Canada Thanks You, Mr. Beaver

Castor Canadensis. The Canadian Beaver. Canada owes it’s beginnings to a rodent. A short, fat rodent, at that.

In the 1600’s, European explorers were very disappointed when they discovered that Canada was not the spice-rich Orient, but a land full of beavers. Millions and millions of them. Ever alert to a new product, traders turned beavers into a fashion accessory.  The beaver pelts made very fine fur top hats. Popularity for the hats didn’t fade until an estimated 6 million beavers had disappeared, and the species was close to extinction. (As author Margaret Atwood noted, “Canada was built on dead beavers.”) Fortunately, by the mid-ninteenth century, the winds of fashion changed. Fur hats fell out of favour, and were replaced with silk ones.

The industrious beaver population eventually rebounded, and in 1975 Canada bestowed the greatest honour a rodent has ever received. The Canadian Beaver became an Official Emblem of Canada.

Savage Chicken Cartoon The Beaver likely thought this recognition was long overdue. Oh sure, it had graced Canada’s first postage stamp, the 1851 “Three Penny Beaver”.  And in 1937, it appeared for the first time on the 5 cent coin. But the beaver’s official recognition in 1975 as being an industrious, honest, noble, sincere and dedicated rodent was long over due.

The Beaver’s good name has been used to great advantage for enterprises like Beaver Lumber, Beaver (Scouting), and Canada’s second oldest magazine, The Beaver (which later rebranded itself due to double entendre, the cowards.)

Frank and Gordon – © Bell Mobility

The Canadian Beaver was brought to life on Television with the birth of Bell Canada’s marketing strategy from 2005 to 2008 in the characters of Frank and Gordon. The commercials were a big success, and a few off them are still available for viewing at YouTube.

Beavers are sometimes viewed as being pests. They frequently come into conflict with landowners when they chop down trees and build dams in unwanted places. Under those circumstances, beavers are compared to lawyers:

Reduce the number of lawyers. They are like beavers – they get in the middle of the stream and dam it up.
– Donald Rumsfeld –

Some would say that the cuddly Canadian Beaver is not as inspiring an emblem as the fierce American Eagle. But I think each one fits the country they represent:

The Eagles may soar, beavers build dams.
– Joseph S. Nye Jr. –

8 thoughts on “Canada Thanks You, Mr. Beaver

  1. Thanks for the story Margie, I’m fascinated. The beaver is one of my favourite animals to watch whenever they’re featured on National Geographic or the like. My grandpa used to tell me that beavers are one of the most intelligent wild animals and I couldn’t agree more. They don’t get dubbed as “the engineers of the forest” for nothing 🙂
    P.S. The TV commerical is really cute too!

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    • We have several beaver ponds at the cabin. The grandchildren like to go down to the ponds in the evening and watch the beavers at work. Everyone thought they were so cute until one of them chopped down a tree, which then fell onto a power line, and we were all without electricity for a while.

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  2. Hi Margie,
    I popped over here after you followed my blog. Love the post. I am currently in Maine, and always looking for the little guys (although I see them far more often at home in Northern Virginia.

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    • Thanks for stopping by – glad to hear you are a fan of Mr. Beaver. He isn’t always appreciated, especially when he cuts down a favourite tree!

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  3. We once lived near a small lake here in Virginia which had a solitary beaver in residence. Used to love watching it swim about and slap its tail in defiance. It was doing some serious damage to the surround landscape however. I too thought they were cuddly little fellows until my dog decided to roll in a beaver slick. As I’m sure you know, beavers use the oily skin protection they have naturally to create a “slick” along the bank so that when fell a small tree, it is easier to drag it into the water using this slick. It was the most disgusting, foul-smelling thing my dog ever got into and took a lot of effort to clean off. But then again, she never got into it with a skunk thank goodness.

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