Popularity of the Black Percherons


Visiting the Black Horse Stables

Norman James Dawes decided to import and breed black Percherons on the advice of Gilbert A. Arnold, a Canadian breeder in the Lower Laurentian town of Lachute. The first stallions, all of them splendid, immediately caught the public’s fancy. For the Dawes family, nothing but Percherons with impeccable bloodlines would do.

The Dawes stables in Montréal, on Colborne Street (now Peel Street below Notre-Dame), housed the horses from 1931 until World War II. Then they were transferred to stables in the town of Verchères, where people flocked to see them. In 1947, the brewery began building more modern stables in Lachine, on Côte-de-Liesse Boulevard. These new facilities opened to the public in 1949, boasting a large visitor parking lot and a reception area displaying hundreds of trophies and medals won by the Black Horse Percherons. The grooms and their families were housed not far from the stables.

Speaking about the Lachine stables, the brewery’s president said, “Our horses have always won the public’s affection wherever they have appeared. Now, with facilities equipped for observing them, we hope they will become even more engaging for visitors.” Through the horses, the brewery established an emotional bond with its customers.

Highly Valuable Stallions

Dawes Brewery did not breed horses for its own needs alone; it undertook to improve the quality of draft horses in Quebec. With the approval of the authorities, the company set up a stud service in the early 1930s. For a $2 fee, farmers got access to the best Black Horse stallions. In just two decades (1931 to 1950), the program produced more than 19,000 black horses across the province, while the annual birth rate for other breeds steadily declined. This large-scale breeding operation proved to be an unparalleled publicity coup. The foals descended from the famous black horses were living, breathing ads. In addition, the company issued certificates recognizing the value of Percherons sired by Black Horse stallions.

In advertising it is said that beyond a certain size, a poster’s impact does not change, so it is useless to keep making it bigger. The better choice is to go for repetition, to increase the number of posters instead of their size. In this sense, multiplying the Percherons was no doubt a very cost-effective initiative.  

Resource References:

les_black_horses.pdf: The Review. Published in the interests of the employees, vol. 11, no. 8, August 1948, The National Breweries Limited, Montréal, P.Q., pp. 1-2. 

les_black_horses_a_boston.pdf: Review. Published in the interests of the employees, vol. 10, no. 7, June 1947, The National Breweries Limited, Montréal, P.Q., p. 11. 

la_mort_de_captivator.pdf: Review. Published in the interests of the employees, vol. 8, no. 8, July 1945, The National Breweries Limited, Montréal, P.Q., p. 5.