This Rare Cattle Breed Played a Fascinating Role in Canadian History

There are only about 300 heads of this purebred left in the country.

Our family owns and operates Anvic Farms—a beef cattle farm here in Alliston, Ontario. In August of 2020, we bought our very first Canadienne cow. Ten years before, we had learned of the existence of this rare dairy breed that was first brought to North America from Brittany and Normandy and developed in French Canada.

Canadienne cattle were very popular on dairy farms in Canada—mainly Quebec, as this breed of cow was known for being able to handle the harsh cold winter weather, as well as being able to convert lesser quality forage into rich milk. The breed flourished for several decades, before the arrival of other dairy breeds such as Holstein and Jersey. The Canadienne remains the only dairy breed developed in Canada and today, there are only about 300 heads of this purebred left in the country.

Our Canadienne cow (above), named Little Farm Colonel Rayna—Rayna for short, was bred to a Charolais bull in September 2020, after her arrival on the farm but unfortunately had a stillbirth in July 2021. We decided to give her a foster calf, a Holstein bull, which she cares for today.

Rayna is also the face of my blog about agriculture, largely due to her unique features and amazing ancestral history. She blends in well with our beef cows and eats only about one-third of what a beef cow of her age eats, despite giving milk. Rayna also walks really well on a halter, which makes her a great candidate for my endless photoshoots with her. Rayna is featured prominently on our farm’s Facebook page, as well as my own website where she shares the front cover with me.

Having a Canadienne cow on our farm has been a dream of ours for a very long time, and she has been well worth it. In 2022, Rayna was bred to a Limousin bull on the farm. One day, we hope to add more Canadienne cattle to our herd and have a diverse mix of beef and dairy cattle.

Next, check out 10 Canadian history podcasts worth adding to your playlist.

Originally Published in Our Canada