It seems that some horse breeds rise to popularity and stay there. It is almost as if they had no struggle. There are horses like the American Quarter Horse, whose popularity continues to grow. Then there are the lesser known horse breeds, the breeds that were almost extinct. In fact, they even struggled to begin. The Canadian Horse is one such breed.
In the late 1600s, King Louis XIV sent shipments of horses to Canada. On the first shipment, twenty mares and two stallions were sent. Only 12 of the twenty mares survived. These shipments continued over the span of five years. In spite of the rough start, the breed began to prosper with numbers continuing to rise over time. Even though conditions in Canada were harsh, the horse did survive. It was noted for its resilience and strength even when food was scarce and temperatures were extreme. Thus giving the horse the nickname "the little iron horse" or "horse of steel".
Their population grew to 150,000 by 1849. The breed was being exported to several different countries, including the United States. Just as the breed was once again beginning to thrive, tragedy struck. After the devastation of the American Civil War, the breed was nearly brought to extinction. This brought efforts for an official breed association, and The Canadian Horse Breeders Association was formed in 1885.
By the time of World War I, an experimental breeding program had begun but was brought to a halt during the war. The horses were then sold at auction. It seemed as soon as the breed would get going something would happen to put on halt. By 1970, there only 400 Canadian horses. The horse was considered "rare" and "at risk" and efforts again were made to preserve the breed.
Through these conservation efforts, the population of the breed has begun to rise. In 2002, a bill was passed in Canada recognizing the Canadian horse as the national horse of Canada.