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Clydesdale Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A.

Native Country

Other Names

Adult Height
16h - 18h

Adult Weight
1600 - 2400 LBS

General Description

The outstanding characteristics of this renowned horse are a combination of weight, size and activity, and what is looked for first and last by a Clydesdale enthusiast is the exceptional wearing qualities of feet and limbs. The feet must be round and open with hoof heads wide and springy, for any suspicion of contraction might lead to sidebones or ringbones. To some extent, the further requirements of this breed vary somewhat from the orthodox and should be noted. The horse must have action, but not exaggerated, the inside of every shoe being made visible to anyone walking behind. The forelegs must be well under the shoulders, not carried bull-dog fashion, in fact must hang straight from shoulder to fetlock joint, with no openness at the knee, yet with no inclination to knock. The hind legs must be similar, with the points of the hocks turned inwards rather than outwards, and the pasterns must be long. Distinctive long, silky hair below the knees and hocks draw attention to the stylish lifting of the feet at the trot.

The head must have an open forehead, broad across the eyes, the front of the face must be flat, neither dished nor roman, wide muzzle, large nostrils and a bright, clear, intelligent eye. A well-arched and long neck must spring out of an oblique shoulder with high withers, while the back should be short, with well-sprung ribs, and, as befits a draught horse, the thighs must be packed with muscle and sinew. The most common colors in the Clydesdale breed are bay, black and brown. Roans (solid body color with white hairs throughout the coat) are also seen with some occasional chestnuts. White is seen on the face and legs with white often running into the body. The show ring does not discriminate on color with light roans and horses with dark legs being considered equally with horses of the more solid colors and traditional markings.

It is claimed of the Clydesdale that they are possessed of quality and weight without displaying grossness and bulk, this is largely true. They are certainly active movers for their size and weight, and in consequence, are very popular in many cities and on numerous farms. The Clydesdale generally stands from 16 to 18 hands, and weighs from 1600 to 2400 pounds. Some of the mature stallions and geldings are taller and weigh up to 2400 pounds.


The Clydesdale is a breed of heavy draft horse developed in and deriving its name from the district in Scotland where it was founded. Its type was evolved by the farmers of Lanarkshire, through which the River Clyde flows. The old name for Lanarkshire was Clydesdale.

It was bred to meet not only the agricultural needs of these farmers, but the demands of commerce for the coalfields of Lanarkshire and for all types of heavy haulage on the streets of Glasgow. The breed thus developed and soon acquired more than a local reputation. In time, the breed spread throughout the whole of Scotland and northern England.

The district system of hiring stallions was an early feature of Scottish agriculture and did much to standardize and fix the type of the breed. The records of these hiring societies go back in some cases to 1837. The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in 1877 and has been an active force in promoting the breed not only in Great Britian but throughout the world. The Clydesdale Breeders of the United States is the member organization for the Clydesdale horse. The Association was incorporated on December 4, 1879 as the American Clydesdale Association with members from both the United States and Canada. The first volume of the stud book was ready for distribution at the fourth Annual Meeting in the fall of 1882. The Clydesdale alone, of the British breeds of heavy draft, has enjoyed a steady export trade to all parts of the world. The most active trade has been to commonwealth countries and the United States. The Clydesdale remains popular, though not a numerical leader in Canada and the United States.

The Clydesdale Horse is increasingly popular as a pleasure horse, playing an ever expanding role in the field of recreation. Owners of acreage, businessmen, farmers and light horse enthusiasts are ever more aware of the challenge offered in breeding, foaling, developing and training a Clydesdale. As in all breeds of livestock, the Clydesdale has gone through several changes of emphasis over the years to meet the demands of the times. In the 20s and 30s the demand was for a more compact horse; of late, it has been for a taller, hitchier horse. With the changes in size and type of horse wanted, the Clydesdale emphasis on underpinning has remained paramount.


Following the industrial revolution and the introduction of mechanized farm equipment, the Clydesdale saw a decline in popularity, as did many other draft breeds. However, increasing numbers of draft horse enthusiasts and breeders have ensured the future of the breed worldwide. They are still used on the farm, as well as in "Heritage Days" competitions, where they participate in ploughing and pulling contests. Draft horse hitches are also popular at horse shows.

Probably the most famous Clydesdales are the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales - teams of eight Clydesdales which travel around the United States making public appearances pulling the Budweiser wagon.

Nowadays, increasing numbers of people are choosing to ride their draft horses, and draft crosses and Clydesdales can be seen sporting western saddles in Western pleasure classes, or performing in dressage tests.


The Clydesdale was originally used for agriculture, hauling coal in Lanarkshire and heavy hauling in Glasgow. Today, Clydesdales are still used for draught purposes, including agriculture, logging and driving. They are also shown and ridden, as well as kept for pleasure. Some of the most famous members of the breed are the teams that make up the hitches of the Budweiser Clydesdales. These horses were first owned by the Budweiser Brewery at the end of Prohibition in the United States, and have since become an international symbol of both the breed and the brand. The Budweiser breeding program, with its strict standards of color and conformation, have influenced the look of the breed in the United States to the point that many people believe that Clydesdales are always bay with white markings. As well as being driven, some Clydesdales are used for riding and can be shown under saddle. Clydesdales and Shires are used by the British Household Cavalry as drum horses, leading parades on ceremonial and state occasions. The horses are eye-catching colors, including piebald, skewbald and roan. To be used for this purpose, a drum horse must stand a minimum of 17 hands (68 inches, 173 cm) high. They carry the Musical Ride Officer and two silver drums weighing 56 kilograms (123 lb) each.

In the late 19th century, Clydesdale blood was added to the Irish draught breed in an attempt to improve and reinvigorate that declining breed. However, these efforts were not seen as successful, as Irish Draught breeders thought the Clydesdale blood made their horses coarser and prone to lower leg defaults. The Clydesdale was instrumental in the creation of the Gypsy Vanner horse, developed in Great Britain. The Clydesdale, along with other draught breeds, was also used to create the Australian Draught Horse. In the early 20th century, they were often crossed with Dales ponies, creating mid-sized draught horses useful for pulling commercial wagons and military artillery.


"Scratches" or pododermititis are more prevalent in horses that are subjected to wet muddy conditions for extended periods. Horses with white feet seem also to be more susceptible to scratches.

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