What Was the Job of the Habitants

Habitants, French settlers in New France (present-day Canada) from the 17th to 19th centuries, played a crucial role in the colony’s economy. They were primarily farmers, cultivating crops such as wheat, corn, and peas to feed themselves and the growing population of the colony. They also raised livestock, including cattle, pigs, and sheep, for meat and dairy products. Additionally, habitants engaged in fishing, hunting, and trapping to supplement their income. Their contributions to agriculture and rural life formed the foundation of New France’s economy, providing sustenance and stability for the colony.

Farming and Agriculture

Farming and agriculture were the primary occupations of the habitants. They grew a variety of crops, including wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, and peas. They also raised livestock, such as cattle, pigs, sheep, and horses.

  • Farming:
    • Grew wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, and peas
    • Used plows, harrows, and other simple tools
    • Farmed on small, isolated clearings
  • Livestock:
    • Raised cattle, pigs, sheep, and horses
    • Used livestock for food, clothing, and transportation
    • Grazed livestock on common pastures
Land Use by Habitants
Land UsePercentage

Fur Trading and Trapping

Fur trading and trapping was a significant occupation for the habitants, French colonists who settled in New France (present-day Canada) in the 17th and 18th centuries. The abundance of fur-bearing animals in the region made it a lucrative industry.

Fur Trading

  • Habitants acted as middlemen between Native American trappers and European fur traders.
  • They purchased furs from Native Americans using goods such as guns, knives, and textiles.
  • The furs were then sold to European fur traders for a profit.


  • Some habitants also engaged in trapping themselves.
  • They set traps in the forests to catch animals such as beavers, foxes, and otters.
  • The trapped animals were skinned and their furs sold to fur traders.
Fur Trade in New France
AnimalFur Value


Fishing was a vital source of food and income for the habitants. They fished in the rivers, lakes, and along the coastlines. Common fish species caught by the habitants included cod, salmon, eel, and sturgeon.

  • Used nets, traps, and hooks to catch fish.
  • Sold their surplus catch to local markets or merchants.


Hunting was another important activity for the habitants. They hunted for both food and furs. Common game animals hunted by the habitants included moose, deer, and beaver. Beaver fur was particularly valuable, as it was used to make hats and other items in Europe.

MooseMeat and hide
DeerMeat and hide


Logging was a vital economic activity for the habitants of New France. The forests of the region were vast and rich in valuable trees, such as pine, spruce, and oak. The habitants harvested these trees and transported them to sawmills, where they were processed into lumber and other products. The lumber was then used to build houses, barns, and other structures.


Shipbuilding was another important industry for the habitants. The construction of ships was a complex and time-consuming process, requiring specialized skills and equipment. The habitants were able to build a wide variety of ships, including fishing vessels, merchant ships, and warships. The ships built by the habitants played a vital role in the development of the colony and the expansion of French trade in North America.

LoggingCutting down trees and transporting them to sawmills
SawmillingProcessing logs into lumber and other products
ShipbuildingConstructing ships of various sizes and types

Well, there you have it, folks! The habitants of New France played a vital role in the development of the colony. Thanks for joining me on this little history adventure. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to stick around for more. I’ve got plenty more stories to share with you. Until next time, take care and keep exploring the past!