Parks Canada announces names for new Percheron horses at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

Contest winner chose names to honour Foothills area ranching pioneer

PEKISKO, AB, April 7, 2016 /CNW/ - Following a public contest launched in December 2015 that attracted national media attention and over a thousand entries, Parks Canada is proud to announce the names of the newest additions of Percheron horsepower at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site are "Poca" and "Terra".

Acquired from a local breeder, the five and eight-year-old black male purebred Percherons demonstrate the historic importance of these gentle giants to the ranch. The horses, a French breed of draft horse, will shuttle guests by wagon into the historic centre of the Bar U Ranch when it swings its doors open for the 2016 visitor season on May 16.

Suggested by Jim Barbaro, a 71-year-old retired Calgary firefighter who lives in Sundre, Alberta, the names mark the pioneering contributions of George Pocaterra, an Italian immigrant who fell in love with the foothills and mountains of southern Alberta. Barbaro will receive a Parks Canada Family Discovery Pass, providing 2 years of unlimited opportunities to enjoy national parks, national marine conservation areas and national historic sites across Canada.

Born in an Alpine valley not far from Venice, Italy, George Pocaterra arrived in Canada in 1903 with $3.75 in his pocket. He worked as a ranch hand, trapper, hunter, explorer, coal prospector and operatic stage manager. Pocaterra married Calgary opera singer, Norma Piper. In 1905, he established the Buffalo Head Ranch in the Highwood Valley north of the Bar U Ranch, which became one of the first 'dude' ranches in Canada. Through his friendship with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, Pocaterra became one of the first Europeans to extensively explore the Kananaskis area. Several features in the region are named after him including Pocaterra Creek, Pocaterra Ridge, and Mount Pocaterra. George Pocaterra died in Calgary in 1972 at the age of 89.    

Quick Facts

  • George Pocaterra was fluent in four European languages as well as Stoney Nakoda.
  • In the early part of the twentieth century, George Lane, the second Bar U Ranch owner, acquired some of the finest Percheron horses from France and the United States and raised the largest and arguably most famous Percheron herd in the world. At one time, it numbered over 1000.
  • The Bar U Ranch is the only Parks Canada administered national historic site that commemorates the importance of ranching to the development of Canada.


"After reviewing over 1,000 name suggestions submitted by members of the public, we're delighted to welcome Poca and Terra to the team at the Bar U Ranch. These beautiful, yet powerful horses were crucial to the success of early farming and ranching efforts in the area and are linked to the Bar U and the importance of western culture in our history. National historic sites like the Bar U Ranch connect people with our nation's rich heritage."

Travis Weber, Manager, Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

"I've always been interested in George Pocaterra and his part in our history. My family was of Italian descent and knew the Pocaterras when they lived in Calgary. My father was a pall bearer at his funeral. I thought Poca and Terra would be good names for the Bar U horses."

Jim Barbaro, Sundre, Alberta

Associated Links

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site Twitter

Friends of the Bar U Facebook


SOURCE Parks Canada

Image with caption: "Meet the new team at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Terra and Poca. ©Parks Canada (CNW Group/Parks Canada)". Image available at:

For further information: John Stoesser, Communications Officer, Waterton Lakes Field Unit, Parks Canada, 403-859-5127,; Jim Barbaro, Sundre, Alberta, 403-638-3776; Media Relations, Parks Canada Agency, 855-862-1812,,

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