The Clydesdale is one of the most popular heavy horses in the world!

Clydesdales is the quintessential embodiment of the familiar draft horse. They are beautiful movers with a high stepping gait, which made them popular as flashy carriage horses. Today they are popular in the show ring and as fancy carriage horses. The most well-known Clydesdales are the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales.

The Clydesdale was bred to have large, well-proportioned feet and sound legs for walking on hard, cobblestone roads. They have longer legs and a more streamlined body than most draft breeds. The name ‘Clydesdale’ is from the Clyde Valley in Lanarkshire, Scotland (previously known as Clydesdale) where it is believed to have originated. It is the only living heavy horse from Scotland.

These draft horses were traditionally used to pull carts and carriages until the development of the automobile in the 1930’s. As the Clydesdales tend to be too large to fit in furrows, they were not well suited for use as plow horses. They have been used in the United Kingdom as ceremonial drum horses in many royal processions. The Drum Horses lead the Household Calvary, ridden by drummers who work the reins with their feet while holding drumsticks in their hands.

Scientific Classification


Horse Breeds

The Clydesdale is known as a Draft Horse or Heavy horse. The Draft horse is also known as the Draught Horse or Dray Horse. ‘Dray’ is a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for ‘to haul’ or ‘to draw’.
Draft horses are large and hardy, much heavier and broader than the light horses. The breeds in this horse class are referred to as cold blood breeds, in reference to their quiet and calm temperament. They are heavy in the body and strong legged. Many of the draft horses have the characteristic “feather”, or long hair, covering their large hooves.

female Clydesdale Horse
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Horse Backgrounds

The Clydesdale is thought to have originated in the Clyde Valley in Lanarkshire, Scotland with the mixing of local mares with Flemish stallions in the mid 1700’s. The breed was founded by the 6th Duke of Hamilton and the breeder John Paterson, who intended the breed for pulling carts for the nearby coal mines. The horses were bred to have large, well-proportioned feet and sound legs for walking on hard, cobblestone roads. The have longer legs than other draft breeds and having “cow hocks” is an acceptable breed standard that allows their large feet to fit into the furrows for plowing.

They were first shown to the rest of the world at a world’s fair called the Glasgow Exhibition in 1826, and began being exported to do farm work in other countries. By the 1930’s, farm horses were replaced by tractors and automobiles put carriage horses out of work, causing the Clydesdale population to decline. The breed was in danger of dying out, but in the 1960’s, Clydesdales became popular in the show ring and as fancy carriage horses. They are currently one of the most popular heavy horses in the world.


The modern Clydesdale stands at 16.2-18 hands high and has a straight facial profile and long legs with long, silky hair called “feather.” They have longer legs and more streamlined bodies than most draft breeds. When walking behind them and the legs are straight is said to be ‘close behind’. It where they place one huge back hoof exactly in front of the other as if they were walking along a single ploughed furrow. Cow hocks are considered a feature of the Clydesdale breed, although it is often seen as poor conformation in horses. The “cow hock” is a condition where the tarsal joint of the hind leg is set inward resulting in a splayed look, or a “knock knee” appearance.
They are beautiful movers with a high stepping gait, which has made them popular as flashy carriage horses. The most common Clydesdale colors are bay, brown, black, chestnut, and roan. Clydesdale markings generally consist of a white stripe on the face or a bald face and white lower legs.

Clydesdale horses grazing
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Horse Care and Feeding

The Clydesdales are large horses. They eat about twice as much as other horses, which is about 25 to 50 pounds of hay a day, plus about 5 pounds of concentrated feed if they are being exercised.
Since Clydesdales are large horses, they need more room than other horses. A 24′ x 24′ stall is the minimum size a Clydesdale should be kept in as long as they are turned out into a paddock daily.

Horse Training and Activities

The Clydesdale has a very pleasing disposition. It is proud, alert, intelligent and willing. They are commonly used for pulling carts or carriages.
In the show ring, Clydesdales are shown in halter, cart, and hitch classes. They also make good riding horses and people use them for trail riding, jumping, and dressage. Their calm personalities make them a good horse for therapeutic riding programs that help disabled people learn to walk by feeling the movements of the horse’s walking.

Common Health Problems

“Scratches” or pododermititis are more prevalent in horses that are subjected to wet muddy conditions for extended periods. Horses with white feet seem also to be more susceptible to scratches.

Clydesdale Horse Trotting
Image Credit: OryPhotography, Shutterstock


The Clydesdale is available many parts of the world and are fairly inexpensive.



Featured Image Credit: OlesyaNickolaeva, Shutterstock