25 June

First Horses Arrive in Canada

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, the Indians thought he was a god.

Other sources state that 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 so 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.


25 June

-1776    Governor Carleton prohibited the sale of liquor except by license.

-1806    Philemon Wright floated the first logs down the Ottawa River and founded a big lumber industry (see February 2).

-1855    The Great Western Railway placed the steamers Canada and America on Lake Ontario and operated a service between Hamilton and Oswego, New York.

-1877    Lord Dufferin arrived in Canada to be governor-general.

-1927    Prince Edward Island voted to continue prohibition of liquor rather than have government control as adopted by other provinces.

-1930    Charles Kingsford-Smith and three companions flew from Ireland to Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, in 311/2 hours.

-1957    The former Conservative leader George Drew was appointed Canadian High Commissioner to Britain.

-1961    J. A. D. McCurdy, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, and the first man in the British Commonwealth to fly an aircraft, died (see September 30).