coureurs de bois

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coureurs de bois (kōōrör´ də bwä) [Fr.,=woods runners], unlicensed traders during the French regime in Canada. Traders were required to be licensed, but to only a favored few were licenses granted. The coureurs de bois defied regulations and ventured into the Canadian wilderness. Although they stimulated the growth of the fur trade and the exploration of Canada, their defiance caused problems for the government of New France and contributed to poor relations with the Native Americans, to whom they sold liquor. Toward the end of the 17th cent. it was estimated that one third of the able-bodied men of the colony were coureurs de bois, although this may be an exaggeration.