What is the National Animal of Canada? – A complete history
Here’s a quick answer: There are two national animals of Canada. In terms of time, the first animal to be called the national animal of Canada is a Beaver. And the Canadian horse is another animal, which was recognized as the national animal of Canada in relatively recent history.
Now, many questions can arise. Like, what is a beaver? How does a Canadian horse look? Why are the beaver and the Canadian horse, national animals of Canada? What is the history behind it? What is the significance of Canada’s national animal?
But, don’t worry. We’ll be answering all of them here!
So, let’s begin!
What is the story behind the beaver becoming the national animal of Canada?
The story begins in the late 1500s or the early 1600s. By then, the European explorers had realized that Canada was not a spice rich or a spice orient country. But, beavers were the highlighting feature of Canada. There was a large population of beavers in Canada. And the fashion of wearing fur hats was gaining attention at that time. Fur hats were high in fashion, with an increasing demand for them. And fur hats required beaver fur. That was it.
King Henry IV of France struck while the iron was hot. He saw this as an opportunity to gain a lot of revenue and establish a North American empire. And Voila! Beaver pelts started trading (pelts meaning fur or skin of the animal). The fur hats became even more popular than before. The demand for beaver fur increased even more. Winter coats and Canadian coats were also made out of them. The beaver pelts trade was on fire. Both French and English traders were selling beaver pelts like never before.
This gained beaver a lot of popularity. Beaver had become a part of the Canadian identity.
At one time, the beaver pelts were sold for 20 times their original price. The trade of beaver pelts proved to be so successful and highly profitable that Canadians felt like paying a tribute in return.
So, on 24th March 1975, the beaver was given the status of official emblems of Canada when it received royal assent, and the Canadian parliament passed the National Symbol of Canada Act. It provided the recognition of the beaver as an official symbol of the sovereignty of Canada.
What’s the significance of Beaver as a national symbol of Canada?
Firstly, what is a national symbol? An official national character is a cultural or traditional identity that represents the country, its citizens, and its values. These symbols bring about a sense of oneness, unity, and patriotism.
Now, in this case, you might be wondering whether animals chosen as national symbols are generally majestic animals or mythical or that which gives a royal feeling. Then, why did Canada choose beaver? Here are some reasons:-
- The beaver fur trade was the backbone of the colonial economy. Without the beaver, Canada would not have existed in the first place. The fur trade was responsible for the country’s financial development, which further led to other social, economic, and geographic developments like expanding into the North American interior. It was a primary international industry for more than 250 years.
- The fur trade was responsible for the peaceful relationships between the indigenous people and the Europeans. This led to intermarriages between Canadian women and traders. Resulting in an even stronger relation and exchange of cultures and attitudes.
- A beaver has always been used as a monetary representation in terms of history. It shows the prosperity of the Canadian economy.
- Beaver is all over the land of Canada. They are found in all the Canadian provinces. Thus, beavers are a factor that relates and connects the entire Canadian geography.
- The industrious and humble animal is a symbol of hard work. A beaver can build a 6 feet tall house with its teeth!
- Beaver represents perseverance. In winter, while other animals hibernate, the beaver keeps its hard work going on. This inspired and still inspires a lot of Canadians to work hard and have perseverance. The work ethic of the beaver is quite powerful in influencing Canadians in a good way.
- Canada was known for Beavers way before it became the national symbol. Beavers are usually associated with Canada and are marked to be uniquely Canadian.
- It also represents the colonial past of Canada.
- This rodent has had a more significant impact on Canadian history and even more influence on exploration than any other animal or plant species.
- The animal also marks its appearance in indigenous oral history and mythology, making it a part of Canadian heritage.
However, the debate of whether or not Canada needs a new national animal comes up every few years. And the very first competitor to take the place of Castor Canadensis from the symbols of Canada is the adorable polar bear.
The conservative senator Nicole Eaton of Canada has very much favored giving the bear a royal proclamation. But, because the polar bear is already officially adopted by some other nation, the proposal of including it among the Canadian symbols is generally turned down by the Canadian parliament hill.
Here’s a quick timeline:-
- 1621: Sir William Alexander included the beaver in the coat of arms of Canada for the very first time.
(Coat of arms was a sort of identification card for the Canadian armed forces in the middle ages. The coat of arms made the allies look distinct from the enemies. King George proclaimed the coat of arms to be red and white, the national colors).
- 1678: Four beavers were put on the shield of the coat of arms of and by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Through this, Hudson’s Bay Company tried to show beaver’s significance for the company. The Governor of New France, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, suggested that beaver would be an appropriate emblem for the entire colony. He proposed to include it in the arms coat of the City of Quebec.
- 1690: The French Liberata medal depicted a seated women representing France. And at her feet was a beaver, which represented Canada.
- The 1700s: The value of one male beaver pelt was equal to one “buck”- the newly-created coin.
- The early 1800s: The beaver was featured in the masthead of a newspaper published in Lower Canada, called ‘Le Canadien.’
- 1833: The Montreal city’s coat of arms (nova scotia), which features the four founding nations, included the image of a beaver.
- 1851: The beaver was featured on the ‘Three Penny Beaver’- the first Canadian postage stamp by Sir Sandford Fleming.
- The beaver was included in one of the Societe Saint Jean Baptiste’s emblems for some time.
- 1937: The Canadian nickel, a five-cent coin, was designed by G.E. Krugar Gray, in which the beaver seated atop a log. Since then, this officially adopted coin has almost been in constant circulation.
- Today: The beaver is included on the Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s crest to date.
The Beaver Squad in Canada
The beaver population was around 100-200 million before the fur trade began. But, after the fur trade, the number of beavers dropped significantly.
Early French explorers realized that something had to be done to protect animals from extinction. Hence, the beaver population was restored in Canada with various laws in place, but not to the pre-fur trade period. Their population is estimated to be somewhere near 10-15 million.
Fun facts about beaver:
- Beaver is the largest rodent (a small animal with sharp teeth) in Canada and the second-largest rodent globally.
- They are also known as North American beavers or Canadian beavers.
- They are architects and engineers in a rodent who can construct and build amazing dams out of sticks, logs, debris, and mud. The dams they make are famously referred to as beaver dams.
- The sharp-toothed animal has an average lifespan of 24 years.
- The trinominal name of the beaver is Castor Canadensis. Interestingly, the name itself has ‘Canada’ in it.
- They live in groups and are very social.
- They mostly spend their time eating and building.
Canadian horse as the national animal of Canada?
In 1909, the parliament declared the Canadian horse to be the national breed of Canada. So, it was obvious and natural for the Canadian horse to have been chosen as one of the national symbols of Canada. In 2002, the act of parliament officially recognized the Canadian horse as the national horse of Canada.
What is the Origin of the Canadian horse?
The origins of the Canadian horse can be traced back to the year 1665. Then, the king of France had sent royal horses to New France. There, the horses were of mixed origin, Norman and Breton horses. It also included the Arabian, Andalusian, and Barb horses.
The horse population of New France grew in isolation from other breeds for the next century. This gradually developed a horse breed of a different kind, called the Canadian horse.
What are some distinctive features of the Canadian horse?
The Canadian horse is renowned for its great strength, endurance, and resilience. It has superior intelligence and a good temper. It is well-muscled, hence strong. It usually has dark-colored skin and is native to Canada.
The horse is also called ‘the little iron horse.’ Other such nicknames given by the native people of Canada include the ‘horse of steel.’ It is even said that the Iron horse played a significant role in the American civil war. A historian stated that the north won because they had way better horses, our very own Canadian, compared to other horses.
In the late 19th century, the Canadian horse was on the verge of extinction. The situation was highly threatening and alarming. However, efforts to preserve the distinctive Canadian horse were only made until the late 1800s. This extended throughout the 20th century, upgrading the horse from an extinct category to classifying them as rare.
Once again, the popularity of the horse increased, and so did the modern breed standards and market trends. There was a demand for breeding the taller and more good-looking ones. This increased pressure gave birth to the Canadian Horse Heritage and Preservation Society in 2002, which was meant to respond to the pressure and aim at conserving the original native horse breed.
However, the Canadian Horse Breeders Association is the legal registering body for the Canadian horse, governed by the Canadian federal Animal Pedigree Act. It is responsible for monitoring, registering, and identifying the horse.
Later, the provincial legislature of Quebec termed the horse as a heritage breed of the Quebec province in 2010.
More about the Official Canadian Symbols
- National flag: Canadian flag is red and white. The Canadian flag also has a distinctive maple leaf in the middle, making the national flag stand out.
- National bird: Canada Goose is the official symbol but not the official bird. Canada Goose is also known as Branta canadensis. Canada goose is native to the North American region. Grey jay or Canada jay is the national bird. As the name suggests, it is grey, along with white.
- National anthem: The Canadian national anthem is “O Canadian,” with French lyrics. 1st July 1980 was the date when the national anthem was adopted. It was sung with French lyrics 100 years before its adoption for the first time. And Robert Stanley Weir is the one who has written the English version of the anthem.
- National tree: Maple tree. Maple trees are essential for the sugar maple industry.
- National Tartan: Maple leaf tartan.
- Additional symbol: Maple leaf forever has remained associated with Canada.
Well, this is all about the national animal of Canada, the beaver. I hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you would like to know anything else, please feel free to connect with us in the comment section.