Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Horses have lived with humans for thousands of years but have been on Earth for much longer — about 50 million years! Humans have used them for sport, hauling, plowing, recreation, and racing. They’ve been our companions and friends and are known for their intelligence, speed, and beauty.
Since Canada has a long history with horses, you might wonder how many horses live in this vast and diverse country of ours. It’s estimated that there are around 500,000 horses in Canada. Keep reading as we share 15 more interesting facts and statistics here.
- Horses in Canada Statistics
- Wild Horses Statistics
- Canadian Horse Industry Statistics
- Horse Wellbeing & Advocacy
- Frequently Asked Questions About Horses in Canada
The Top 16 Horses in Canada Statistics
- It’s estimated that there are approximately 500,000 horses in Canada.
- There were 4,457 horses registered in Canada in 2021.
- The most registered breed in Canada in 2021 is the Standardbred, with 1,172 registrations.
- Alberta is the province with the most horses in Canada at 33%.
- The current population of Ojibwe horses is less than 200.
- There are approximately 2,500 wild horses in Canada.
- There were 1,178 wild horses in Alberta in 2022.
- Sable Island, Nova Scotia; Chilcotin Plateau, B.C.; and Bronson Forest, Saskatchewan, all have wild horse herds.
- The horse industry generates about $19 billion annually to the Canadian economy.
- There are about 117,000 adults and 225,250 children participating in horse-related activities and sports.
- There were 1,000 top equestrian athletes in 2019.
- The horse racing industry supports about 25,000 jobs in Ontario.
- The top reason for horses becoming unwanted is due to changes in the owner’s situation.
- It can cost over $1,000 for horse rescues to take in new horses in 2022.
- About 25,000 horses supplied by Canada are slaughtered annually.
- Live horse for slaughter exports decreased by 8.8% between January to June 2022. (The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Horses in Canada Statistics
1. It’s estimated that there are approximately 500,000 horses in Canada.
(Fédération Équestre Internationale)
855,000 people actively work in the horse industry, of which about 550,000 live in homes with owned horses, and the other 350,400 use horses owned by others.
2. There were 4,457 horses registered in Canada in 2021.
(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
In 2021, horse registrations were down by 1,026 since 2017. There were 5,483 in 2017, 5,062 in 2018, 5,230 in 2019, and 4,619 in 2020.
3. The most registered breed in Canada in 2021 is the Standardbred, with 1,172 registrations.
(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
The second most registered horse was the Thoroughbred with 938 registrations, followed by the Percheron with 427, and the Belgian with 362.
4. Alberta is the province with the most horses in Canada at 33%.
Ontario has the second-highest number of horses at 22%, followed by Quebec and B.C. at 12% each.
5. The current population of Ojibwe horses is less than 200.
Ojibwe horses, or Lac La Croix Indian Ponies, are a horse breed that was acquired and developed by the Ojibwe people. Their population dwindled down to just four horses by 1977. It’s still a critically endangered breed but breeding and conservation efforts are continuously working to protect and revitalize the breed population.
Wild Horses Statistics
6. There are approximately 2,500 wild horses in Canada.
It’s estimated that there were 2 million mustangs on North American foothills and plains about 100 years ago. In 2019, more than 88,000 wild horses and burros were on land of the Bureau of Land Management (an agency in the U.S.).
7. There were 1,178 wild horses in Alberta in 2022.
(Government of Alberta)
This is almost half of Canada’s wild horse population! However, there is controversy concerning Albert’s horse population. The Government of Alberta considers these horses feral or stray because they were originally domesticated and are culled from time to time.
8. Sable Island, Nova Scotia; Chilcotin Plateau, B.C.; and Bronson Forest, Saskatchewan, all have wild horse herds.
The horses on Sable Island, N.S., are smaller and are a genetically unique breed. They have lived on the island since the 1700s and are protected today by the government. It’s thought there are between 400 to 550 horses.
Chilcotin Plateau in B.C. has about 1,000 horses that are also genetically unique and are protected by a preserve of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations.
Bronson Forest in Saskatchewan has a small herd of wild horses protected by the government since 2009.
Canadian Horse Industry Statistics
9. The horse industry generates about $19 billion annually to the Canadian economy.
The horse industry makes a significant contribution to the Canadian economy. It encompasses several different sectors, including sport-recreation, agriculture, and entertainment. Horses have affected various other industries and contributed to growth in several areas, including capital investment in stock, feed production, employment opportunities, and the creation and management of horse facilities.
While equestrian sports aren’t the most popular sports in Canada, they still have a strong following. Canada has been involved in equestrian sports for centuries and has been the most successful in show jumping. Canada has won several medals in jumping and dressage events.
11. There were 1,000 top equestrian athletes in 2019.
(Fédération Équestre Internationale)
In 2019, these athletes saw 35 platinum-level events take place, which included Pan Am and the Olympics. Team Canada won gold and bronze in Eventing at the Lima Pan AM Games in 2019.
12. The horse racing industry supports about 25,000 jobs in Ontario.
Horses provide different kinds of job opportunities for people. They require trainers and coaches, along with facility staff, to manage racetracks, stables, and training grounds. Veterinary care and research positions are also available, and various organizations that promote and protect horse welfare often have paid advocacy positions available.
Horse Wellbeing & Advocacy
13. The top reason for horses becoming unwanted is due to changes in the owner’s situation.
With many people facing economic hardships, horse rescues and shelters have seen an increase in relinquished horses. Changes in the owner’s situation is the main reason why horses become unwanted, and older horses and horses with injuries are often sent to horse adoption and rescue organizations. Horses that are deemed unmanageable are also commonly abandoned.
14. It can cost over $1,000 for horse rescues to take in new horses in 2022.
Bringing in a new horse is costly for horse rescues. It can cost about $1,000 per horse, and the costs can go towards transportation, veterinary bills, food, and shelter. Prices can rise significantly depending on the transportation distance and if more intensive veterinary care is required.
15. About 25,000 horses supplied by Canada are slaughtered annually.
Horse meat takes up a small fraction of the horse industry. It’s mainly exported to Japan, and many exports consist of transporting live horses by plane. Horse meat isn’t very popular in Canada, but you may find some establishments selling or preparing it in certain parts of Quebec.
16. Live horse for slaughter exports decreased by 8.8% between January to June 2022. (The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Live horse exports remain controversial as the process of transporting them by air raises many concerns for animal rights activities. Calls for stricter laws may not be enough as activists favor the complete ban of live horse exports. The Liberal Party of Canada has also made a pledge during the last election to work towards banning it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Horses in Canada
How long have horses been around?
The earliest horses originated in North America about 50 million years ago and eventually spread to the rest of the world. But the North American breeds went extinct about 10,000 years ago. It’s believed that domesticated horses came from central Asia about 3000 to 4000 B.C. (Live Science)
How many breeds of horses are there?
All horses evolved from the Equus caballus, but there are about 350 horse breeds, all of which serve a specific function. There are draft horses that are strong workhorses, such as the Clydesdale. Light horses are the most common and are used for racing and jumping, like the Thoroughbred.
There are warm-blooded horses used for jumping and dressage, like the Swedish Warmblood, and gaited horses commonly used for travelling, such as the Tennessee Walking Horse. Finally, there are colour breeds like the American Paint Horse. (Live Science)
Are there any Canadian breeds?
Six different breeds are specifically Canadian:
Where are the most popular equestrian events held?
Spruce Meadows in Calgary brings in the most highly honoured jumping names. It’s been holding events since the 1970s and will see as many as 500,000 visitors each year. It has enough stables for 1,000 horses! (Fédération Équestre Internationale)
Why are Alberta’s wild horses called feral?
The wild horses in Alberta are called feral because the government states that they are not native species to the prairies. It’s believed that they are in competition with the native species of wildlife that reside in Alberta, which is why they are culled at times. The horses are usually captured and either sold and tamed or slaughtered. (Global News)
How many Olympic medals does Canada have in equestrian sports?
Canada has a total of seven Olympic medals in equestrian sports. Its two gold medals are from the jumping team and individual events. The most recent medal was won in 2016 by Eric Lamaze in jumping individual. (Olympian Database)
What is the horse capital of Canada?
While there isn’t an official horse capital in Canada, Langley, British Columbia, is the self-proclaimed horse capital. Along with having a high population of horses, Langley is home to the Thunderbird Show Park and hosts many events throughout the year.
Canada’s love for horses and horse events is here to stay. These beautiful, intelligent, and majestic animals have such a long history with humans, and we love to see the strong bonds that develop between horses and their owners.
Featured Image Credit: jessica skene, Shutterstock