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C.H. Olson Was Cando’s Horse King


North Dakotans have not always been privileged to own cars and tractors. Before such luxuries existed, horses served as the main means of travel; and they pulled plows and hauled heavy loads on farms. Buying and selling horses was a vital part of life even after automobiles and tractors became common.

One of North Dakota’s prominent horse dealers was C. H. Olson, a banker and farmer from Cando. He wanted to improve the stock of workhorses and went all the way to Europe to import the finest draft horses from overseas. It was on this date in 1912 that the Bismarck Daily Tribune reported that Olson had arrived back home in Cando – along with forty-nine of the strongest draft-horses ever brought into the state.

Olson had encountered some difficult times on his European voyage. He had waited in London for a shipload of twelve horses, but the ship was late and he had to leave, but the tardy ship finally caught up to Olson’s ship at a location 100 miles off the coast. There, the two ships dropped anchor and used a derrick to lift each workhorse – in a huge basket – from one ship to the other.

Later, one horse became ill with “shipping fever,” which developed into pneumonia. The horse died after arrival in New York.

Finally, a long train ride of ten days brought the 49 horses – 34 Percherons and 6 Belgians – home to Cando. Each Belgian had a gentle disposition, heavy muscles, and a beautiful appearance, having a chestnut-colored coat with creamy-white tail and mane. The Percherons were powerful, like Belgians, but with gray or black coats. Mr. Olson sold 27 of the draft-horses, keeping 22 for himself or for later sale.

The eventful trip to Europe was such a success that he returned in the fall of 1912, and brought back 100 more of the best draft horses money could buy. Farmers were thankful because horses were cheaper to buy than tractors; and demand for the heavy horses continued to exceed supply.

Because of Olson, the overall quality of horses in North Dakota improved significantly, and it was appropriate that Cando’s C.H. Olson (1861-1941) became known as North Dakota’s “Horse King.”

Dakota Datebook written by Michelle Holien and Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

Sources: “Cando Men Bring Horses From Europe,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, April 18, 1912, p. 2.

“Carload of Prize Horses Will Be On Exhibit At the Lake Region Horse Show Saturday,” Devils Lake Weekly World, April 5, 1912, p. 1.

“C[hristian]. H. Olson of Cando Has Thrilling Experiences,” Devils Lake Weekly World, April 5, 1912, p. 1.

“Is Due October Fourth With Train Of Horses,” Devils Lake Inter-Ocean, September 20, 1912, p. 2.

“Olson Special Train Of Horses Arrives Safely,” Devils Lake Inter-Ocean, October 4, 1912, p. 1.

“Cando Man Bringing 100 Belgian Horses Into N.D.,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, October 4, 1912, p. 2.

“Cost Of Work Horses,” Grand Forks Herald, November 16, 1921.

“Horses,” Grand Forks Herald, October 11, 1914, p. 4.