Clydesdale Horse History
Clydesdale Horse History
History and Characteristics of the Clydesdale Horse
The Clydesdale is a breed of heavy draft horse developed in the early nineteenth century by farmers in the Lanarkshire (previously Clydesdale) district of Scotland. It was bred to meet not only the agricultural needs of the local farmers, but also the demands of commerce for the coalfields of Lanarkshire and for all the types of heavy haulage on the streets of Glasgow. Due to its fine reputation, use of the breed soon spread throughout the whole of Scotland and northern England.
Heavy horses were originally developed for use in warfare to carry armor clad knights into battle. Scottish farmers later began using some of the larger English and Flemish stallions on the smaller local mares. They eventually produced a powerful horse with a long stride and a sizable hoof, perfect for working in the soft soils of the rough Scottish farm land.
In the late nineteenth century the popularity of the Clydesdale breed flourished, leading to large numbers of exports to the British commonwealth countries of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and to the United States. Today the Clydesdale is virtually the only draft breed in its native Scotland and is still a favorite in all of the aforementioned nations.
The Clydesdale breed saw a resurgence in popularity in the last part of the twentieth century. Although replaced by the tractor on most farms, this beloved horse still works in agriculture and forestry where tractors are unable or unwanted.
The versatility of the breed is evidenced by the increasing number of equine activities for which it is used. Popular with carriage services, the Clydesdale is well suited for the job and always attracts public admiration. Street parades are not complete without the high stepping hooves of a Clydesdale hitch passing by. Under saddle, the Clydesdale excels in many pursuits including dressage, hunter jumper, as a trail horse, and for therapeutic riding.
As with many other breeds, breeding and showing are a large part of the Clydesdale business. Breeders exhibit their horses in the Scottish tradition of line and harness events at county and state fairs, and at national exhibitions.
The modern Clydesdale horse stands between 16 and 19 hands and weighs from 1600 to 2200 lbs. While this is larger than the original Scottish horse, one cardinal feature has been retained - the breed's substantial underpinning. The old adage "no foot-no horse" has always been true, thus the importance attached to maintaining sound hooves and legs within the breed.
Three words -- " strength, agility and docility" -- depict in brief the main characteristics of the Clydesdale. The impression created by a thoroughly well-built horse is that of strength and activity, with a minimum of superfluous tissue. The idea is not grossness and bulk, but quality and weight. The horse must also exhibit action, lifting the foot high, and taking a long stride to cover ground rapidly and easily. Intelligence and willingness make the Clydesdale a welcome partner at work or play.
The Clydesdale has a very distinctive look when compared with other draft breeds. The combination of vivid body colors, bright white faces, and long white "feathered" legs with high stepping gate and a head held high leave no question that you are looking at a Clydesdale. The feather is the long silky hair on the legs that flows to the ground and accentuates the high knee action and hock flex. The most common body color is bay, followed by black, brown, and chestnut. The roan trait (solid body color with white hairs throughout the coat) may be found in all the colors. Popular markings for today's big hitches are four white socks to the knees and hocks, and a well-defined blaze or bald face, however, the show ring does not discriminate on color, with light roans and dark legs being considered equally with solid colored horses with traditional markings.
For anyone desiring a stylish and active yet tractable, intelligent and serviceable draft animal for work, show, or simple pleasure - the Clydesdale merits his or her most serious consideration.