Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – Percherons have a long history in Canada.
Laura Drury is the Animal Care and Agriculture Manager at Heritage Park in Calgary.
Drury says these beautiful and powerful draft horses started coming to Canada in the 19th Century.
“They started off migrating from Quebec and spread all over, some of them did come up from the United States,” says Drury.
She is quick to point out that Alberta, especially the Lethbridge area, is a horse hotbed.
“It is a huge hub for some of the big names of Percheron horses down into the U.S. and all around.”
Percherons were heavily sought after, prompting a lot of breeders to set up shop.
When they arrived on the farm, they were usually not alone.
Drury points to a trend involving horned Herefords.
“It seems that people who have brought Percherons over have actually been inclined to supplement their ranches with Herefords. Herefords are pretty hardy cows, so it makes sense that they started coming up to Canada around the same time as ranches were developing.”
She added that Herefords do better in colder weather making Canada the perfect home for them.
Pulling their Weight
The Percherons were then put to work on the farm and beyond.
“They were used for settling the country. They hauled the wagons as people moved west in the country, and they tilled the fields.”
Drury says as the workloads got bigger, the grain loads got bigger, and they needed the bigger horses. So even if they started with smaller horses, eventually, they needed to have a bigger draft.
She says it was common for farms to have draft horses with different builds for different uses, which was not limited to working on the farm.
“You would have your more going-to-town ones, and you’re working the field horses, different body styles.”
Percherons were a large part of hauling around city vehicles before there were automobiles.
Heritage Park is celebrating its 60th Anniversary in 2024, for more information on the celebration they have planned, go to Heritage Park’s website.