Article by: Tim Collard & Mark Boothby
This article was published in the Cochrane Times March 4th, 2020
CHAPS exhibits at the Cochrane Historical Museum for the 2020 season will be on the impact of horses on the town and area. From the practical use of horses to horse racing, polo, steeplechase, rodeo and serving in World War 1 many famous horses were raised in the area. This article focuses on race horses and will be the first of several. Photos courtesy of the Glenbow Archives.
Owned by D.W. Kerfoot, The Dude won one of the first recorded horse races in Cochrane. In 1891, W.D. Kerfoot and his brother-in-law, William Bell-Irving, competed in a match race which Kerfoot won by a nose. The Dude was the first of many Kerfoot horses to win races in Cochrane.
Purported to be the first thoroughbred in the North West Territories (then comprising Alberta and Saskatchewan) Konrad (sometimes spelled Conrad) was imported from England by the Bow River Horse Ranch around 1886. Konrad and another horse called Moss Trooper were the first thoroughbred sires used in the Cochrane District.
Dixie Land was another Kerfoot horse. In 1895, Kerfoot won races at both the Cochrane and Mitford race meet and the Calgary race meet onboard Dixie Land. The horse would go on to win races across the continent, including in Winnipeg and San Francisco before eventually being sold and shipped to Australia where it continued to win races on the Australian racing circuit.
Cyclone was bred by G.E. Goddard of the Bow River Horse Ranch and was the offspring of another famous horse imported by the Bow River Horse Ranch, “Juryman” who had won the Belmont Stakes before being imported to the Cochrane area. Goddard raced Cyclone as a two-year-old before selling him to A.J. Murphy of Cochrane in the 1890s, Cyclone and Dixie Land were the most famous racehorses in the West. Cyclone won almost every race he entered, with victories in Cochrane, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Grand Forks, ND, and Windsor. Sporting Murphy’s green and gold silks, Cyclone was one of the most successful horses to come out of the Cochrane area.
Another famous Cochrane horse, Smokey, owned by D.P. McDonald, was famous for his jumping ability. In 1914, at the Calgary Horse Show, 17-year-old Smokey set a record for the highest jump by an Alberta bred horse when he cleared a seven-foot hurdle with Cochrane boy, Percy Sawtell, riding him. This was Smokey’s last public appearance and his record stood until 1925. Though Smokey rose to prominence under the ownership of D.P. McDonald, Smokey was bred on the Kerfoot ranch before being sold to D.P. McDonald.