By 1793, there were fourteen thousand horses in New France.

In 1895, the Canadian Horse Breeders Association was founded by a veterinarian named J. A. Couture. This association was formed to preserve and promote breed standards and has one of the most complex registering and naming systems in the world of breed associations.

 Canadian Horse Breeders Association Relative to Breed Description

In 1907, the founder of the CHBA designated a point system used to evaluate the quality of animals registered with the association. It is scale of points divided into eight groups including the head, the neck and shoulders, the body, the front end, the hind end, the legs, the hoof, general temperament and appearance. A certain number of points is assigned to each group with the total number of points possible being 100.

  • The first group evaluated is the head. It is assigned 4 points with consideration given to the shape and carriage, the ears, the eye, the face, the lips, the nostrils, the mouth, the upper and lower jaws, and the cheeks. Overall the horse should have a neat, square, flat and functional head.
  • The second group involves the neck and throat and it is assigned 5 points. The neck should have a wide throat latch and be straight, not arched. It should be well muscled and strong, and have good attachment onto the shoulders and the head.
  • The third group is the trunk. This group is assigned the highest number of points at 20. Dr. Couture felt that this was the most important part of the body given the thinking that if the truck is broad, strong and healthy, the rest of the animal would follow suit. The withers should be well developed and raised. The back should be short, strong, broad and muscled. The loins should be short, strong and broad. The chest should be broad with wide set front legs. The ribcage should be deep with well-sprung ribs and the belly should be roomy, but not too large.
  • The fourth group is the front-quarters and it is assigned 13 points. The shoulder should be long and sloping. The other areas evaluated are the arm and elbow, the forearm and the knee.
  • The fifth group involves the hind-quarters with a total of 14 possible points. The croup, the tail, the buttock, the thigh and the hock are all evaluated. Overall, the hind end should be strong and muscled. The limbs and joints should be clean and straight with well-defined and healthy tendons.
  • The sixth group is the lower part of the legs and is assigned 10 points. Evaluated here are the cannon, fetlock, and pastern.
  • The seventh group involves just the feet and is assigned 10 points. Dr. Couture was a firm believer in the old adage “no foot, no horse” and so felt it was very important to assign the foot its own group. The hooves should be large, strong and round and rest squarely on the ground. They should be well proportioned and have nice heels which naturally push the foot into a neat angle.
  • The eighth group concerns the exterior of the horse and it is assigned 10 points. Points of evaluation include the skin, the hair coat, the color, the height, weight and the action. The action should be brisk and lively The horse should have a longer, ground-covering stride. There should be easy movement in the fetlock, hock and knee joints.
  • The last thing considered is the temperament and nervous system which is assigned 9 points. The horse should be gentle yet spirited, and not nervous. The general appearance of the horse should be eye-pleasing and graceful.

Another interesting thing about the CHBA is the naming system for foals. This fairly complex system requires that there be three parts to the name. The first of which is the name of the farm/ranch where the horse was bred. The second part of the name must be that of the sire. The third part is the foal’s given name which must start with the letter assigned to the year in which it was born. In addition to those three requirements, there is a 30 character limit on the name. With these requirements in mind then farm names and sire names are generally shorter.

With the breed standards set by the CHBA, the Canadian horse will likely continue to be of the highest quality. They are a very versatile horse and are used for many different disciplines: dressage and eventing, pleasure and trail riding and western events, such as rodeo. They make wonderful and willing partners and are well loved by their riders and breeders.

At the time of writing this article there were no known Canadian horses in Australia being used in breeding programs or is pleasure riding horses.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.