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The Clydesdale in style and action is unequaled by any other draft breed and the Clydes of modern day are are lighter and even more active than those bred in the past. Clydesdale cross-breeding is producing top quality competition sport horses.
The Clydesdale Draft horse hails from an area in Scotland known as Clydesdale, located in the Country of Lanark! When road surfaces in Britain were improved around the middle of the 1700’s, and pack horses gave way to shoulder haulage, the Clyde came into its own as a breed.
The Clydesdale breed is of mixed origin, and the early history is obscure, but the blood of both Flemish and English horses were dominate during its early formative period. Frequent importations of Flemish extraction from England and the low countries gave the English Shire, the Scottish Clydesdale and the Suffolk similar ancestry. The breeders in the respective countries had different notions as to what constituted the most desirable draft horse and their selections were governed accordingly, with the Scottish placing strong emphasis on style, beauty and action and the Society and breed registry was established in 1877.
The Clydesdale was used to work the prairies of Canada and American, often in teams of seven horses to the three furrow plow. They also earned the title of the breed that built Australia. Clydesdales have been exported all around the world and are found in Germany, the USSR, Japan and South Africa as well as in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Less heavy than the Shire, Belgian or Percheron, average representatives of the Clyde breed are also more rangy and have less width and compactness of the other draft breeds. Mature stallions weight from 1700 to 1900 pounds and are from 16 to 17 hands in height.
No other draft breed equals the Clydesdale in style and action. The breed is noted for a prompt walk, with a good snappy stride and short trot with the hocks well flexed and carried close together. Good, clean, flat bone; well set, long sloping pasterns with a moderate amount of fine feathering on the lower leg. Bay and brown with white markings are the most characteristic colors, but blacks, grays, chestnuts and roans are also seen, with heavy white markings often occurring on the face, legs and the underside of the body.
The head of the Clydesdale is more elegant than that of the heavier breeds with a straight profile that gives the impression of quality. The neck is longer than that of the Shire. The shoulder is sloped and the withers are well-defined and higher than the croup in the interests of improved traction. The hooves are somewhat flat, having developed originally on more marshy ground. Cow hocks are a breed characteristic with the hocks being placed close together, and are not judged as a conformational fault. The hock joints are very strong.
Although a big horse, the modern day representatives of the breed are lighter and even more active than those bred in the past. The leg often appears long, but this horse is always deep through the girth.
Much cross breeding of the Clydesdale with other breeds is currently taking place to produce top quality competition sport horses and societies are being formed from Australia to American for this purpose. But it remains true that in the show ring a six horse hitch of well matched Clydesdales is nothing other than spectacular. Their high action and flowing white fetlocks along with their willing manageability, always convey elegance along with a job well done.