A rare type of Canadian Horse.
Bill Mill |
Rare Canadian Horse
In the mid-1800’s, the Canadian Horse numbered about 150,000 and could be found throughout Canada and the United States. The Canadian was used for crossbreeding to improve the strength and hardiness of other breeds, and helped to found other North American breeds such as the Morgan, Tennessee Walking Horse, Standardbred, and the American Saddlebred. Increasingly, Canadian Horses were exported out of Canada for the Boer war, for working the sugar plantations in the West Indies, and to the United States for use on the stage-lines and for the American Civil War. The number of horses began to dwindle rapidly. With the advent of mechanized farm machinery, the Canadian Horse almost became extinct. During the 1860-70’s, there were fewer than 400 horses in existence and 20 or less registrations recorded per year. By the late 1870’s, the peril of Canada’s national breed was finally recognized, and efforts were made by diligent breeders to try to bring the Canadian Horse back from the verge of extinction.
The horse adapted to survive in areas of wide-open terrain with sparse vegetation, surviving in an ecosystem where other large grazing animals, especially ruminants, could not. Horses and other equids are odd-toed ungulates of the order Perissodactyla, a group of mammals that was dominant during the Tertiary period. In the past, this order contained 14 families, but only three—Equidae (the horse and related species), the tapir, and the rhinoceros—have survived to the present day. The earliest known member of the Equidae family was the Hyracotherium, which lived between 45 and 55 million years ago, during the Eocene period. It had 4 toes on each front foot, and 3 toes on each back foot. The extra toe on the front feet soon disappeared with the Mesohippus, which lived 32 to 37 million years ago. Over time, the extra side toes shrank in size until they vanished. All that remains of them in modern horses is a set of small vestigial bones on the leg below the knee, known informally as splint bones. Their legs also lengthened as their toes disappeared until they were a hooved animal capable of running at great speed. By about 5 million years ago, the modern Equus had evolved. Equid teeth also evolved from browsing on soft, tropical plants to adapt to browsing of drier plant material, then to grazing of tougher plains grasses. Thus proto-horses changed from leaf-eating forest-dwellers to grass-eating inhabitants of semi-arid regions worldwide, including the steppes of Eurasia and the Great Plains of North America.
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