The heavy draft horse most familiar to Americans is the Clydesdale. These handsome horses are frequently seen in large teams pulling brightly colored beer wagons showing their flashing hoof-action and coordinated strides. The Clydesdale has it origin in Lanarkshire, Scotland, a district known as Clydesdale when this breed was developed in the mid-1700s. Improved roads permitted a shift from packhorse haulage to the use of wagons and teams. The Clydesdale was bred for this work in harness. The Clydesdale has also been extensively used for farming in Britain. In America, the Clydesdale's use remained largely as express teams where its appearance and elegant gait were appreciated.

The characteristics which distinguish the Clydesdale are its long, fine leg feather, smooth body and light coloring. It appears in bay, brown, chestnut and roan; the color is accentuated by splashes of white which appear particularly on the face and lower legs. The face is broad and straight, and the neck is long and arched. Clydesdales generally stand 16 to 17 hands, and weigh 1700 to 1900 pounds. Although not the largest draft horse, the Clydesdale rivals other breeds in its distinguished appearance and action which is combined with an excellent ability to haul heavy loads.

The Clydesdale originated in what is now called Lanarkshire, Scotland - an area originally known as Clydesdale. Like many other British draft breeds, the Clydesdale benefited from an introduction of Flemish stallions to native mares. The founding sire of the breed is acknowledged as Blaze, who was foaled in 1779.

The Clydesdale has been exported to many regions of the world, including North and South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union. It was first imported to the United States about 1880 where it worked in cities pulling merchants' vehicles. It was not as popular in rural areas since the abundant feather about the feet made it difficult to care for them in muddy farmlands. Also, farmers desired a heavier horse for work in the field and, therefore, chose more massive, if less distinguished-appearing breeds. Perhaps the most famous Clydesdales in America are owned by the Anheuser-Busch Company of St. Louis.

1. Shire 2. Flanders Horse

For more information:
Clydesdale Horse Society
Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A.
Listed as "Watch" by The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (2004)

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