Draft (Draught) Horses – The Clydesdale
By Michael Russell
This heavy draft horse traces its roots to the early 19th century in the Lanarkshire (formerly Clydesdale) district of Scotland. There was a strong need for this large horse not only in the agricultural area but in the commerce area as well. The horses were used in the coalfields of Lanarkshire and for hauling wagons in the streets of Glasgow.
To achieve the desired traits of a horse with a longer stride and larger feet, that were necessary on draft horses who worked on the soft soils of the Scottish lands, English and Belgian stallions were imported and bred with the smaller local mares. The result was the founding line of the modern-day Clydesdales.
The breed’s reputation grew to the point that Scottish breeders began exporting them to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Today the Clydesdale is almost exclusively the only draft breed in its native Scotland, and is still favored in the other four countries as well.
In fact there is one very large and popular brewery in the United States which uses Clydesdales, exclusively, for pulling replicas of its original beer wagon in parades and at special events around the country. They make these magnificent animals available for one to go into their temporary stables and actually walk up to the horses for a close-up view. The horses are sort of goodwill ambassadors for their company. And darn good ones too, one might say.
Description and Conformation
Today’s Clydesdale typically weighs in from 1600 to 2000 pounds (113.6 to 142 stones). He stands 16 to 19 hands (162.5 to 193 cm., or 64 to 76 in.) at the shoulder. While this is larger than the original Scottish horse, today’s breeders have retained the large feet, the sound legs, and the distinctive looks of the ancestral Clydesdales. The colors of the coats are very vivid, the face is usually white, and the most popular trait for a performing team of these magnificent horses is four white socks which reach the knees. The legs are usually “feathered” in white hair from the knees down, and the most common color is a bright bay. Once can, however, still see Clydesdales in black, brown, and chestnut. And those are perfectly acceptable for registration as purebreds.
The overall take on this breed is that of a thoroughly well-built horse which is full of strength and activity. They naturally hold their heads high and seem very proud, almost aristocratic. One can see the strength, agility, and docility in their stance even while they are stationary. And once seen in action the Clydesdales leave an even more lasting, and awe inspiring, impression!
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