Originated in the French intervention in Algeria in 1830, when the local "Zouavis" tribe joined the French army as auxiliary troops. They were noted for their outstanding bravery as well as their attractive and rather mysterious oriental dress with turbans, short braided jackets and voluminous baggy trousers. Several regiments were raised in the regular forces, recruiting Frenchmen fascinated by the "oriental" mystique as they discovered the Arab cultures of North Africa. During the Crimean War, Zouave regiments gave an outstanding account of themselves at the siege of Sebastopol and were lauded by the world press. They consequently became fashionable and many national armies, notably in the United States and Brazil, started having Zouave-style units in their regular or reserve forces. In Canada, as in Britain, the infatuation with Zouaves was initially rather low-keyed. The only militia Zouave unit to have been raised in Canada was the volunteer "Company of Zouaves" formed in St. John, New Brunswick, on December 8, 1862 and amalgamated as No. 5 ‘Zouaves’ Company into the Saint John Volunteer Battalion on April 12, 1863. Its uniform was "French blue [a pale shade of light blue] Zouave jacket and vest, loose blue breeches fastened at the knee, and red French cap." The company disbanded itself, in March 1866, because its men refused to adopt the battalion’s regulation scarlet uniform. This was not to be the end of Zouaves in Canada, as dramatic events in far-off Italy in the 1860s were to lead to the formation of one of the country’s largest para-military organizations, which remained active for over a century.
See also: Pontifical Zouaves