Discovering Canadian Symbols: A Top 10 List

Canada is an amazing country with a rich history. The years of development it took to create this beautiful country means several important Canadian symbols that everyone needs to know.

There are many Canadian symbols which are formally adopted and accepted by the Canadian Governing bodies. This article will help you gain knowledge about these Canadian symbols.

The 10 Best Canadian Symbols

Let us take a look at some of the best Canadian symbols of all time.

1. The Beaver

The beaver
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

The animal was an important part of Canada’s heritage before it became a widely recognized national symbol of Canada.

Beavers were used in the late 1600s up until the early 1700s to make fur hats. The beaver pelts helped keep early Canadians warm through the country’s bitter winter months. The Beaver became one of the official Canadian symbols in 1975.

Interestingly, the term ‘buck’ (used to mean one dollar in currency) originated when a coin was created equal in value to one male beaver’s, or buck’s, pelt.

It’s no wonder that the Beaver was added to the list of Canadian symbols by the government of Canada.

2. Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms
Photo by chris robert on Unsplash

A coat of arms is an important piece of any country’s history. Canada is no different. Historically, this is one of the Canadian symbols used to differentiate between friend and foe on the battlefields of Yore.

Canada’s coat of arms was first introduced on November 21st, 1921, by the royal decree of King George the fifth and has lasted even throughout Queen Elizabeth IIs reign (former Queen of Canada).

Mrs. Cathy Bursey-Sabourin, Fraser Herald, designed the current royal Canadian coat of arms.

The design is wonderfully intricate, depicting all the symbols of Canada’s colonial founders (not the indigenous people who had called those lands home for centuries before the colonialists arrived), from mythical beasts to exquisite flowers.

The first set of images on the coat of arms includes the symbols of the four colonial nations, including the three royal lions of England, the royal lion of Scotland, the royal fleur-de-lis of France, and the Irish royal harp Tara (all depicted on the shield).

This Canadian symbol also depicts the lion of England holding the Royal Union Flag and the unicorn of Scotland (yes, Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn!) carrying the flag of Royal France.

Lastly, there are portrayals of the floral emblems of the four founding nations: the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the French fleur-de-lis, and the Irish shamrock. The Royal Crown at the top of the coat of arms indicates that these are the Arms of the Queen of England.

The Canadian Coat of Arms is used on government property like buildings, official seals, money, passports, and more.

They are also seen on the rank badges of some uniforms of the Canadian Armed Forces. This is one of the Canadian symbols used by federal establishments like the Supreme Court, the Federal, and the Tax Court of Canada.

3. Motto of the Order of Canada

Also, on the coat of arms of Canada is another important Canadian symbol – the motto of the Order of Canada.

In Latin, the motto reads Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam. In English, this means “they desire a better country,” which is a passage from the New Testament (11:16).

4. The Maple Leaf Tartan

The Maple Leaf Tartan is a fairly new Canadian symbol as it was only officially declared an official symbol of Canada in 2011, although the design has been around since 1964.

The tradition of wearing tartans came from Scotland in the centuries before 1746. The ‘highlander way of life’ was where the Scottish highlands were divided into a feudal system of ‘clans.’

Each clan had its tartan pattern, and colour, and members of other clans (or one’s respective clan) would identify a person by their tartan clothing.

After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, this all changed. The Scottish feudal system, clan dynamics, and aftermaths of Culloden are chronicled in the hit T.V. series ‘Outlander‘ (a tale of love, war, and history).

The Maple Leaf Tartan pays homage to the country’s Scottish roots and is a symbol of identity for all Canadians, regardless of whether they have ties to Scotland or not!

The tartan features the colours of the maple tree’s leaves as they change through the seasons: green for summer leaves, gold for early autumn, red for the late autumn, and brown for winter.

Wear this Canadian symbol with pride this Canada Day (July 1st), or show off your finest Maple Leaf Tartan kilt on Tartan day (April 6th).

5. The Maple Tree

When you think of Canadian symbols, you probably think of poutine, the Canadian Moose, and, of course, the magnificent maple tree.

Despite being such an easily recognizable Canadian symbol, the maple tree was not officially declared the national tree of Canada until 1996.

Photo by MicEnin from Depositphotos

Out of the 150 total species of the majestic maple tree, only ten are native to Canada.

The sugar maple, black maple, silver maple, bigleaf maple, red maple, mountain maple, striped maple, Douglas maple, vine maple, and Manitoba maple trees are scattered generously across Canada.

The maple sugar produced by these trees continues to facilitate an important historical industry in Canada. Canada is a world leader in the sustainable management of forests, all thanks to this Canadian symbol.

6. The Canadian Horse

The Canadian Horse has been recognized as Canada’s national breed since 1909 (although it was only recognized as an official Canadian symbol in 2002).

The earliest known record of the Canadian Horse came from 1665 when the King of France sent horses from his royal stables to New France in Canada.

These horses were of mixed origin and included Arabian, Barb, and Andalusian horses. Over time these horses evolved separate from the rest of the world’s horse population, and this isolation led to the speciation of the Canadian horse we all know and love today.

The Canadian Horse is characterized by its strength, endurance, resilience, intelligence, and good temper. This Canadian symbol had been a source of national pride ever since its emergence all those years ago.

7. The Canadian Flag

The Canadian Flag
Photo by Albert Stoynov on Unsplash

We can’t talk about the most popular Canadian symbols without mentioning the Canadian flag. Any country’s flag is a symbol of its identity and pride.

Canada’s national flag is instantly recognizable with its three bold red and white stripes and maple leaf decal in the center.

While this flag design seems like the superior choice today, it was not always the clear frontrunner. The quest for a new Canadian flag started in 1925, and a decision was not reached until 1965, nearly 40 years later!

Fascinatingly, in 1946, a parliamentary committee examined more than 2,600 submissions, and yet the committee members could not agree on a new design.

The Canadian national flag seems to have fought all the odds to become the country’s best-loved Canadian symbol.

The anniversary of the adoption of the current Canadian flag is celebrated across the country on February 15th, which is known as the National Flag of Canada Day.

The day marks the first time the maple leaf flag was raised for the first time over Parliament Hill.

8. The National Anthem

Not all Canadian symbols are images and animals! The national anthem of Canada is equally important as any of the other Canadian symbols on this list.

O Canada” became Canada’s national anthem in 1980. This was nearly 100 years after it was first sung in the City of Québec in 1880!

Calixa Lavallée originally composed the music of the national anthem. He was a well-known composer at the time.

The music caught the attention of Adolphe-Basile Routhier, a poet, and judge living simultaneously as Calixa Lavallée.

He ended up writing the French version of the lyrics to “O Canada.” The Official English version of the lyrics was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, an extremely influential Ontarian poet.

Facts About O' Canada
Icy Canada

9. Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey is the national winter sport of Canada. The sport has been played since the 1800s and has now become a prominent Canadian Symbol.

Ice hockey, as we know, it originated in the stunning city of Montreal, although it had been influenced by stick and ball games played in the United Kingdom.

Ice hockey is such an influential Canadian sport that some have even called it ‘the national pastime’ of Canada.

10. Lacrosse

Photo by Forest Simon on Unsplash

Lacrosse emerged in Canada at roughly the same time as ice hockey and soon became one of the country’s national sports.

Lacrosse is Canada’s national summer sport, as of the National Sports of Canada Act of 1994. This Canadian symbol, though not as recognizable as ice hockey, is a beloved national game.

The Importance Of Canadian Symbols

Canadian symbols are important because they represent everything this great country stands for.

Be it the national animals representing the history and individuality of the nation or the several maple leaf symbols that identify all things Canadian.

There truly is no better way to express your national pride than by donning the ten official Canadian symbols. So, wear your maple leaf tartan with pride and sing ‘O Canada’ at the top of your lungs. Be proud to be Canadian.

Last Updated on by Sanjana


  1. Wow, this article highlights the beauty and significance of Canada’s rich history. It’s fascinating to learn about the years of development that went into creating such an amazing country. I’m eager to delve into the various Canadian symbols that have been formally adopted and accepted by the governing bodies.

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