Unveiling Canada’s National Animal: Why the Beaver Holds Such Importance

beaver swimming

Unveiling Canada’s National Animal: Why the Beaver Holds Such Importance

Canada’s National Animal is the beaver, an iconic and unique symbol representing Canada’s natural beauty, resilience, and history.

For over 300 years, the beaver has played an essential role in the country’s culture, economy, and ecology. Its image can be found on everything from coins and stamps to government documents and clothing.

As with the Tahltan Bear Dogs, this majestic creature, located throughout Canada’s wilderness, has a rich history and cultural significance.

This post will delineate this official symbol’s rich history and how it represents Canada.

History and Significance of Beaver Beavers

Beaver lying down pond

Canada’s national animal is the North American beaver, also known as Castor canadensis. You’ll find this species of beaver throughout Canada, from the northern tundra to the southern forests.

Beavers are known for their industriousness, building dams and lodges with remarkable precision. Consequently, they play a crucial role in maintaining wetland ecosystems, the significant habitats for many of Canada’s wildlife species.

The beaver has been an important symbol in Canadian history for centuries. Indigenous citizens used beaver pelts for clothing and trade thousands of years ago.

During the fur trade era of the 17th and 18th centuries, early European explorers sought beaver pelts to supply the fashion industry in Europe.

Today, the beaver symbolized Canada’s natural resources and the economic importance of the fur trade.

Criteria for Choosing Canada’s National Animal

Selecting a national animal is a serious decision, and many factors must be considered. First, the national animal of Canada must be unique to Canada in range or cultural significance.

It should also represent Canada’s values and identity and be recognizable to people worldwide. Additionally, the animal should have a positive image and be a species Canadians are proud to call their own.

As you may have guessed, Canada’s national animal, the beaver, met all these criteria.

It’s also a specie found only in North America, strongly associated with Canada’s history and natural resources. Beavers are also admired for their hard work and perseverance. These features are often associated with Canadian culture.

The Selection Process and Controversy Surrounding It

The selection process for Canadian beaver was long and controversial. In 1975, the Canadian government set out to choose a national animal.

Several entries were received, representing a wide range of species nationwide. After careful consideration, the beaver was picked as the national animal in 1976. Shortly after, in 1980, ” O Canada” officially became Canada’s national anthem.

However, not everyone was happy with the new national animal. Some Canadians felt that the beaver was a tired and clichéd choice and that Canada should have selected a more unique or impressive animal.

Others argued that the beaver was a symbol of Canada’s colonial past and that it ignored the country’s indigenous heritage.

Canada history beaver fight

Despite these criticisms, the beaver has remained Canada’s national animal for over four decades and that’s why many Canadians are proud of this designation and see the beaver as a symbol of their country’s history, culture, and natural beauty.

In 2011, Senator Eaton suggested changing the beaver she called a toothy tyrant to a polar bear. Needless to say, this suggestion didn’t fly.

The Official Designation of Canada’s National Symbol

In 1975, the Canadian government formally recognized the beaver as Canada’s national animal. This decision was made in honor of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who had long used the beaver as a symbol of their organization.

The government’s decision was also influenced by a growing sense of Canadian nationalism and a desire to create a distinctly Canadian identity.

Beavers represent Canada in terms of natural resources and hardworking people. Thus it was an ideal choice for the country’s national animal.

Quick fact: Canada has two national animals, the second being the national horse (aka Canadian horse; more on this later). While the national bird is the Canada goose.

Fun Facts About the National Animal

The beaver is a fascinating animal with impressive traits and behaviors. Here are a few fun facts about this Canada’s national animal:

  • Beavers have a specialized digestive system to digest tough plant fibers. They can also hold their breath for up to 15 minutes underwater.
  • Beavers are excellent builders who can construct dams and lodges that last decades. Some beaver dams are over 2,000 feet long! Yea, they are badass constructors.
  • Beavers have a special gland near their tail that produces castoreum. People use this substance for perfumes, food flavorings, and traditional medicines.

The current beaver population is between 6-12 million.

The National Animal in Canadian Culture and Symbolism

The beaver has been vital in Canadian culture and symbolism for centuries.

Indigenous peoples used beaver pelts for clothing and trade. And they saw the animal as a symbol of strength and perseverance.

indigenous people history fur trade

During the fur trade era, the beaver became a symbol of Canada’s natural resources and the economic importance of the fur trade. The Hudson’s bay company, a major player in the fur trade, put the beaver on their coat of arms in 1678.

european goods fur trade

Today, the beaver is still an important symbol of Canadian identity. In most circumstances, it’s seen as a symbol of Canadian pride and patriotism.

It is featured on the Canadian five-cent coin and is a famous mascot for Canadian sports teams and organizations.

You can also find the beaver in many logos and advertisements. For instance, the crest of the Canadian Pacific Railway company and the first Canadian postage stamp had the beaver on them.

Other Canadian Official Symbols

Canada has several national symbols that represent culture and history. The national flag of Canada, also known as the Maple Leaf, is one of the most recognizable symbols of Canada. It has a significant role in the Country’s history.

In fact, the Royal Canadian Regiment pipes and drums often use Maple leaf tartan. At a point, it was engraved on the headstones of soldiers of the Canadian armed forces.

Besides the Canadian flag is the Canadian goose, the national bird of Canada, known for its beauty and grace.

Furthermore, the Canadian Rockies, Niagara Falls, and the Northern Lights are natural symbols that represent Canada’s breathtaking landscape.

In 1994, Canada declared ice hockey as the national sport. Hence, the Canadian hockey team, the Mounties, and the Canadian Pacific Railway represent Canada’s culture and history.

Canada’s rich history would be incomplete without the Canadian horse, respected for its endurance, strength, intelligence, and good temper.


Canada’s national animal, the North American beaver, is a unique and fascinating species that embodies many values and qualities Canadians hold dear.

From diligence and perseverance to its importance in Canadian history and culture, the beaver symbolizes Canada’s identity.

Recognizing and protecting this official symbol ensures that Canada remains a proud and vibrant nation.

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