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The  
Ponies

The Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed was originally located at Nett Lake and Lake Vermillion in Northern Minnesota, and Lac La Croix First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. The ponies had been living with the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe since before the 1800s. The breed became endangered when the Missionaries came to the community in the 1940s. The Missionaries apparently saw no use for the ponies. As a result, the majority of the breed was destroyed.

 

In 1977, there were only four mares left on Lac La Croix First Nation. The ponies were all in good health, but none of them were bred. Since there were no Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony stallions remained, they were bred to a Spanish Mustang. With the introduction of a male line, the breed survived.
 

The Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony is the only existing Indigenous breed of horse in Canada. The breed takes its name from Lac La Croix First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, where it was last found in the wild. Many paleontologists believe that horses went extinct in North America about 10,000 years ago, but competing theories and emerging research suggest some horses, such as the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony, may have survived the ice age. This latter theory is consistent with many Indigenous oral histories that claim horses were a vital part of Indigenous life long before first contact with Europeans.

Today, this friendly, all-purpose breed is used in equine therapy, Indigenous heritage programs and tourism. Conservation efforts in Canada and the United States strive to protect the breed, which is critically endangered. The Red Pony Stands plays a key role in preservation of the breed through a breeding program, education, and advocacy efforts.

Currently, five mares, a gelding, and a breeding stallion reside at The Red Pony Stands, with various genetically-matched breeding combinations in the herd. All of The Red Pony Stands' ponies are DNA'ed through Texas A&M University, Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences.

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The  
Pigs

The Kunekune pig breed was once near extinction. These pigs were only found near the Māori Islands of New Zealand. The Māori people allowed them to live freely in their communities.

While the origin of these pigs is still somewhat uncertain, the history of the breed is one of a close relationship with the Māori people. In the early 1900's, they were usually only found in Māori settlements. Kunekune pigs were desired by the Māori peoples for their gentle nature and their tendency not to roam, as they have always been a well-socialized pig.

In the late 1970s, the breed was "rediscovered" and it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred Kunekune pigs left in New Zealand. From a purebred stock of only six sows and three boars in 1978, the Kunekune pig conservation program was spearheaded by two wildlife park owners who single handedly saved the breed from extinction.

Kunekune pigs are known for their extremely docile and friendly personality which is unmatched by any other breed of pig. They are highly intelligent and crave human interaction. They thrive on grass and require very little supplemental feed. Their short and upturned snouts make them less prone to rooting, make them a "true" grazing pig. They are also known for having two wattles (much like goats) found under their jowls. They have little to no desire to roam and tend not to test fencing. 

 

Kunekune pigs are still fairly rare in the Canada but are gaining popularity very quickly, finding their niche among hobby farms and pig enthusiasts. They are a winter hardy breed that tends to get along well with other livestock, making them the perfect farmstead companion.  

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The  
Sheep

The Southdown (or Babydoll) sheep is one of the smallest breeds of sheep, standing at only 18 to 24 inches at the withers. The Southdown breed is the oldest of British "down" sheep, valued for their fleece, docile nature, and improvement of other breeds. 

 

The breed originated from the native sheep of the region, which were improved beginning in the late 1700s and continuing through the 1830s. The Southdown sheep was imported to New Zealand in the early 1840s as a progenitor of other sheep breeds. In 1890, the Southdown Sheep Society was formed. While the Southdown is a breed of considerable historical importance to both Britain and New Zealand, it is now rare in its original form. It was formally considered to be a "priority" or "at risk" breed of sheep according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. 

The Southdown is a short-legged, woolly-faced, hornless sheep breed. They are known for their superb grazing habits and their short stature makes them particularly desirable for grazing vineyards and fruit farms without damaging trees and crops. 

 

The calm disposition of the Southdown sheep tends to have a soothing effect on other small livestock animals. Southdown sheep target invasive grass and weed species while grazing and tend to graze more in the early morning and late afternoon. They are a low maintenance breed and tend to have a lower grazing behaviours compared to other breeds, making them a welcomed addition to the horse pasture.

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The  
Quail

Northern Bobwhite quail are ground-dwelling bird native to Canada and North America. While the have recently gain popularity in hunting and training game bird dogs, their conservation status is currently listed as "near threatened" with their population continuing to decrease.

In Canada, Northern Bobwhite quail are found only in Southern Ontario, with natural populations restricted to Walpole Island and the adjacent mainland. They live all-year round in agricultural fields, grasslands, open pine or pine-hardwood forests, and grass-brush rangelands. During snowfalls in the northern part of their range, these quail depend on woody cover to prevent snow from reaching the ground and blocking their foraging habitat.

 

Northern Bobwhite quails are elusive but highly social birds, typically found in groups or coveys of three to 20 individuals. The Northern bobwhite quails are winter hardy due to their native origins and active foragers of grains, seeds, insects, leafy plants, small nuts, and fruit and berries. With their stunning "wild" appearance, soothing whistle-like call, nutrient-packed eggs, Northern Bobwhite quail make a great alternative to raising chickens on small acreages and hobby farms.

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Why Preserve Indigenous & Heritage Breeds?

Image by Annie Spratt
Colonization, Climate Change & Species Diversity Loss
Lac La Croix Ponies

Currently listed as Critically Endangered, the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony holds cultural and historical importance for Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Kunekune Pigs

Once near extinction, Kunekune pigs have a historical relationship with the Māori peoples of New Zealand.

Illustrated Pig
Southdown Sheep

The Southdown sheep, once considered "at risk," is the oldest of British "down" sheep, with historical importance to both Britain and New Zealand.

Snowflake Quail

Snowflake Bobwhite Quail are a rare colour variant (white) of the Northern Bobwhite Quail.

Honey Bees
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Honey bees, originally from Europe, are critical pollinators of food crops but are facing steep decline in population due to habitat loss & pesticide use. 

Northern Bobwhite Quail
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Northern Bobwhite Quail are a ground-dwelling, winter hardy bird native to Canada. Their conservation status is listed as Near Threatened, with their population decreasing.

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"Horses were not introduced, necessarily, by the Spaniards; these are Indigenous horses that originated here. And I know the Spaniards introduced horses to the Plains Indians are so forth, but we had Indigenous ponies that were here, and the Lac La Croix Ponies, that are Indigenous to this land."

Larry Aiken, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Historian (Snowshoe & Starblanket, 2016)