Who Were the Coureur de Bois?

The coureur de bois were the traders of fur known as “wood-runners”. These wood runners were relatively young men ranging from twenties to thirties. They were labeled unlicensed traders when the French authorities decided to regulate the traders to keep the fur industry as profitable as they can. Since furs had become a big part of the European fashion during the 16th and 17th century, thousands of men risk traveling across the waters through the forest of North America just to seek for beaver skin and pelts. It was a growing industry and coureur des bois travels long ways into the woods for trades.

The furs that are being trade from Russia and Scandinavia were very expensive for the French Furriers and they happen to not always be the best qualities of fur. This made most merchants realize that they could definitely make the most out of the North American furs, which were very abundant and diversified at that time, due to the harsh climate. The fur trade became a big part of the French colonization efforts. It was the fur trade that allowed the exploration of different territories including the establishments of good trading relationships with the Aboriginal people.

During the end of the 17th century, they had estimated the men of the colony and there were around one-third of these able-bodied men were coureurs de bois. Coureurs de bois had played a vital role in the development of the fur trade including the exploration of different areas under the French regime. The coureur des bois was also the one that forced the exploration of more lands.

These men were dedicated to the fur trade. They had white wives (beautiful American women that were easily available) that are often left in the valley of St. Lawrence for some good parts of the time. Some of the coureurs des bois had planned to have a life and settle down in the pays d’en bas or the known as the lower country. This is when the time came for them to retire and just live off the money they have saved from their trades. They had wanted to have a family and many got married during their early 20s. The wives knew the risk and temptations that their husbands might face. Still, they choose to marry them. It had been said that coureurs des bois keep these women in their thoughts during hard work in the woods.

The women knew they had to be strong and patient during the early years of marriage even when they were alone for several months, sometimes even years. There were few white women that actually dared to take the venture into the woods. When coureur des bois retired as they had planned, they returned to them.

These men were ordinary men who happen to have an extraordinary love for trade and sometimes adventure. They seek freedom in their lives. They wanted new things to explore and this had always brought them joy. And sure they weren’t afraid of the danger brought by their adventure.

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