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Giant Beaver

The giant beaver (Castoroides ohioensis) is an extinct rodent that lived in North America between 1.4 million and 10,000 years ago. It was a distant cousin to modern beavers, but in many ways may have been more similar to modern capybaras. The giant beaver was one of the largest rodents ever to roam the Earth, and one of approximately 30 extinct genera of beavers. Only two beaver species survive today: the North American beaver and the Eurasian beaver. The giant beaver received its scientific name after remains were found in 1837 in Ohio. In Canada, giant beaver fossils have been found on Indian Island, New Brunswick; in Toronto and near Highgate, Ontario; and in Old Crow Basin, Yukon. They live on in the oral history of many Indigenous peoples, including the Innu, Seneca, eastern Cree, Chippewa and Vuntut Gwitchin.



Voyageurs were independent contractors, workers or minor partners in companies involved in the fur trade. They were licensed to transport goods to trading posts and were usually forbidden to do any trading of their own. The fur trade changed over the years, as did the groups of men working in it. In the 17th century, voyageurs were often coureurs des bois — unlicensed traders responsible for delivering trade goods from suppliers to Indigenous peoples. The implementation of the trading licence system in 1681 set voyageurs apart from coureurs des bois, who were then considered outlaws of sorts. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs. Their life was full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.


Fur Trade in Canada

The fur trade was a vast commercial enterprise across the wild, forested expanse of what is now Canada. It was at its peak for nearly 250 years, from the early 17th to the mid-19th centuries. It was sustained primarily by the trapping of beavers to satisfy the European demand for felt hats. The intensely competitive trade opened the continent to exploration and settlement. It financed missionary work, established social, economic and colonial relationships between Europeans and Indigenous people, and played a formative role in the creation and development of Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about the fur trade. For a plain-language summary, please see Fur Trade in Canada (Plain Language Summary).)