Bar U Ranch Percherons named after pioneer

After being flooded with suggestions from members of the public, Parks Canada has named its two new Percherons.

“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,” said Travis Weber, manager of the national historic site.

Jim Barbaro suggested the names to honour the pioneering contributions of George Pocaterra, an Italian immigrant who fell in love with the foothills and mountains of southern Alberta.

“I’ve always been interested in George Pocaterra and his part in our history,” said Barbaro, a 71-year-old retired Calgary firefighter who lives in Sundre. “My family was of Italian descent and knew the Pocaterras when they lived in Calgary. My father was a pallbearer at his funeral. I thought Poca and Terra would be good names for the Bar U horses.”

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Pocaterra arrived in Canada in 1903 with $3.75 in his pocket, and worked as a ranch hand, trapper, hunter, explorer, coal prospector and operatic stage manager. 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.

The five- and eight-year-old black male purebred Percherons were acquired last year from a local breeder in order to demonstrate the historic importance of these gentle giants to the 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,” said Weber.

Poca and Terra 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.

Barbaro received a two-year pass to national parks, marine conservation areas, and historic sites across Canada for his winning suggestion.

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