By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 11, 2008

The Clydesdale is a breed of horses which derived its name from farm horses in Clydesdale, Scotland. Larger than the average horse, its muscular build and power makes it ideal for manual labor. The Clydesdale has also famously been the mascot of various beer brands, including Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser.

Physical Characteristics

The Clydesdale stands from 16.1 to 18 hands high (or 64.4 to 72 inches in height). A heavy horse with strong muscular legs and feet, long pasterns, rounded hooves, and powerful joints, the Clydesdale always holds its head high. The Clydesdale has large ears, a long and arched neck, sloped shoulders, short back, well-sprung ribs, and prominent withers -- the area between the shoulder blades. It is also known for its wide forehead, widely spaced and intelligent eyes, flared nostrils, and wide muzzle.

To qualify as a Budweiser Clydesdale it must have stockinged feet and a blaze patterned white mark on its face; castration is also required.

Personality and Temperament

The Clydesdale is a spirited and intelligent horse. However, it can also be tender and gentle-hearted, especially the Budweiser Clydesdales, which are required to have a gentle temperament.


History and Background

The breed’s history began when the Sixth Duke of Hamilton transported six Belgian Draft (or Flemish) and Fresian stallions to Lanarkshire, Scotland -- formerly known as Clydesdale. These six stallions, plus the native stallion named Blaze (from Ayrshire), were mated with local mares. The offspring that resulted from the breeding were recognized for their strength and power, which were greater than other regional horse breeds’. Soon, non-locals were calling these horses the Clydesman’s horses.

As the coal industry established itself in Lanarkshire, the local farmers discovered new abilities in their Clydesman’s horses: hauling heavy loads for road improvement and coal mining activities. During the Glasgow Exhibition of 1826 the Clydesman's horse formally became the Clydesdale.

Soon, Clydesdale stallions were drafted from various fairs all over Scotland. As a result, most of the Scottish draft horses during the 19th century mirrored the Clydesdale breed. The term Clydesdale, in fact, became a generic term to describe Scottish draft horses. By mid-1877, the Clydesdale was so well-known and widely used that the Clydesdale Horse Society was established; two years later, the Clydesdale Breeders of the United States was established.

As popular as the Clydesdale was, the breed nearly faced extinction when machines replaced draft horses for pulling and heavy work during the Industrial Revolution. Fortunately, the interest in the Clydesdale as a horse breed was re-awakened, due in large part to the successful marketing campaigns of various beer brands, including Budweiser.

On April 7, 1933, when the prohibition of the sale of alcohol was repealed, August Busch Jr., the son of the August Busch Sr., President and CEO of Anheuser-Busch, hitched a case of Budweiser beer on to eight Clydesdale horses. The horses carried the load from the brewery and then down Pestalozzi St. in St. Louis. From that day onwards, the Clydesdales became part of the Budweiser brand. In fact, the Clydesdale horses that can qualify for the Budweiser hitch are now known by a distinct name; they are called the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Today, the Clydesdale is still recognized as a beautiful horse breed, and is frequently entered in various horse competitions, including draft horse showings -- a competition where horses are attached to harnesses to determine which horse(s) can pull the most weight.

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