Found on the site below called “Rivard Family Newsletter”
Reported by J.G. Lacoursiere
A question to Marlyss, Betty and any who is knowledgeable : How long would it take to form a new breed of animals having different charateristics to start with. Say a heavy type, bred with a lighter one until a middle size combining the best of both can be arrived at?
Ok let’s forget the answer for now. It may come easier later on. All this is drawn from Paul Bernier in « Le Cheval Canadien »
In 1665 the King Louis XIV of France had resolved that his colonists could benefit from the use of horses and started exporting them in that year. Prior to that we know of only one horse having been imported privately, it was a white one to accommodate the then governor Courcelles.
The first shipment of 1665 consisted of two stallions and twelve mares. An extra one had died during the trip and was not to be counted in the arrivals although the freight was billed for fifteen as carried on-board. Those were distributed to the highest authorities of course, as well as to the seigneurs who were deemed worthy of the presents. None were sent in 1666, and if the equine population increased it could not have been by much at this time. In 1667 the ships brought in the same quantity as before, twelve mares and two stallions, and with precise orders for their distribution. Namely one mare for Monsieur the Governor, one mare also for Monsieur the Bishop, two mares and a stallion for the Jesuit Fathers three mares and one stallion for Montreal, two mares, one stallion for the Ursuline Sisters, one mare for Monsieur de Villeray one mare for Madame Couillard,
--- And that is fourteen. ---
Did I call those « presents » above? Not quite they were. There were strict and wise conditions attached to the possession of the precious animals, to wit : The recipients could consider themselves as owners in full right but only after a period of three years as caretakers. The contract is very specific in regard to proper feeding, health cares, and shelter. Should any of the horses die from negligence during those three years the caretaker would have to pay a penalty of one hundred pounds into the Treasury to build a replacement Funds. As caretakers the recipients are admonished not to overly draw on the work of the animals and to be also sure that their cycle of reproduction is respected. The expectations of the Court are that each mare was to give birth once a year and every year of its useful life
A provision of the cession contract states that the recipients, now being owners after three years, would turn over one offspring one year of age to his Majesty’s Receiver, or remit a penalty of one hundred Francs for failure to do so. The offsprings thus reverting to the King would be raised and cared for at the cost of his Majesty during another period of three years and redistributed again at that time. And under the same conditions. All transactions to be recorded by notarized documents. The first notarized contract on this matter was passed before Romain Becquet, note-keeper for the king in this Country, dated 29 September 1667 and purporting to the arrivals of that year it is assumed. In it Gabriel Souart, priest and Superior of the Montreal seminary, acknowledges receipt of three mares and two stallions from the King’s intendant, Jean Talon. A description of the ceded animals follow : the stallion being long tailed and black of robe; the first mare being red of hair and eight years of age; the second black of hair and aged from six to eight years; the third being grey and eight years old.
This contract would have served as a model for the cession of further shipments and indicates clearly that the Court had the expansion of the breed much at heart. The fines being levied are not exaggerated in those cases of failure to respect the stated obligations. It is estimated that the transportation cost for each animal was in the 250 pounds range. That was the price Courcelles paid for his private import of a white mare. Other animals had also came across, sheep for instance, with the horses but Talon had lumped the costs in his acknowledgement of receipt.
For that year 1667 the Jesuits note their thanks to the King for maintaining his armies here, and for sending 350 good men labourers and 60 girls to help in populating this land. The arrival of sheep is also noted in 1665 and 1667. A similar shipment of horses is recorded in 1667, the actual count being 13 due to the loss of one in transit. The figures are not available for the next three years and the end of the plan but it is assumed that the counts were similar to the previous. So by 1671 a total of 82 horses would have arrived by the care of the Crown and no private imports have been recorded in that time period. By that account we can conclude that all the horses bred into this colony would have come from those original 82, and that until the explorers got far enough out West to come across those left by the Spaniards and gone wild. Which is not a guarantee of cross-breeding at that time yet.
The rapid reproduction rate of those horses was a success and exceeded the initiators wildest hopes. They adapted beautifully to the rough climate and were not such a financial burden to upkeep considering the services they rendered. Twenty years after the first arrivals of 1665 the count stands at 156 head, twice the number already, and in 1706 ten times more, 1 872 that is, and this had doubled again to 3 786 by the year 1716. When the English took over Murray reported a population of 12, 757 horses, and the count for 1784 added up to 30, 146, the district of Montreal having 17, 825 by itself. Who had gotten the early ones? We know for 1665 from the notes above.
In 1670 the recipients were all named with a particle, Messrs. Talon, de Chambly, de Sorel, de St-Ours, de Varennes, up to le Ber etc. How long would it take before they would come into the hands of the common habitant is a good question. We know that Abel Turcot willed his plowing horse, with harness in 1687. But Abel was already a prosperous farmer and flower-miller. At the 1666 census he had four domestics, 500 arpents cultivated, and 14 heads of cattle. So he might well have put up the price of getting some available one. But a time came when there were enough horses that each inhabitant could claim one of his own. The breed had developed into what is known as ‘le cheval canadien’ and became a great source of revenues of export.
So if you say that your ancestor owned a Canadian Horse be ready to quote a census by name, place and year. And if you hear someone say that my ancestors had the same, and with a cart to boot, tell them to supply the same demonstration. My question to our knowledgeable readers : after how many horse’s generations could one particular breed be distinguished from its predecessor line?