Wilfrid J.R. Fowler

Wilfrid J.R. Fowler

1878 - 1955

Dr. Wilfrid J. R. Fowler was a well-known horse veterinarian and livestock judge who played an instrumental role in developing the Ontario Veterinary College. Throughout his life he had always demonstrated a deep interest in the advancement of the livestock industry. He was born in 1878 on a farm in Seaforth, Huron County. As his community was a centre for high-class Clydesdale breeding, he grew up with a fascination with and admiration for the breed. His childhood love for Clydesdales ultimately influenced his decision to pursue a career in livestock.

He attended public school in Seaforth before enrolling at the Ontario Veterinary College, graduating with high honours in 1899. He obtained the highest standing in his examinations that had been obtained by any graduate up to that time. His academic achievements so impressed the Principal, Dr. Andrew Smith, that he was asked to become an integral member of the college staff. Thus launched a fifty year career with the O.V.C.

Fowler established a Veterinary Infirmary in Toronto, which soon became one of the biggest institutions of its kind in the country. It was financially successful and became very popular. He obtained the distinction of being the first professional veterinarian in Canada to teach the surgery of domestic animals. His skill in operating, and particularly his speed, was such that he won considerable renown, and his veterinary prowess was soon so well-known that he was invited to veterinary clinics in France and Britain.

In addition to his work with horses, Fowler enacted several important changes to further education regarding livestock. He established a scholarship at the Ontario Agricultural College, through which a substantial yearly prize of $50 was given to the student obtaining the highest record in livestock judging during the two-year course. Furthermore, he was involved in relocating the O.V.C. to Guelph, where it underwent essential developments.

He was also a renown judge and breeder of Hackney horses and ponies, as well as Shetland ponies. He was an enthusiast who firmly believed in maintaining the best of the breed obtainable. Among other events, he officiated at the first Royal Winter Fair in 1922 and served as Hackney judge at the 1924 Canadian National Exhibition. Although he was known for being a judge, he did not shy away from participating in competitions himself. At the 1924 Guelph Winter Show he famously accepted a challenge to put his pony through its facings for championships honours, which he achieved to the great excitement of the crowd.

Fowler’s involvement in livestock organizations was extensive as he actively and enthusiastically took a hand in furthering the horse interests of his country. He served as President of the Canadian Pony Society and the President of the Canadian Hackney Horse Society from 1921 to 1925. He also served as President of the Ontario Veterinary Association from 1913 to 1916. In his later career (1930s and 1940s) he was chairman of the Ontario Stallion Enrollment board.

Fowler earned many prestigious honours throughout his career, notably the Croix de Chevalier du Mérite Agricole du France. A 1924 article of the Canadian Countryman newspaper noted that “his enthusiasm, his desire to see things done, and his desire to play fair at all times, make him a distinct asset to the cause he champions.” He died in 1955, leaving behind a legacy of being one of the finest horse veterinarians in the country.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture