Breed Profile: Clydesdale

The Clydesdale Horse traces its roots back to early 18th Century Scotland. Learn more of the history and characteristics of this breed.

Origins of the Clydesdale The Clydesdale breed was founded in Lanarkshire, Scotland, between 1715 and 1720. The old name for Lanarkshire was the Clyde Valley, or Clydesdale and that is where the breed got its name. The 6th Duke of Hamilton imported Flemish horses to cross with and improve native draft horses. Another early breeder was John Paterson of Lochlyoch who also imported Flemish horses and who founded an influential strain of the breed.

It was developed to meet the agricultural needs of the area, as well as for heavy haulage in the coalfields and in the city of Glasgow.

The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in 1877 and continues to promote the Clydesdale worldwide today.

Characteristics The average height for the Clydesdale is now 16.2 hands, although many are taller, up to 18 hands. The modern Clydesdale is lighter than in the past, but still can weigh up to one ton.

The Clydesdale has longer legs than many other draft breeds, with big joints and wide, flat knees. Cow hocks are considered to be a breed characteristic and are acceptable, however sickle hocks are not acceptable. They have an abundant amount of silky feathering on the lower leg. The hooves are wide and hardwearing.

The facial profile is straight, unlike the Shire which has a convex profile, or roman nose. The eyes are large and bright and the forehead is wide.

The Clydesdale is usually bay or brown, however greys, roans and blacks are also found. White markings are prevelant on Clydesdales, which often have white facial markings, as well as extensive white leg markings and even white on the belly.

Uses 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.

Bibliography:The Encyclopedia of the Horse – Elwyn Hartley-Edwards. ISBN 1-56458-614-6




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