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Clydesdale Horse Breed Profile: History, Facts, Stats & More

Clydesdale Horse Breed Profile: History, Facts, Stats & More

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The Clydesdale is one of the most recognizable horse breeds in the world. Most famous for pulling the Budweiser hitch, these iconic horses are known for being gentle giants.

The Clydesdale is a draft horse breed most commonly bay in color. As one of the largest horse breeds, they stand an average height of 17 hands and weigh an average of 1,900 pounds. These stunning horses have easy-going and friendly dispositions.

Height16-19 hands Tall
Weight1,700-2,200 Pounds
ColorBay, Brown, Black, Roan, Chestnut

While Clydesdales are best known for being driving horses, they can do much more than that. Their calm temperaments make them excellent horses for the whole family to enjoy.

Despite their size, Clydesdales have a flashy way of moving. They often stand out in a crowd thanks to their big yet elegant builds and distinctive silky feathering on their legs.

History of the Clydesdale Horse

The Clydesdale horse originates from Lanarkshire, Scotland and their name is derived from the Clyde River. The history of this incredible breed goes back to the mid-1700s.

During the 18th century, native horses were crossed with Flemish horses to produce a horse of greater weight and substance. These horses were used for agriculture, heavy pulling, and transportation throughout Glasglow.

Close up of a Beautiful Clydesdale horse
Dan Baillie /

In 1826, these large, powerful horses were first recognized under the name Clydesdale. The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in 1877, with records in the breed registry’s going back to the 1830s.

Scottish immigrants first brought Clydesdales to North America in the 1840s. These draft horses’ strength, size, and appearance made them desirable to own.

In 1933, August Jr. and Adolphus III gifted their father, August Busch Sr. a six-horse Clydesdale hitch to celebrate the end of prohibition. Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, Missouri then began using the Clydesdales to pull a horse-drawn beer wagon.

The Budweiser Clydesdales became a huge hit, attracting crowds from all over. Today, Budweiser is one of the top breeders of Clydesdale horses and their famous hitch draws in thousands wherever it goes.

The breed used to be plentiful at one point, with around 140,000 Clydesdales and Clydesdale crosses in Scotland. However, their numbers dropped drastically after introducing cars and farm machinery.

Today, there are only around 5,000 Clydesdales, making them a ‘threatened breed’ in the Livestock Conservancy.

Clydesdale Horse Characteristics & Temperament

The Clydesdale horse is docile, gentle, and generally easy to train. Their laid-back temperaments make them great horses for people of all ages.

Clydesdales are strong, muscular horses with short backs and long, well-arched necks. They have powerful legs with large, round hooves. Clydesdales have attractive heads with intelligent eyes.

Small herd of Clydesdale horses grazing in a field
Olga_i /

While Clydesdales are large and muscular, they are often noted for their flashy gaits. They have an attractive way of moving and while they are not as agile as other breeds they are still quite athletic for their size.

Unique Characteristics

Clydesdales have some unique characteristics that make them distinguishable from other breeds. Much larger than the average horse, their hooves are the size of dinner plates and weigh around five pounds.

Clydesdales are also easily recognizable by the silky feathers on their legs. Also known as feathering, this refers to the long hairs on the bottom half of their legs that are often white.

Another unique characteristic of Clydesdales is their tails. Some Clydesdales have docked tails, where the tail is surgically or by ligature shortened at a young age.

The practice was originally done to prevent the tail from getting caught up in the harness, however, the practice is primarily cosmetic today and is illegal in some areas.

Clydesdale Breed Standard

The Clydesdale should combine strength and style with a sound build. According to the Clydesdale Horse Society, they should have an open broad forehead with a long, well-arching neck springing from high withers.

Herd of beautiful Clydesdale horses in a field
Olga_i /

The back of a Clydesdale should be strong, with depth of rib and high spring. While the quarters shouldn’t be long, they should be well-muscled. The legs of a Clydesdale should be straight and powerful, with a lengthy distance from the hock to the pastern.

What Color is a Clydesdale Horse?

The most common color in the Clydesdale breed is bay or dark brown. However, Clydesdales can also be roan, chestnut, or black in color.

It is common for Clydesdales to have a white blaze and a considerable amount of white on their legs. While roan patterns can be common within the breed, it is uncommon to see chestnut or black coat colors. Any color outside of bay, dark brown, roan, chestnut, or black typically won’t be accepted within the registry.

4 Facts About Clydesdales

Throughout its over 200-year history, the Clydesdale has become one of the world’s most recognizable and unique horse breeds. These fascinating horses are special in many different ways and are loved by people all over.

1. The Budweiser Clydesdales Must Meet Strict Requirements

Not just any Clydesdale can join the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdale Hitch. The horses must meet strict requirements to be a part of the team.

Two Clydesdale horses pulling a Budweiser Clydesdale cart
Alexanderphoto7 /

To join the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch, the Clydesdale must be bay with a white blaze and white feathers. They must also be at least 18 hands tall and weigh between 1,900 and 2,300 pounds. The Clydesdales must also be at least four years old and have a good temperament and personality to join.

2. Clydesdales are Found All Across the World

While they are originally from Scotland, Clydesdales can be found all throughout the world today. Clydesdales can be found in America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Russia, among other places.

3. The United States is Home to the Most Clydesdales

The United States is home to the most Clydesdales in the world. Each year, approximately 600 new horses are registered with the Clydesdale Breeders of USA.

4. Clydesdales are Among the Largest Horses in the World

The Clydesdale breed is undoubtedly one of the largest in the world. Coming in at 20.2 hands tall and a whopping 3,000 pounds, Poe the Clydesdale is one of the largest horses in the world.

Famous Clydesdale Horses

The most famous Clydesdales are the Budweiser Clydesdale. There are currently three hitches that travel across America. Each team consists of 10 Clydesdales, eight for the hitch plus two alternatives.

Other famous Clydesdale horses:

  • Baron of Buchlyvie: Born in 1900, Baron of Buchlyvie was one of the most influential sires in the Clydesdale breed. He sold in 1911 for a record £9,500.
  • Poe: Born in Ontario, Canada, Poe is one of the largest horses in the world, standing at 20.2 hands and weighing 3,000 pounds.

What Type of Rider is a Clydesdale Horse Good For?

Though their large size may be intimidating to some, Clydesdales can be great horses for riders of all experience levels and ages. Their calm, gentle, and friendly dispositions make them wonderful mounts for all types of riders. Their large size also makes them a particularly good option for taller and/or heavier riders.

Thanks to their trainability, Clydesdales can make great trail, pleasure, or show horses. They are often eager to please which makes them trusty companions.

What Are Clydesdale Horses Used For Today?

Today, Clydesdales are still popular driving horses and are even used for agricultural work in certain places. However, they are also becoming increasingly popular as riding horses as well.

Two beautiful Clydesdale horses in harness tack during a parade
Roberto Galan /

Clydesdales are popular for both trail riding and pleasure riding, while also making wonderful show horses. They compete in a variety of disciplines including low-level dressage, hunter pleasure, saddle seat, and western pleasure. They are also commonly shown in in-hand, pulling competitions, and driving competitions.

How Much Do Clydesdale Horses Cost?

The average price of a Clydesdale horse is $2,500 to $10,000. Some Clydesdale may cost as little as a few hundred dollars to $1,000. On the other hand, Clydesdales can cost $30,000 or more.

Several factors can influence the price of a Clydesdale horse. Such factors include pedigree, training, age, show record, and conformation. A well-bred Clydesdale with a stellar show record can sell for a lot of money.

Where Can I See the Budweiser Clydesdales?

The Budweiser Clydesdale hitches travel around America attending different events such as sports games, state fairs, and parades. You can follow their Facebook page to find out if the Budweiser Clydesdales are coming near you.

Several Budweiser Clydesdale horses pulling a Budweiser beer wagon during a parade
Png Studio Photography /

You can also meet the Budweiser Clydesdales at Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis as well as Grant’s Farm, also located in St. Louis.

Guests can also book tours at the Budweiser Clydesdale’s breeding facilities at Warm Springs Ranch in Booneville, Missouri.

What is the Lifespan of a Clydesdale Horse?

On average, the lifespan of a Clydesdale ranges from 20-25 years. However, some Clydesdales have lived into their 30s. 

Simon Dagnall

Tuesday 24th of September 2019

I have a Clydesdale that works well under saddle and is just over 16hh as the article suggests they are very leggy but dont find it any different to any other horse I have ridden just for fun. Not sure it would make a good gldressage horse though.