The Horses of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: A Pictorial History


288 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-385-19544-3





Reviewed by Ingrid vonHausen

Ingrid conHausen was a librarian in New Hamburg, Ontario.


Mr. Kelly is a former Deputy Commissioner and Director of Security and Intelligence of the RCMP; Mrs. Kelly, a former teacher, is a noted RCMP historian. Together they have collaborated on other books about the RCMP: The RCMP: A Century of History and Policing in Canada. Mrs. Kelly is also the author of The Men of the Mounted. In this collaboration they chronicle the history of the RCMP from earliest times to the present, with a special focus on the horses that the Mounties have used over the years.

Suitable mounts in quantity were always hard to obtain. This difficult task became even harder after 1937, when Commissioner S.T. Wood, much impressed with the horses used by the Life Guards at the coronation of George VI, ordered that the RCMP purchase only black horses. Early attempts at breeding the required horses began as early as 1878 at Pincher Creek near Fort Walsh. Finances prevented the establishment of a much-needed breeding program for many years. The present-day breeding farm at Pakenham, near Ottawa, did not really get fully underway until after World War II.

This is not a coffeetable book: we have here solid history, albeit liberally illustrated with drawings and photos, some in full colour and full page. As well, there is a good section on breeding and horse management as well as a chapter on the Musical Ride. The final pages include details on individual horses, notably Burmese and Centennial, who were presented to the Queen in 1969 and 1977.

Written with simplicity and clarity, this gives a somewhat different perspective on RCMP history as well as horse literature. It reflects sound research on both subjects.


Kelly, William, and Nora Kelly, “The Horses of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: A Pictorial History,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 25, 2024,