Clydesdale Horse Breed

Clydesdale Horse Breed

Clydesdale Horse Breed

The Clydesdale horse is easily recognizable, famous for beer commercials, pulling carriages, and its massive size! Even someone who has never ridden a horse in their life can pick a Clydesdale out of a lineup.

This breed is an American icon due to the Budweiser beer commercials, but in fact has its roots in Scotland, originally! They have strength, sheer size, and easygoing personalities that make them a breed beloved by many.

Read on to learn more about the Clydesdale breed of horse, including some of its characteristics, history, and more. 

Clydesdale Horse Characteristics

The Clydesdale horse that we are familiar with today is not the same as the ancestors of the Clydesdale was! They were selectively bred for the best traits and to develop the breed standard that we know and love today.

The Clydesdale of today is muscular and strong and has a neck that arches out of its sloping shoulder. Its face is broad in the forehead and features a set of large and wide set eyes. As an attest to their large size, their hooves are the size of a dinner plate! 

Clydesdale Horse looking to the right

Clydesdale Horse Size

The modern Clydesdale is taller than it used to be and is taller than its ancestors. Now, they average between 16 and 18 hands tall. Some Clydesdales, such as the stallions of the breed, can be 18 hands tall, or taller!

The Clydesdale is well known for being one of the largest and tallest breeds of horse, with only the Shires— a British breed of horse— being able to exceed them in height. When a Clydesdale is a foal, they stand at about 9 hands high at birth. When they are 4 years old, they will reach their full height.
It was in the 1940s when the Clydesdale breed increased in size. This is when breeders decided that they wanted taller horses that could be used in shows and parades due to their large, flashy size. They grew from being one of the smaller breeds of draft horse to one of the largest. 

Also Read – Can you Ride a Draft Horse?

Clydesdale Horse Weight

Since the Clydesdale horse is one of the largest breeds of horse, it only makes sense that this breed would be one of the heavier breeds as well. The Clydesdale averages between 1600 and 2400 pounds in weight.

Of course, their weight is also dependent on their height. The taller the Clydesdale, the heavier it will be as well. Interestingly, though, there are some other breeds of draft horses that are heavier than the Clydesdale, despite being shorter. This is because the Clydesdale has a lean and more athletic body type than other draft horses do.

Clydesdale stallions weigh more than the mares, and a foal can weigh between 110 and 180 pounds when born. The average for this is at about 150 pounds. The bone structure of a Clydesdale allows for energetic gait and lively leg action.

Clydesdale Horse Colors

The Clydesdale is not a breed of horse that comes in a great variety of colors, like some other breeds that have many common coloration options. The Clydesdale is typically a bay color, making it easier to identify them. They commonly have white socks on their legs and a white blaze on their face. The coloration with the white markings is usually more popular and will fetch a higher price as well.

Some Clydesdales will also see white spotting, which most often occurs on the underside of their belly. You may also see Clydesdales in the colors black, gray, and chestnut.

Sabino is another type of Clydesdale that we can see— this is pretty rare, though. This coloration is when the horse has white legs, a white blaze, and white ticking in their midsection.

This makes them appear as if they are a white Clydesdale horse! 

2 clydesdales eating grass

Clydesdale Horse Temperament

The Clydesdale is a breed of draft horse, and draft horses are a cold-blooded kind of horse. This affects the temperament of the horse. Clydesdale horses are known to be calm, very intelligent, and affable. They are also not prone to spooking. The Budweiser commercial that has made the Clydesdale breed so famous shows that they are gentle giants with big hearts.

This is true of the breed in real life! Modern horses were bred for parades, which we mentioned above. This means that they have an animated spirit, but are still kind and controlled. 

Clydesdale Horse Care

While the Clydesdale is not a particularly high-maintenance breed, it, like any horse, still needs daily care. They can live to be between 25 and 30 years old if their maintenance, diet, and overall health needs are met, so a horse is a big commitment! Clydesdales in particular is also very smart, so you may need to double-lock your doors and gates so that they do not open them.

Clydesdale Horse Diet and Nutrition

Diet is very important, whether it is a person or your horse! The diet and nutrition of a Clydesdale are essential to their long-term health and quality of life. The diet for a horse contains hay and grass, which is also called forage, grain, and nutritional supplements. Enough clean and fresh water is a very important part of the diet of a horse.

Due to the large size of the Clydesdale, the breed needs more volume of food than other horses will require. Vets recommend that a horse should consume between 1.5% and 2% of their body weight in forage every day. Of course, factors such as the age and the amount of work of the horse will affect this, too. 

Clydesdale Horse Health Issues

Every breed of horse does have some of its unique health issues, and the Clydesdale is no different. One of the health issues that we can see in the Clydesdale breed can get sunburned. It has pink skin under the white hair, such as in the blaze on its face, so this can become sunburned when your Clydesdale is outside. Another health issue that the Clydesdale can develop is a skin itch. The Clydesdale can, clearly, suffer from a few different skin issues! This skin itch usually develops underneath the heavy feathers on their legs. However, careful cleaning and grooming can help to prevent this issue. When it comes to genetic issues, the Clydesdale is predisposed to chronic progressive lymphedema, which is unfortunately fairly common in draft horse breeds. It causes leg swelling and can cause permanent scar tissue if it is not treated. It is not something that can be cured, but its progression can be slowed down. 

Clydesdale Horse Grooming

Grooming your horse can be beneficial not only for their overall wellbeing, but can be a way for you and your equine partner to bond, too. You should use a curry comb to groom your Clydesdale and stimulate the oils in the horse’s coat. You should also use a dandy brush or stiff brush, as well as a finishing brush, a hairbrush, and a hoof pick.

The hooves of your horse are not something that you should forget, and need to be cleaned daily! Frog health should be examined and monitored for any signs of deterioration. You should also check for the “Clydesdale itch” at the same time as you are cleaning the hooves and patterns.

Due to the large size of the Clydesdale breed, you will likely need a step stool to reach all of the horse and ensure that it is properly groomed and taken care of. 

Clydesdale Horse History

The history of the Clydesdale horse is fraught with spikes and then drops in popularity for this breed of horse. They first originated in Scotland in the 1700s, and were bred carefully for their now distinct characteristics.

They were meant to be workhorses and were exported all over the world for this purpose. With mechanization came the transition of the Clydesdale into a more recreational role.

Clydesdale Horse Origin

The Flemish stallions were taken to the River Clyde area in Scotland in order to improve the horses that the locals were currently using. They began to breed the horses, recording pedigrees. In the early 1800s, the Clydesdale originated. It was 1826 when the term “Clydesdale” was first used. Clydesdale societies began to form in 1877 in the United Kingdom, and then in 1879 in America. The Clyde style horse started to be shown at local events.

There, stallions were selected to travel throughout the area and breed the mares. The breed was first used to haul coal and for other heavy transport in the Lanarkshire area— as well as for agriculture. The horses were also exported out of Scotland for these purposes across the globe. In a 63 year period, ending in 1945, 20,000 Clydesdale horses were exported from the country! 

Clydesdale Horse Historic Development

These days, the Clydesdale is easily best known as the Budweiser horse, from the beer commercials. However, the development of the breed began long before the horses were associated with Budweiser!

The breed was originally shorter than the Clydesdales that we know today. They were heavier, too, which was good for their purpose of working in agricultural fields or hauling coal. Over the years, the breed was developed into what it looks like today. There were thousands of horses who served in World War I and unfortunately lost their lives.

After the second world war, the breed’s numbers dropped because people were not breeding them anymore. After all, at this time, people did not need horses like they used to! They were still popular in Australia, though, and were helping to develop the country’s infrastructure. This is when Clydesdales began to be bred into lighter and taller horses. Then, in the 1990s, the worldwide population of the breed began to rise again.

Famous Clydesdale Horses

There are more than a couple famous horses that are part of the Clydesdale breed!

The breed is fit for royalty and has had a place in the royal stables of different monarchies over the years. We will go over some of the more notable Clydesdale horses further in this article. 


One of the famous Clydesdale horses is Blaze. He was an English coach horse that was brought to Scotland when the breed was still being developed. Blaze was one of the founding stallions of the Clydesdale breed.

Coach horses were fancier horses than draft horses were. The name Blaze brings up a clear picture in your head, and it is very likely that the coloration and markings of today’s Clydesdales greatly resemble Blaze’s. 

Budweiser Horse Hitch

Of course, Clydesdales have been associated with Budweiser beer for a very long time, too. They have been pulling the hitch for the Anheuser Busch Company since 1933. There are at least 170 Clydesdale horses that are owned by the Anheuser Busch Company, and these horses are said to live like royalty! To be in the hitch, a horse must be a Clydesdale gelding.

If they are a mare or a stallion, they cannot pull the hitch and must stay on the farm. A fun fact about the hitch is that the first one was a gift to celebrate the end of Prohibition. 

Digger, the Queen’s Clydesdale

There is also another famous Clydesdale by the name of Digger. He was a part of Queen Elizabeth’s Cavalry and joined in 2010. When he joined the Cavalry, he was 19.3 hands high and weighed 2000 pounds.

Digger was orphaned when he was only a few weeks old and had health issues because he was growing so fast. He went from a rescue organization to his life at the Queen’s royal stables and was lucky enough to be able to live peacefully on one of the country estates of Her Royal Highness. 

Clydesdale Horse Legends

The Clydesdale is very symbolic of royalty— and of beer!— and not only is there special symbolism with this breed, but there are also a few legends and myths that surround these horses. We will go over some of these, and some of the history, of the Clydesdale further on in this article. 

Unsung Heroes

First things first, the Clydesdale was an important part of World War I. They can be considered to be the unsung heroes of this war. Clydesdales pulled the guns and ammunition in the war, and unfortunately, many of them suffered intense casualties. While we typically hear more about cavalry horses, it is said that, without the Clydesdales, the war would have been lost!

In total, over 8 million horses lost their lives in World War I. This encompasses all of the breeds of horse that were involved in this war. 

Presidential Pageantry

The Clydesdale is also a part of the presidential pageantry in the USA. Both Presidents Truman and Clinton had Clydesdale horses in the parades for their inauguration.

There were a few Presidents who had Clydesdales deliver the Christmas tree, too! President Obama and President Trump had Clydesdales deliver the White House Christmas Tree in a red and green wagon around the holidays. 

Playing Football

When it comes to Clydesdales, they are synonymous with Budweiser— and with football, as they are usually the stars of the Budweiser Super Bowl commercials every year.

It was in 1986 when the first Clydesdale Super Bowl commercial aired. However, in 1996, the commercial starred two teams of Clydesdales who were playing a game of football against each other! The horses really learned to play football for the commercial, and they trained for months to be able to do so! 95% of what we see in that commercial is the horses actually performing the action.

Modern Clydesdale Horses

Clydesdale horses used to be at an endangered status, but now are closer to being at risk status. Modern Clydesdales are used for riding and driving, but some are still used for their original purpose of logging or agricultural work. 

Clydesdale Horse Breeding

The Clydesdale breed is usually bred in a few different locations these days— these locations being Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. However, there are some smaller breeders or smaller breeding programs in other locations, such as in Germany, Russia, Japan, and South Africa.

The most commonly sought after and thus the most commonly bred is the Clydesdale coloration of bay and black, with the white facial blaze and four white legs. Breeders also breed show Clydesdales and also parade Clydesdales.

Clydesdale Horse Population

The population of the Clydesdale horse is fairly low, especially compared to how high the population of the horse used to be, before the use for horses declined after World War II. Currently, there are about 5000 Clydesdale horses in total, scattered across the globe. Because of this, the breed is considered to be threatened.

Luckily, the population of Clydesdales is starting to recover! 80% of the 5000 Clydesdales in existence are located in either the USA or United Kingdom. Part of the reason that the breed is becoming popular again is because of their association with Budweiser, which has helped get the breed in front of more eyes! 

Clydesdale Horse Uses 

When it comes to the uses of the Clydesdale horse, they are not as often used for their original purposes, which was transporting heavy loads and agricultural purposes.

Now, the Clydesdale is used more for tourism, such as pulling carriages for tours in the city, and for pomp and circumstance, like for parades and presidential— or royal— events! They are also popular horses in the show ring, due to their looks, strength, and calm disposition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Clydesdale horse be ridden?

The Clydesdale horse is certainly a very large breed of horse, and we often see them pulling carriages, but that might get you wondering— can we ride this particular breed of horse?

While Clydesdale horses are large and may be intimidating to a novice rider, this breed of horse can be ridden. They are actually very easy to train, and many manufacturers make equipment, such as saddles, in sizes that will work for Clydesdale horses. 

What is special about Clydesdale horses?

The Clydesdale breed is a very easily recognizable breed of horse, and it is one of the ones that most people know, even if they are not well versed in the equestrian world. One of the things that really sets this breed apart and makes it so special is that it is a very large breed. They were originally bred from draught horses in Scotland.

On average, a Clydesdale horse stands about 16.2 hands high. They have a well-arched neck, straight noses, and big ears. As they are working horses, they also have a short back and well-defined withers.

How many Clydesdale horses are left?

Unfortunately, the Clydesdale horse is not one that is super common anymore. There are many other breeds of horses that are more common, so if you see a Clydesdale, that is pretty special!

The horses were originally bred from Scottish draught horses. These days, there are only about 5000 Clydesdale horses left in the world. This low number means that the breed is considered to be a threatened breed of horse. Therefore, the Clydesdale is in danger of extinction in the future, and it would be a true shame to lose these majestic beasts. 

How much does a Clydesdale horse cost?

The Clydesdale breed is one that is considered to be threatened and is in danger of extinction because there are only about 5000 of them remaining across the globe. Of course, this has a big effect on the price of these horses.

There are plenty of other factors that go into the price of a horse as well, and these include bloodlines, age, size, color and markings, and the quality of the horse’s training.

A Clydesdale can range from $2500 to $5000. However, they can easily cost more, too. The top level of these horses can go for tens of thousands of dollars, the same as a luxury sports car!