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 (Native Report, 2013).
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 (O'Conner, 2021). The Red Pony Stands plays a key role in preservation of the breed through a breeding program, education, and advocacy efforts.
Currently, five mares and two stallions reside at The Red Pony Stands, with seven 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.
Why Preserve Indigenous/Heritage Breeds?
Climate Crisis & Species Diversity Loss
Lac La Croix Ponies
The Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony breed is currently listed as Critically Endangered, with less than 200 breeding stock alive in the world today.
Northern Bobwhite Quail
"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