The Clydesdale is one of the flashiest and hairiest of the large draft horse breeds. His charm and solid work ethic has helped make the Clydesdale flourish in his native Scotland and establish stud farms in England, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Germany. Although the Budweiser Clydesdales are world famous, there is more to being a Clydesdale than just hawking beer.
The Clydesdale has changed in body shape over the last one hundred years, but both types can still be found throughout the world. The original type was heavier, more massive and with shorter legs. The modern type favored by breeders now is a lighter, leggier type. Still, a Clydesdale is muscular enough to never be mistaken for a Thoroughbred. They range from sixteen hands high to an impressive 18.2 hands high. Their normal bodyweight often pushes 1800 pounds, but Clydesdales as big as 2400 pounds are not uncommon.
Clydesdales come in many more colors than the famous matched bays with blazes and four white stockings seen pulling the Budweiser hitch. The come in roan, grey, brown (a nearly black shade of brown), black, chestnut and sabino patterns for these colors. Sabino is a subtle pinto pattern, seen in many breeds, including Arabians. There are usually a couple of bay sabinos in the Budweiser hitch. They have white going up past their knees and along the belly.
The head is broad enough to practically set a picnic table on. The eyes are often proportionately small for the size of the head, but there are those Clydes with big eyes. The expression is kind and, when the ears are tipped forward, slightly mischievous. Their profile is convex or straight.
Clydesdales have profuse manes and tails, usually spilling out of the elaborate braids they must wear for showing. They also have extensive, silky hair from their knees to their hooves, called “feathering”. If you’ve ever been to Scotland during the winter, you will know why the breed became so hairy – to protect those legs from briars, mud and the damp.
One of the reasons for why Clydesdales were the breed chosen for Budweiser is the way Clydesdales move. They are naturally high-steppers. They don’t shuffle over the ground as efficiently as possible like a Belgian or a Percheron. They show off, often arching their necks and raising their tails as well as stepping high. This sort of action is hard to resist.
One common fault among Clydesdales is that they are cow-hocked, which means the hocks (pointy middle of their hind legs) comes together, making the hind hoofs stick out somewhat, like a cow. However, even cow-hocked Clydesdales still move with style and flash.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing, 2005.
“The Ultimate Horse Book.” Elwyn Hartley Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
Clydesdale Breeders of the USA. “Clydesdale FAQ.” http://clydesusa.com/101-faq.php