Breed Breakdown – Clydesdale Horse

All About the Clydesdale 

Clydesdale horse in a field

The Clydesdale horse is one of the most recognizable horse breeds. Partially thanks to Budweiser but also because they have been a symbol of Americana and strength since they first came to the USA.


 Breed History

Clydesdales were developed in Clydesdale, Scotland. Flemish stallions were crossed with Scottish mares in the mid 18th century, resulting with a large, powerful foal. Immediately the mix became a tool to Scottish farmers. The Clydesdale Horse Society of Scotland was formed in 1877 when the breed was officially registered. Two years later, the American Clydesdale Association followed.

WW1 sent the breed into a decline. As machinery became more prevalent and farms became more mechanized, drafts weren’t as needed. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust considered them almost extinct and little efforts in America and Europe were made to revive the breed.

Fortunately, the Clydesdale had fans in Australia and New Zealand. In 1918 The Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society and are credited with saving the breed. Such extensive breeding was done in Australia that other draught horses were practically nonexistent. Also known as “the breed that built Australia”, Clydesdales were used in almost every aspect of Australian life.

It wasn’t till the 1970’s when Clydesdales started gaining popularity USA. Despite some growth they are still considered vulnerable for extinction by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

Clydesdale Characteristics

Clydesdale horse

The Clydesdale, like most drafts, were bred to work. Originally these horses were smaller than Percherons and Shires but eventually were bred to be taller and more athletic. Clydesdales today are between 16 -18 hands and weight between 1800 – 2000 pounds. They are well muscled and have a more athletic frame than other draft breeds.

Most commonly, Clydesdales have a brown body, black mane and tail and white stockings, with a white stripe or blaze. They have been known to come in other colors though.

In the 1940’s the breed gained notoriety for their flashy look and powerful build. They became frequent guests in parades and more infamously, mascots for Budweiser.

Fun Facts

  1. Poe, one of the largest living horses, is a Clydesdale. He stands at 20.2 hands in height and is just 0.3 hands off of the current largest living horse.

    Poe the Clydesdale

    Poe with is 5’3 owner.

  2. A Clydesdale can pull up to 8,000 lbs.
  3. Currently the US has the highest population of clydesdales. Australia and Great Britain are close behind.
  4. They are true gentle giants. Clydesdales are considered “cold blooded”, meaning they have a naturally docile temperament and don’t spook easily.
  5. Clydesdales were used for a variety of jobs including farming, mining, war horse and police horses.
  6. The feathers or long hairs around their hooves helped them get through tough Scottish winters.
  7. The first Budweiser Clydesdales were a gift from August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch. The horses were given to their father in 1933 to celebrate the end of prohibition.