Everything You Need to Know About the Clydesdale Horse

Posted by Allie Layos

The Clydesdale horse is one of the most beloved breeds of horse, thanks in part to its gentle nature.

The Clydesdale is a draft horse that originated from the farm horses of Clydesdale, Scotland. Known for its large size, high-stepping action and calm temperament, the first breed registry was formed in 1877.

The history of the breed dates back from the middle of the 18th century when native horses of Lanarkshire were graded up in an effort to produce greater weight and substance by the use of Flemish stallions.

Clydesdales can grow to over 18 hands tall and they weigh between 1600 and 2400 pounds. White legs are common, but black legs are often found. White spots or white markings can occur on the body.

The United States has the largest number of Clydesdales, with Canada, Great Britain and Australia trailing in numbers.

The breed combines strength and style, with very distinctive movement. Instead of the shuffling action customary to many draft breeds, the Clydesdale lifts each foot cleanly from the ground, so that the bottom of each hoof is visible from behind.

Clydesdale horses are used for agriculture, logging, driving, and are also ridden for both show and pleasure. A number of Clydesdales also make up the famous Budweiser Clydesdales hitch, made popular by Budweiser at the end of Prohibition.

With that in mind, the Clydesdales have an important advocacy group that's been around since the 1800's! Meet the Clydesdale breeders.

The Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.

Fun facts:

"The Clydesdale Breeders of the United States, incorporated in 1879, is the member organization for the Clydesdale horse and is open to all people interested in the well being and advancement of the breed. The purpose of the Association is to collect, revise, preserve, and publish the history and pedigrees of purebred Clydesdale horses. It is also responsible for all registrations and the transfer of ownership of all eligible horses within the United States."

The online pedigrees and stud book program can be accessed by anyone and is a resource is available to all.

"The program allows you to search for both horses and owners via a variety of criteria. For horses, you can view their ownership, offspring, and basic extended pedigrees. For owners, you can view all their current and past horse ownership records."

Clydesdales are a heavy horse breed. Other horse breeds similar to these gentle giants are Shire horse, Percheron horse, Belgian horse, and Draft horse breed.

The Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A. are a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the breed.

In addition, the Clydesdale Horse Society is another important organization for the breed that highlights the conformation of the Clydesdale on their site.

"A Clydesdale should have a nice open forehead, broad between the eyes, a flat profile, wide muzzle, large nostrils, a bright clear intelligent eye, big ears and a well arched long neck springing out of an oblique shoulder with high withers.

People with a love of the Clydesdale are not only rediscovering uses for the breed but the associated skills such as harness making and shoeing."

According to the Anheuser-Busch website, a dalmatian travels with each of the Clydesdale hitches! Since the 1950's dalmatians have been seated proudly next to the driver.

Don't forget to check out the hitches of the Budweiser Clydesdales and their current schedule so you can visit them when they head to your city. Most cities in North America like Chicago and St. Louis are on the list.

Hover over the image for more information.

General Appearance

Clydesdales typically stand 16 - 18 hands tall and weigh 1,800 - 2,000 pounds. The breed combines size and weight with a distinctly regal appearance.


An arched neck, high withers and short back make up the conformation of the Clydesdale. They should have broad, sharply developed hocks, with forelegs planted under the shoulders, straight legs, and durable feet with extensive feathering on their lower legs. 


Bay (brown with a black mane and tail) is the most common color for the Clydesdale, but they can also be found in roan, black, grey and chestnut. Since they have sabino genetics, Clydesdales often bear white markings on their face and legs as well as roaning and body spotting.


Clydesdales have a straight or slightly convex profile and broad forehead.


Calm, gentle, intelligent horses, Clydesdales are well-suited to therapy work as well as the promotional work required by the Budweiser hitch.



Though they are generally healthy horses, dirt and moisture can become trapped in the Clydesdale's feathers causing  a disease known as "scratches," or chronic, seborrheic dermatitis, on the rear surface of the pastern and fetlock. Mild cases can often be treated by clipping the affected area, scrubbing it with Betadine and applying a topical ointment such as Corona.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Clydesdale Horse