In this age of industrial farming, Black Creek offers a refreshing glimpse at how people farmed in early Ontario and the role of animals in everyday life.
Many of the farm animal breeds that were central to life in a rural Ontario village of the mid 1800's are now rare and seldom seen. Black Creek Pioneer Village is home to a number of heritage breeds including Cochin chickens and other fowl, Border Leicester sheep and the ever popular Clydesdale horses. Historic interpreters demonstrate how early farmers cared for the animals and used them for food, transportation, clothing and heavy labour.
Here are some of the rare heritage breeds kept in the Village:
Clydesdale Horse: Settlers brought heavy horses with them, including the Clydesdale to pull ploughs, wagons, and carts or to provide power on sweeps, treadmills, and other farm machinery. Of all the heavy horse breeds, the Clydesdale is the lightweight and the most intelligent. The horse was an excellent farm worker and its sound feet made it suitable also for town haulage.
Rare Breeds Canada now lists the Clydesdale as an “At Risk” breed with 151-500 registered in Canada.
Berkshire Pig: In 2006 Black Creek welcomes two new Berkshires to the pen. This black pig has six white points: its fours legs, its tail and its snout. It originated in Berkshire, England in the early 1800 as one of the first British breeds to be carefully bred. It was introduced to Canada in the 1830s and, as quoted in the Canadian Farmer in 1867, “for quality of pork and bacon, the modern Berkshire still stands unrivalled”
Rare Breeds Canada now lists the Berkshire as an “endangered” breed with only 36 – 115 registered in Canada.
Toulouse Geese: A massive, heavy goose with both sexes being grey. Originally bred in Southern France from a dark variety of Grey-Lag goose, the Toulouse is also known as the wild European goose.
Rare Breeds Canada now lists the Toulouse as a “rare” breed with fewer than 499 breeding females registered in Canada.
Ridley Bronze Turkey: Turkeys are the only fowl that originated in the Americas. Archeological data indicates the turkey was domesticated around 200 BC in Mexico. The Spanish introduced them to Europe. In about 1625 the turkey was reintroduced to Eastern North America from England by the Pilgrims. The Ridley Bronze Turkey was bred in England for its hatchability and meat production. It is the largest and handsomest of the turkeys, the adult male weighing up to 32 pounds and the female up to 22 pounds.
Rare Breeds Canada lists the Ridley Bronze Turkey as a “critical” breed with less then 100 breeding females registered in Canada.
Border Leicester Sheep: In early Ontario sheep were raised mainly for wool, but there was a small market for spring lamb and mutton. The Border Leicester, a Cheviot/Leicester cross, combined the good mutton of the Cheviot and the spinning wool of the Leicester. The breed was developed in England during the mid 1700s and became popular in Canada by the mid 1800s. A hardy breed, they were able to adapt to the extreme climate. The wool is typically white, and medium to long.
Link to Rare Breeds Canada www.rarebreedscanada.ca