The Clydesdale is a breed of heavy draft horse developed in the early nineteenth century by farmers in the Lanarkshire (previously Clydesdale) district of Scotland. It was bred to meet not only the agricultural needs of the local farmers, but also the demands of commerce for the coalfields of Lanarkshire and for all the types of heavy haulage on the streets of Glasgow. Due to its fine reputation, use of the breed soon spread throughout the whole of Scotland and northern England. The horses produced were powerful with a long stride and a sizable hoof, perfect for working in the soft soils of the rough Scottish farmland.
In the late nineteenth century the popularity of the Clydesdale breed flourished, leading to large numbers of exports to the British commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and to the United States. Today the Clydesdale is virtually the only draft breed in its native Scotland and is still a favorite in all of the aforementioned nations.
The Clydesdale Breeders of the United States, incorporated in 1879, is the member organization for the Clydesdale horse. The purpose of the association is to collect, revise, preserve, and publish the history and pedigrees of purebred Clydesdale horses. It is also responsible for all registrations and the transfer of ownership of all eligible horses within the United States.
The modern Clydesdale horse stands between 16 and 19 hands high and weighs from 1600 to 2200 pounds. While this is larger than the original Scottish horse, one cardinal feature has been retained - the breed's substantial underpinning. The old adage "no foot, no horse" has always been true, thus the importance attached to maintaining sound hooves and legs within the breed.
Three words - strength, agility and docility - depict in brief the main characteristics of the Clydesdale. The impression created by a thoroughly well-built horse is that of strength and activity, with a minimum of superfluous tissue. The horse must also exhibit action, lifting the foot high, and taking a long stride to cover ground rapidly and easily. Intelligence and willingness make the Clydesdale a welcome partner at work or play.
The Clydesdale has a very distinctive look when compared with other draft breeds. The combination of vivid body colors, bright white faces, and long white "feathered" legs with a high-stepping gait and head held high leave no question that you are looking at a Clydesdale. The feather is the long, silky hair on the legs that flows to the ground and accentuates the high knee action and hock flex. The most common body color is bay, followed by black, brown, and chestnut. The roan trait (solid body color with white hairs throughout the coat) may be found in all colors. Popular markings for today's big hitches are four white socks to the knees and hocks, and a well-defined blaze or bald face. However, the show ring does not discriminate on color, with light roans and dark legs being considered equally against solid colored horses with traditional markings.
The versatility of the breed is evidenced by the increasing number of equine activities for which it is used. Popular with carriage services, the Clydesdale is well-suited for the job and always attracts public admiration. Street parades are not complete without the high stepping hooves of a Clydesdale hitch passing by. Under saddle, the Clydesdale excels in many pursuits including dressage, hunter-jumper, trail riding, and therapeutic riding. As with many other breeds, breeding and showing are a large part of the Clydesdale business. Breeders exhibit their horses in the Scottish tradition of line-and-harness events at county and state fairs, and at national exhibitions.
For additional information, contact:
Clydesdale Breeders of the United States
17346 Kelley Road
Pecatonica, IL 61063