The Famous Clydesdale Horse


The mighty Clydesdale horse is one of the world’s largest horse breeds. Native to Scotland, it takes its name from the region it was first bred. 

A striking breed, synonymous with the image of a horse pulling a cart. You have possibly seen the Clydesdale breed at a show or fair.

Sadly now a rarity, there are only 5,000 of these horses left in the world. 

Want to know more about this impressive yet vulnerable creature? Then keep on reading!

History of the Clydesdale Horse

When Belgian horses were brought to Lanarkshire in Scotland in the eighteenth century, farmers bred them with local mares. They were bred to be used on the fields, pulling the heavy industrial farm machinery of the time. 

Lanarkshire used to be called Clydesdale (the river Clyde runs through the region); this is how the breed got its name. 

An extremely useful workhorse, the breed began to proliferate in Scotland and Northern England. In 1877 the Clydesdale Horse Society was founded, and the breed was promoted around the world. 

The first Clydesdale horses arrived in North America at the end of the 19th century with settlers from Scotland. 

These horses also played a significant role in the First World War, carrying soldiers, weapons, and military supplies. 

A random but interesting fact about the Clydesdale horse is its association with Budweiser. In 1933, the owner of the Budwiser brewery bought some Clydesdale horses to celebrate the end of prohibition. He wanted to promote the beer brand using a horse-drawn beer wagon. 

To this day, the Clydesdale horse Budweiser stables still exist in Missouri and New Hampshire. The horses travel around the states and are particularly famous for their role in the Super Bowl ads

Fun fact: the Budweiser Clydesdale horse names are all short names like Duke and Bud to make it easy to call commands to them during shows.

These days, Clydesdales are typically used to pull carriages for shows and in parades.  

Clydesdale Characteristics

Its large build and immense power are the characteristics that make this breed stand out from other horses. Its strength allows it to pull up to 8 tons of weight. 

The other distinguishing feature is the feathered fur around the feet. This feature evolved to protect the horses’ lower legs from brambles, thorns, and nettles in the fields they were working in. Their hooves are huge and can weigh up to 5lbs each! 

They also have a recognizable wide muzzle, broad forehead, and large ears and nostrils.  

Size 

Although the size of the Clydesdale has varied throughout the breed’s short history, these days, it stands between 16 and 18 hands high. That’s 65-72 inches.

One of the heaviest horse breeds around, they weigh in at 1800-2000lbs.

Color 

The most prominent color for Clydesdales is bay, but there is also a gray and a black Clydesdale horse. Their markings are mostly white on the nose and the feathered feet. Some horses have white specking on their bodies, most notably on the belly. 

People pay a premium for the bay or the black horses, especially if they have four white legs and white facial markings. Horses with white spotting on their coats are not so sought after. 

Temperament 

Despite its giant stature, the Clydesdale is a gentle-natured horse. They are easy to train and work with. True gentle giants, Clydesdales are a steady, calm, and intelligent breed. 

Health Problems

Due to their interbreeding, Clydesdales can face a few health issues. The main disease they are at risk from is chronic progressive lymphedema.

This disease causes the horse’s legs to become swollen as there are problems with the lymphatic vessels. It can be hard to see if a horse is afflicted by chronic progressive lymphedema as the feathered fur on the legs can cover the symptoms. 

Symptoms include swollen legs, folded skin, and itching for the horse; sometimes, even ulcers. The horse will stamp its feet and rub its legs a lot if afflicted. There isn’t a cure for chronic progressive lymphedema, but you can treat it to slow the progression of the disease. 

Another issue Clydesdale horses are affected by is a type of mange that can occur in the feathered legs. This is an infection of mites, which makes the horse’s legs severely itchy. This infection is colloquially known as ‘Clyde’s Itch’. 

Clydesdales can also get sunburnt on their white markings. To prevent damage from UVA rays, don’t leave them to graze in the sun all day.

Taking Care of Clydesdales 

Due to their large size, Clydesdales need more food and water than an average horse. They can eat up to 10lbs of grain a day and up to 50lbs of hay. A salt block is also important for them to get all the minerals they need for optimal health. 

You can groom a Clydesdale the same way you groom any horse; you need to pay special attention to their feathered legs. Wash the feathers carefully with warm water and soap and use a hairdryer to dry them. If you leave the feathers wet, they can become irritated. 

When grooming, always check your horse’s hooves for stones or other debris that may have accidentally become trapped.

Clydesdale Horse Prices

The Clydesdale horse price can vary and mainly depends on the horse’s markings and color.

You can buy a Clydesdale from anywhere between $2,00 and $15,000; the more purebred it is, the higher the prices become. 

You can buy a Clydesdale from a private breeder; Budewiser even sells foals to the public! 

Is a Clydesdale Horse For You?

You now have an idea of the main characteristics of the incredible Clydesdale horse. They are strong, reliable, and can live for up to 25 years.

Bear in mind that they will eat a lot more and cost more to maintain than an average horse! But they are easy to ride and make for incredible companions.

Still not sure which type of horse is perfect for you? Learn about all the other horse breeds here

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