First Horses in Canada

Sable Island Horse
Sable Island Horse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a dispute about when the first horses arrived in Canada.  According to records, the first horse was landed at Quebec on June 25, 1647.  It was a present to Governor Montmagny.  He was an imposing figure at any time because he was a Knight of the Maltese Order and wore a black cloak with an eight-pointed white cross on the breast.  When he mounted his steed and rode like the wind, rumours were that the Indians thought he was a god …

Other sources states the horses and cattle were landed at Canso and Sable Island, Nova Scotia, perhaps as early as 1518, by Baron de Lery et de St. Just who was supposed to found a colony.  The weather was sol cold that he left the animals and went back to France, probably intending to return in the spring.  He never did return.

Mark Lescarbot says the De Lery expedition was in 1518, but other historians are inclined to give the date as 1538, and even 1552.  They say that France was not ready to attempt any colonization work as early as 1518, although hundreds of fishermen were operating off the Nova Scotian and Newfoundland coasts as early as 1504.

The cattle and horses that De Lery landed at Canso all died or were killed by the Indians.  The cattle on Sable Island also died, or were removed by pirates and raiders.  The horses were the progenitors of the wild horses that roam the desolate island today.  During 400 years of exposure, they have become a distinct breed, hardy and undersized.  They paw the sand to find fresh water and graze on coarse grass between the sand hills.  Sable Island is known as “the graveyard of the Atlantic” because so many ships have been wrecked there.

If the true story of the Norsemen ever becomes known, it may turn out that there were horses in Nova Scotia soon after 1000 A.D.  Eric the Red fell from his horse in Greenland when he was planning a trip to Markland and Vinland (Nova Scotia).  Thinking this was an unfavourable omen, he cancelled his trip, but others may have gone and taken horses with them.

Want to read about today’s post? Well, I have a few site to suggest, such as Northern, and the Canadian Horse Association. Then there is the Osgoode, a 6-page document that also combines other historical facts with this. Other good sites are the Canadian, the Canadian Lastly, a site I discovered today, Suite, which “is one of the web’s largest independent publishers.”


  1. Hey, Teri–as a loyal Newfoundlander/Labradorian I am honour-bound to insist that Markland was the southern portion of Labrador and that Vinland was the Northern Penninsula of Newfoundland since, at the time, the climate was warmer and the ‘stuff’ that’s more prevalent to the south was at that time found further north.
    …and as someone who loves ‘the facts’ also admit that the whole thing is still very much under dispute with no end in sight :>) You could well be right!


Let me know what's on your mind

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.