Sable Island Horse
The legendary wild horses of Sable Island symbolize the will to survive in a harsh environment. Some claim that their ancestors were survivors of shipwrecks. Others believe they were left by Norsemen, or John Cabot, or Portuguese explorers, or Acadians. But they were most likely left on the island by an opportunistic Boston merchant hired to transport Acadians during the Expulsion. Scientists who have studied the horses’ genetic origins say they may be distantly related to Icelandic horses. Whatever their origins, they are among the few wild horse populations left in this world.
In 1960, when the Canadian government announced that the horses would be removed from the island and auctioned off or slaughtered for dog food, a public outcry ensued. School children across Canada wrote Prime Minister John Diefenbaker pleading with him to stop the cull. The horses of Sable Island are a national treasure both because their legend is linked to the settlement of Nova Scotia and Canada and because their continued survival shows the world that children, standing up for what they believe is right, can make a difference.
The Sable Island Horse was declared the Provincial Horse in 2008.Back to Symbols
The most popular sportfish in the province, the brook or speckled trout goes by the scientific name Salvelinus fontinalis. Considered by many to be the most beautiful of our freshwater fishes, it is dark green to brown in colour with a distinctive sprinkling of red dots, surrounded by blue haloes, along the flanks. Although it is called a trout, it is really a member of the char family and is closely related to arctic char.
Found throughout the province from Yarmouth to Cape Breton, brook trout in Nova Scotia generally spawn in October and November in shallow riffle areas of streams. Young trout hatch early in the spring and emerge from the gravel to begin eating aquatic insects. Brook trout grow quickly, and after one year they can be from 5 to 10 cm long. Later growth is often dependent on habitat and life history. Brook trout that spend some of their lives in saltwater can reach 2 kg; while those that spend all their lives in freshwater lakes and streams rarely exceed 500 g. The largest brook trout recorded from Nova Scotia was a sea-run fish caught in Halifax County in 1871 that weighed 3.4 kg and was 60 cm long.
The brook trout was declared the Provincial Fish of Nova Scotia on November 23, 2006, by an act of the House of Assembly.Back to Symbols
Queens Soil develops from reddish brown, clay loam tills originating from red shale and sandstone. This soil can be found along many of our major river valleys, including the rolling hills along the Shubenacadie River. In a province where many of the soils are sandy and impoverished, the Queens Soil Series stands out for its productiveness and wide range of resource uses. Much of the provinces 300,000 hectares of Queens soil is cultivated to forage crops that support the dairy and cattle industries. It is highly productive when properly managed. Its impermeable nature slows water drainage, which aids plant growth during dry periods. Forests on this soil are usually well stocked with red spruce, hemlock, sugar maple, and yellow birch. The Queens Soil Series was recognized as a provincial symbol in May 2008.Back to Symbols
Nova Scotia's provincial fossil, Hylonomus lyelli, is the oldest known reptile in the world. Dating back 315 million years, it is the ancestor of subsequent reptiles, including dinosaurs and, much later, mammals. The fossilized bones of Hylonomus lyelli have been found in the fossil remains of hollowed-out tree stumps at the famous fossil cliffs of Joggins, NS.
Nova Scotia–born geologist Sir William Dawson first discovered Hylonomus lyelli in the mid-1800s. The name Hylonomus derives from a combination of the Greek word for 'wood' and the Latin word for 'mouse'. Lyelli is in honour of Dawson's mentor, Sir Charles Lyell, British author of the Principles of Geology and one of the most influential geologists of the 19th century.
Hylonomus lyelli looked very similar to modern lizards. It had a very slender body and reached 20 centimetres in length, including the tail. Hylonomus lyelli was an insectivore and used its small, sharp teeth to feed on millipedes and insects.
Hylonomus lyelli was declared the Provincial Fossil of Nova Scotia in 2002 by an Act of the House of Assembly.
The beautiful wheat-sheaf structures in white, grey, yellow, or brownish-red identify the mineral stilbite. It is one of the minerals from the zeolite group, abundant in the Jurassic-aged basalt flows along the Bay of Fundy and Minas Basin. Stilbite is sometimes found in older basalt flows elsewhere in the province. Nova Scotia stilbite is noted widely in mineral books for its beautiful crystals, pleasing colours, and relative abundance.
Stilbite and the other zeolites are excellent natural filters because of their structure and chemically sticky surfaces. They have many diverse uses from water softeners and filter components to molecular sponges. On November 23, 1999, stilbite was declared the Provincial Mineral of Nova Scotia by an Act of the House of Assembly.
Agate is a variegated and banded form of quartz, usually found in concentric bands with a beautiful translucency. It is used for jewellery and for viewing as a "collectible." White and grey are common colours for agate, but blue and other colours may be found. Moss and banded agate are very delicate and beautiful.
All of the varied forms of agate are common in the dark-coloured basalt flows of Jurassic age. These basalts form the spectacular hills around the Bay of Fundy and represent rock units deposited during the time of dinosaurs in Nova Scotia. Agate is the birthstone for May, the month in which Nova Scotia's provincial flower, the mayflower, first blooms. On November 23, 1999, agate was declared the Provincial Gemstone of Nova Scotia by an Act of the House of Assembly.
Bluenose II is Nova Scotia's sailing ambassador; she is a replica of the famous schooner Bluenose (c. 1921-46) and is a worthy tribute to her predecessor. She is 43.5 metres (143 feet) in length and was launched from the Lunenburg shipyard of Smith and Rhuland in July 1963. Six months later, on her maiden voyage, she fought for her life in winds gusting to 190 kilometres per hour (120 miles per hour). Captain Angus Walters—the man who piloted the original Bluenose to racing fame—was on board for this inaugural run to the West Indies; he said it was one of the worst storms he had ever experienced.
Naturally, the speed of the Bluenose II is compared to the original schooner. However, she was not built to challenge the glorious triumphs of her namesake, but to commemorate them.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, the smallest of all retrievers, is a purely Canadian breed. Known for its intelligence and endurance, as well as being an excellent pet, this medium size dog tolls, or lures, the game, rather than retrieving it. It entices waterfowl to get within range of the hunter in his blind.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever has been bred in Nova Scotia for more than a hundred years and was given its Canadian Kennel Club designation as an official breed in 1945. For many years tollers were seldom seen outside the Maritimes, but this is no longer the case. For some, the breed came of age in 1980, when two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers were awarded Best in Show at championship events that included many breeds.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was declared the Provincial Dog in 1995 by an Act of the House of Assembly.
The osprey is a bird of prey that is smaller than an eagle, but larger than a hawk. They can be seen hovering in coastal areas, as they hunt for fish in bays, lakes and rivers. They make a spectacular feet-first dive for prey, and then, with their powerful wings, rise up from the water carrying the fish in their talons. They feed primarily on tomcod and flounder, or, in fresh water, they can be seen to catch suckers, perch and gaspereau.
Their nests, which are used from year to year, are massive bundles of sticks, often quite conspicuous in dead trees, power poles, and even cliff tops. Ospreys migrate south in the fall, to the southern United States and Central and South America. Second-year birds remain in the wintering grounds over summer while the adults return to breed. There are currently about 400 breeding pairs in the province.
The osprey was declared the Provincial Bird by an Act of the House of Assembly in 1994.
The wild blueberry is a significant part of our provincial heritage and natural vegetation, and has been the key to a remarkable story of economic growth and development in Nova Scotia.
Wild blueberries are native to Nova Scotia, and throughout the course of history have always been very popular. Originally found in the wild, and picked by hand, this fruit is now widely cultivated and many fields are harvested with machines. Over the past 50 years, with the development of new agricultural and management methods and improvements in processing, shipping, and marketing, a commercial wild blueberry industry has grown from a small local fresh market to become a significant frozen food export business. Nova Scotia's wild blueberries are sold in over 20 countries around the world, and the industry makes a substantial contribution to the economy. The province is one of five regions in Canada where wild blueberries can be grown and is the largest producer of wild blueberries in the country.
On January 11, 1996, the wild blueberry was declared the Provincial Berry of Nova Scotia by an Act of the House of Assembly.
The Red Spruce—like its native province—has many remarkable traits. It can thrive in a variety of places, from bogs to rocky shallow soils. In favourable sites it can exceed 30 metres (100 feet) in height, though its average is 25 metres (80 feet). Unlike most conifers, it can survive for decades in deep shade and rebound after the forest has been thinned to thrive for one or two more centuries. It does not cast seed or regenerate naturally for at least 75 to 100 years, though it can live as long as 400 years. It is the number one sawn lumber product of the province, and second in pulpwood.
The magnificent Red Spruce has always played an important part in Nova Scotia's history. In the early days of shipbuilding when white pine was scarce, our craftsmen turned to the Red Spruce. When pioneers were fighting off scurvy, the new twigs of the Red Spruce steeped and fermented in water provided the cure. Today, it is a mainstay of our economy—and a proud symbol for all Nova Scotians. The Red Spruce represents the strength and versatility of the people of Nova Scotia. It was declared the Provincial Tree in 1988 by an Act of the House of Assembly.
The delicate pink mayflower, blooming in the forest glades in early spring, signifies Nova Scotia's coming of age. As far back as 1820 the mayflower emerged as a native patriotic symbol, suggesting high achievement in the face of adversity. The humble evergreen from the native countryside blossoms amid the last remaining snows of winter. From the 1830s through the end of the century, the emblematic mayflower was celebrated in songs, poetry, and political oratory. It graced the Lieutenant-Governor's chain of state, the stamps and coins of the province, and the decorative brass of its militia. Citizens displayed it on lapels, and banners, and at least two newspapers were named for the mayflower. In 1901 by an Act of the Legislature, the Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens), commonly known as the mayflower, was declared to be the Provincial Flower of Nova Scotia, and to have been so from time immemorial.Back to Symbols
Nova Scotia Tartan
The Nova Scotia Tartan was the first provincial tartan in Canada. It reflects the profound contribution of the Scots to the founding of Nova Scotia, and the pioneer settlement of the old Royal Province. The very name Nova Scotia resounds with early Scottish colonial ambition; in Jacobean Latin it meant New Scotland. Being one among many large groups of settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Scots brought with them the powerful lore of the Highlands. From this, the folk art revival of the present century brought forth Nova Scotia's recent emblem. Originally designed by Bessie Murray in 1953 for the agricultural exhibition in Truro, the popular tartan was adopted by the Province in 1955 through an Order in Council. It was later submitted for approval of the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms and, in 1956, was registered with Her Majesty's Register Office in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1964, the Tartan Act was passed by the House of Assembly. A district tartan that may be worn by anyone, its blue and white are for the surf-ridden sea, greens for the forests, red for the royal lion on the Arms of Nova Scotia, and gold for the province's historic Royal Charter.Back to Symbols
Visual Identity Program
In 1996 the Government of Nova Scotia adopted the flag symbol as the centerpiece of the new provincial Visual Identity Program. Its heritage lies in the flag of the province. Graphic modifications were made in 2002 to update and simplify the mark and to make it unique.
This symbol is now used by Nova Scotia government departments and the majority of agencies and commissions for stationery, advertising, signage, publications, the Internet, multimedia presentations, exhibits and displays as the consistent visual form by which the province identifies itself both within government and to the public.
Use of the Armorial achievement (coat of arms) is retained for the Premier, royal commissions, ministers, the judiciary, Cabinet committees and use in legislative printing.
The House of Assembly Crest
The Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly and branches of the Speaker's administration, such as Select Committees and the Legislative Library, are identified by the House of Assembly Crest.
This crest is derived from the Shield of Arms for the province with the addition of St. Edward's crown placed at the top of the shield. This crown, which appears in many items of contemporary use throughout Great Britain and the Commonwealth, was chosen by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II as part of the Royal insignia.
The historic links between Nova Scotia and Great Britain are remembered in the use of the House of Assembly Crest on stationery, House of Assembly publications, and Select Committee reports.
The mace is the elegant and ancient symbol of the Royal Authority, delegated in Nova Scotia to the House of Assembly. Originally a battle weapon, carried by the royal bodyguard when medieval English kings conducted their own assemblies, the mace became emblematic of the transfer of power to the English Parliament. As the Speaker became responsible to the House rather than the King, the power of the Crown was represented in the ceremonial mace. When the Nova Scotia Assembly is in session, the mace is the Speaker's authority to conduct the business of the House, and is always in the care of the Sergeant-at-Arms.
The present mace was a gift to the House of Assembly, in 1930, from the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, the Honourable Robert E. Harris and Mrs. Harris. It is silver gilt and 1.2 metres (four feet) tall. Depicted in the glittering surfaces of the mace are the Royal Crown, the Armorial Achievement of Nova Scotia, the Great Seal of the Province, and the floral emblem of Nova Scotia, the mayflower.
Order of Nova Scotia
The Order of Nova Scotia is Nova Scotia's highest honour. It is awarded to Nova Scotians who have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life or social or economic well-being of the province, have made an outstanding achievement, or have excelled in any field of endeavour, to the benefit of the people of the province or elsewhere.
The medal is in the form of the five-petalled mayflower, which has been a patriotic symbol for Nova Scotia as far back as 1820. At the heart of the flower is the Shield of Arms for Nova Scotia, which were granted in 1625. They bring together elements from both the royal and national arms of Scotland. The shield is surmounted by St. Edward's crown, which was chosen by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the royal insignia.
The colours of the medal are those found in the Nova Scotia tartan, while the ribbon of blue, gold, white, and red mirrors the colours of the provincial flag.
Up to five new members are named to the Order of Nova Scotia each year. They are chosen by an independent advisory council from nominations received from the public. The Order of Nova Scotia was established in 2002.
The Flag of Nova Scotia
The graceful flag of Nova Scotia was the first flag in the overseas Commonwealth to be authorized by Royal Charter. It is derived from the ancient Arms granted in 1625 by King Charles I. In response to a petition of the province in 1929, a Royal Warrant of King George V revoked the modern Arms that had been put in place with Confederation. The Ancient and Honourable Arms were restored to be "borne for the said Province of Nova Scotia upon Seals, Shields, Banners or otherwise according to the Laws of Arms." The flag consists of Arms, with the cross of Saint Andrew extended in a rectangle three-quarters as wide as its length. It is a symbol of the Crown in the right of the province, and its use today is determined by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. It is now flown on provincial buildings, and on public and private flagstaffs throughout the province. Its first usage in the modern era was on the high seas, when it flew at the masthead of many Nova Scotian merchant ships in the boisterous age of sail.Back to Symbols
Shield of Arms
The Arms of Nova Scotia represent a unique union of the Royal and National Arms of Scotland. When King Charles I granted these Arms in 1625, it was considered a mark of royal favor. The blue cross on a field of white or silver is the cross of Saint Andrew from the National Arms, but with the colors reversed. The shield of the Royal Arms contains the royal lion within a double red border on a field of yellow or gold and is at the centre.
Records of the Ancient Arms of Nova Scotia disappeared with the loss of the early Lyon Register during the English Civil War. They were not re-entered by the Lyon Court until after 1805.
Nova Scotia's interest in the ancient Arms languished until undistinguished new Arms were substituted in 1868. Resistance to the new Arms grew, however. While ceremonies in 1921 marked the 300th anniversary of the province's Royal Charter, historians and scholars meeting in Annapolis Royal successfully petitioned the provincial government to seek restoration of the ancient Arms of Nova Scotia.
Coat of Arms
The Ancient Arms of Nova Scotia are the oldest and grandest in all the Commonwealth countries overseas. They were granted to the Royal Province of Nova Scotia in 1625 by King Charles I in support of the first British colonial effort on the Canadian mainland. The Arms were borne by the Baronets of Nova Scotia. The Scottish statesman Sir William Alexander (who named the province) established the British territorial claims which were later realized. The complete Armorial Achievement includes the Arms, surmounted by a royal helm with a blue and silver scroll or mantling representing the royal cloak. Above is the crest of heraldic symbols: two joined hands, one armoured and the other bare, supporting a spray of laurel for peace and thistle for Scotland. On the left is the mythical royal unicorn and on the right a 17th-century representation of the North American Indian. Above, the motto reads: One defends and the other conquers. Entwined with the thistle of Scotland at the base is the mayflower, floral emblem of Nova Scotia which was added in 1929.Back to Symbols