Dr. W.J. Rutherford, U of S College of Agriculture’s first dean, strongly supported the development of a veterinary college at the university. Photo: U of S Archives (A-2109).

Veterinary medicine part of U of S history

The University of Saskatchewan officially became home to a college of veterinary medicine in August 1963 — but the university's close links with animal health and veterinary science began much earlier in its 108-year history.

Two years after the U of S was established in 1907, workers began to build a comprehensive working farm on the university's Saskatoon site. For William Rutherford, dean of the university's College of Agriculture, the farm was critical to the research, teaching and extension work of the agricultural college. Its operation included crops and a variety of livestock — swine, sheep, poultry, beef and dairy cattle, and horses.

The U of S farm soon became an agricultural centre where students, professors and local producers learned the best techniques in crop production, farm management, livestock breeding enhancement as well as animal health and veterinary science.

Instruction in veterinary science began as early as 1913 at the U of S College of Agriculture, and an official department of veterinary science was established in 1923 — one year before the university's animal diseases laboratory opened in 1924.

Although the idea of establishing a regional veterinary college was considered by Rutherford as early as the 1920s, it would take another four decades before discussions among representatives of Canada's four western provinces reached fruition.

The result was the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) — a vibrant centre of veterinary education, research and expertise for the entire region. A half-century after its first students began the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, the WCVM has developed into a world-class institution whose facilities and programs continue to grow and adapt to the changing needs of its stakeholders across Western Canada.

The WCVM is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015. Throughout the year, WCVM Today will post stories that highlight the WCVM's history as well as its people, programs and successes.

Visit www.usask.ca/wcvm/fifty-years for more details about the WCVM's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2015.
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