Attention horse shoppers: unimpressed by the offerings on your local Facebook classified page?

It may be time to give the Great White North a shot.

“Well, of course,” you might say, “Canada has lots of nice horses.” But we’re not talking about a Canadian horse. We’re talking about The Canadian Horse.

And if you’ve never heard of the breed or your Canadian knowledgebase hovers somewhere between hockey, beer, and Sirs Millar and Lamaze, then get ready. We’re about to lay some facts on ya’.

There really is such a thing as the Canadian Horse (Cheval Canadien), and it’s the country’s national breed.

Don’t let the deceptively simple name fool you: Canadian Horses are majestic, hardy, and versatile.

The breed has traditionally been used for farm work, riding, and driving.

Today, Canadian Horses can be found competing in dressage, eventing, jumping, driving, barrel racing and more. They are basically good at everything and super nice about it. (Did we mention they’re from Canada?)

©Dennis Jarvis

The Canadian Horse is an old breed with royal roots, but they’re not stuffy.

They descend from stock sent to the then-colonies by Louis XIV of France, who shipped two stallions and 20 mares from his own royal stables in Normandy and Brittany in 1665.

René Antoine Houasse. ©Wikimedia Commons

Once in Canada, only the fittest horses survived the country’s long, harsh winters.

The small, light breed quickly earned itself the nickname, “the Little Iron Horse.” The Canadian Horse typically ranges between 14–16 hands and 1000–1400 lbs and are most frequently black, but come in many other colors.


Sadly, today the Canadian Horse is considered critically endangered.

In 1976, they hovered near extinction, with just about 400 animals left in the world. By 2002, that number had increased to 2,000 and continues to grow, thanks to the breed’s recognition as a national symbol.

One reason for their decline was a mass export of more than 150,000 Canadian Horses during the 19th century.

The breed is known for its calm and willing disposition, excellent feet, stamina and strength. Those qualities put them in high demand. Many were sent to the U.S. for use as cavalry horses during the Civil War.

The Canadian Horse is also credited with helping to found various American breeds.

Among them are the Morgan, the American Saddlebred, and the Standardbred.

No matter what your discipline, the Canadian Horse is up for it.

You can rest easy knowing you’ll be helping to preserve this special breed for generations to come. (The Canadian Horse Breeders Association maintains a list of breeders here.)