The Clydesdale Breed

Clydesdale Breed Description

Height The average height of Clydesdales is 16.2 hands high, although some stallions and geldings may stand up to 17 hands high.
Weight Clydesdales weigh one ton or more.
Colour The predominant Clydesdale colours are bay and brown, but grey, roan and black sometimes occur. There is usually a good deal of white on the face and legs, and this may run up onto the underside of the body.
Head and Neck The head of the Clydesdale has a straight profile, open forehead, large nostrils and bright, intelligent eyes. The head is broad between the eyes. The neck is long and well arched..
Shoulders The shoulders are sloping and the withers are sharply defined, and higher than the croup.
Body The back is short with well-sprung ribs. The Clydesdale is deep through the girth.
Hindquarters The hindquarters are very muscular.
Limbs The forelimbs are straight and set well under the shoulders. The pasterns are long. A good amount of heavy, silky feather appears on the fetlocks. Cow hocks, where the hind legs are placed close together, are a characteristic of the Clydesdale, and are not considered a conformational fault. The hock joints are very strong.
Hooves The hooves are somewhat flat, but are well formed and hard wearing. They are round and open.

Clydesdale Breed History

The Clydesdale, which is Scotland’s heavy horse, dates back to the beginning of the 18th century, when Flemish stallions were brought into the area of the Clyde valley of Lanarkshire. The 6th Duke of Hamilton and John Paterson of Lochlyoch, among others, are responsible for bringing in these stallions between 1715 and 1720. These Flemish stallions were introduced in an attempt to increase the size of the native draft horse, which was a small horse used to pack work and general farm work. Possibly Shire blood was introduced at this time as well, in order to add more substance. However, early on in the Clydesdale’s development, the introduction of outside blood was frowned upon, and the goal became to create a distinctive Scottish breed.

The Clydesdale was used for agricultural work, but during the Industrial Revolution, use was made of this powerful breed in the coal mining industry. The Clydesdale was also used to haul timber and doing general draft work in the cities.

By the middle of the 19th century, the Clydesdale’s reputation had spread to the far reaches of the world, and the breed was exported to America, Australia and New Zealand. The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in 1877, and the stud book was published in 1878, with more than 1000 registered stallions. In 1878, the American Clydesdale Association was formed, and after that the breed found itself welcome in Canada, the USSR and Germany. In the U.S.A. and Canada, the Clydesdale horses were used to work the prairies, often hitched in teams of seven to the three-furrow plow. They were also given the title of “the breed that built Australia.”

The Clydesdale is renowned for being an active horse with sound limbs and a willing and tractable disposition. The Clydesdale has “a flamboyant style, a flashy, spirited bearing and a high-stepping action that makes him a singularly elegant animal among draft horses,” according to the Clydesdale Horse Society. Unquestionably, the Clydesdale breed is ideally suited for draft work.

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