Cattle Breed Facts Canadienne

Canadienne cattle are a breed that originated in Canada. They are also known as La Canadienne, Black Canadian, Canadian, and French Canadian cattle. The Canadienne is the only dairy breed of cattle developed in North America.


Canadienne cattle’s major advantage over other breeds is that they are better adapted to the environmental conditions of east-central Canada than other breeds. For example, the cattle do not require expensive imported food or intensive management. The cows are small, long-lived, and very docile in nature.

They produce large quantities of quality milk, relative to their body size. Their meat tends to be lean. Canadienne cattle are pale in color when they are born. As they become older, however, they become dark brown or black in color. The muzzles, sides, udders or scrotums, of adults, however, remain lighter in color.


The Canadienne breed developed from cattle that were sent from France to the then French colony of New France in the St. Lawrence River Valley (now part of the province of Quebec). The earliest cattle sent to the colony came from the north-western French province of Normandy between 1608 and 1610. Later on more cattle were sent to Canada from the French provinces of Brittany and Gascony.

It is not clear what breeds of cattle were sent from France. It seems that a variety of different types of breeds were sent to New France. In New France no effort was made to maintain the distinctions between the different cattle breeds sent to the colony from France. Instead all of the French cattle were bred together, with an emphasis on hardiness for local conditions.

New France became a melting pot for the different breeds of cattle imported from France in the 17th century. At the same time, the cattle population of New France became largely isolated from outside cattle populations after the end of importations from France. This led the emergence of a distinctive cattle breed that came to be known as “Canadienne”.

In the first half of the 19th century the Canadienne was one of the most prevalent breeds of cattle in Canada, particularly in Lower Canada (what is now the province of Quebec). After the middle of the 19th century, officials began to encourage farmers to adopt new breeds or to cross their Canadienne cattle with bigger imported breeds.

In the late 19th century efforts were made to protect the breed. In 1895 the French Canadian Cattle Breeders’ Association was formed. Today most Canadienne cattle herds and breeders are found in the province of Quebec.