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Bar U Ranch, Part Five:
At the time when George Lane took over the Bar U Ranch in 1902, he had 5000 head of cattle. But the bad winter of 1906-07 made him think about diversification. As well, rangeland for cattle was shrinking as homesteaders moved in.
As historian Simon Evans explains, George Lane figured rightly that every homestead family needed a horse to pull ploughs and equipment.
So he went into mass-production, if you like, of high-grade horses. And he chose the Percheron, which he'd known down in Montana when he was a young person, to be his cherished type of horse. And so, during the period between 1906 and the First World War, George lane built up the largest Percheron horse farm in Canada, and actually, indeed, in the world.
At that time, at the height of its heyday, they had 500 breeding mares down there at the Bar U, and some of the most famous stallions in the world.
The Percheron proved ideal for the heavy work it was required to do - breaking land in the early homestead days.
They worked a lot in the First World War in the most awful mud and difficult conditions, and came out of that as being the horse of choice, if you like, to pull munitions or guns or whatever. They're very sleek, as I said, thickset, on the whole, massive necks. I remember there was one, a stallion called Geroux. One of the men who had worked with him said, "You need a collar like an elephant collar to fit around old Geroux."
George Lane went to La Perche, in the south of France, to pick out the very best French stallions for his stable.
In the years 1909 and up to the First World War, George Lane and Bar U Percherons really cleaned up, with regard to all the cups for Percherons, both mares and stallions, throughout the shows of the Pacific Northwest, down in Seattle, over to Winnipeg, down to Toronto, all over the place. It was the Bar U who were the people to beat when it came to Percherons and their stallions and mares.
And for farmers, having a Bar U Percheron working the farm was like having a Rolls Royce in the driveway.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.