The Powerful Clydesdale
A team of mighty horses prances down the street. These huge horses are pulling a big wagon easily. They are exciting to watch. Their manes are braided. Their short tails are neatly tied up. Their steps are high, quick, and smooth. Only one breed of horse looks and moves like this – the Clydesdale!
Clydesdales had simple beginnings. They were draft horses used for hard work. They plowed farmers’ fields. They pulled big wagons and carts.
Clydesdales have come a long way since then. They are no longer just powerful helpers. Today, people love them for many reasons. They are considered as the world’s most beautiful horses.
These Clydesdales are pulling a group of people on a hayride.
- Clydesdales first came from Lanarkshire, Scotland. Lanarkshire used to be called Clydesdale. The River Clyde flows through this area.
What Do Clydesdales Look Like?
Clydesdales stand out in any crowd! They are big, heavy horses. In fact, they are one of the biggest draft horses. A horse’s height is measured at its withers. Many Clydesdales measure over 6 feet (almost 2 meters) high. They weigh close to 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms).
These powerful horses are built for hard work. They have long, strong legs. Their hooves are huge. One hoof is about 11 inches (23 centimeters) across. That is as big as a dinner plate!
You can see the size of this Clydesdale’s hooves.
- A horse’s height is measured in hands. A hand is 4 inches (10.2 centimeters). Many Clydesdales are around 18 hands high. That means they are 6 feet (almost 2 meters) tall.
- How big are Clydesdales’ hooves? They are twice the size of Thoroughbred racehorses’ hooves!
Clydesdales are prized for their beauty, too. They are usually brown or bay. Sometimes they are black, gray, chestnut, or roan. Most Clydesdales have white on their faces and legs. Most of them have black manes and tails. They all have long, flowing hair on their lower legs. This long hair is called feather.
Clydesdales are known for their lively, high-stepping gait. As they walk, they lift their hooves high. Their long feather swings with each step. Their necks have a beautiful curve. Clydesdales have a flashy look people love!
This Clydesdale has been groomed for a parade.
- A Clydesdale lifts its foot high with every step. From behind, you can see the whole bottom of its hoof.
A newborn Clydesdale is a leggy little horse! At birth, its legs are nearly as long as its mother’s. Standing up for the first time is not easy. The foal struggles to its feet. It can walk when it is only a few hours old. Anti it wants to eat right away!
For its first six months, the foal stays close to its mother. It drinks its mother’s milk anti grows quickly. At birth, it is only about 42 inches (a little over 1 meter) tall. It weighs about 125 pounds (57 kilograms).
The foal grows fast in its first few months. It might put on 4 pounds (almost 2 kilograms) a day! At four years old, the horse is fully grown. Most Clydesdale foals do not change color as they grow. Hut babies born with a mousy gray-brown color are different. Most newborns this color turn black later on.
- A Clydesdale mother makes lots of milk for her foal. She might make 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of milk a day!
Clydesdales in History
The Clydesdale breed (joes back some 300 years. Clydesdales are a mix of other kinds of horses. People in Clydesdale already had draft horses. Then they brought some bigger horses from Flanders. Flanders is now part of Belgium and the Netherlands. These new horses came from a breed ridden by knights. Knights wore heavy armor. They needed big, powerful horses.
The big Flemish horses and the Scottish horses had babies. These foals were spirited, strong, and beautiful. They became the first Clydesdales.
The Clydesdale breed developed over many years. These horses were good for farm work. They pulled wagons, carts, and plows. In the 1800s, they pulled heavy loads of coal. Soon they were used on city streets. People liked their fancy gait. They used them to pull carriages.
These Clydesdales are working together to plow a field.
- Clydesdales are the national horse of Scotland.
In the late 1800s, people brought Clydesdales to North America. But American and Canadian farmers liked other horses better. The Clydesdales’ feather got too dirty in the fields. Their big hooves squashed new plants. The Clydesdales became mostly city horses.
In the cities, people noticed these big horses. They noticed their quick, smooth gait. Often, teams of Clydesdales pulled big wagons. But in the early 1900s, people started using cars and trucks. The cars anti trucks soon took the place of horses. Clydesdales were almost forgotten.
In the 1930s, one company brought Clydesdales back again. Clydesdales once pullet! the company’s wagons. Now trucks were doing that job. But the company hooked Clydesdales to shiny new wagons. They put them in their ads. People loved to see the big horses. The company is still known for its Clydesdales.
- After cars and trucks became common, the number of Clydesdales dropped. For a while, the breed was in danger of dying out.
Clydesdales have a nickname – Gentle Giants. They are gentle and friendly. When they stand together, they touch and rub against each other.
These horses are always willing to work hard. They are quiet and easy to handle. Farm children can tell them what to do. Even on busy streets, Clydesdales stay calm. Horns, shouts, and other loud noises do not make them panic.
Clydesdales might be calm, but they are never boring! They are fun to watch in shows or parades. You can see their lively spirit.
- Clydesdales have sensitive taste buds! They can tell the difference between salty things and sweet things.
Clydesdales at Work
Trucks, tractors, and other big machines are everywhere. They have taken over the heaviest work. But in some places, draft horses are still important. Clydesdales still pull plows anti wagons on some farms. They are still important for farm work in Ireland.
Mostly, people have Clydesdales because they enjoy them. The horses do some lighter work. In some places, they still pull carriages. In Hawai’i, they pull wedding carts carrying the bride anti groom. Some Clydesdales travel to be in parades anti shows. Clydesdales still draw a crowd wherever they go!
These two Clydesdales are hard at work pulling a plow.
- Many Clydesdales still work in Argentina. Up to 12 horses might pull a single wagon.
- Some Clydesdales work in forests. They work where foresters cannot use tractors.
Once, Scotland had well over a hundred thousand Clydesdales. Today, there are only a few thousand in the world. The largest number live in North America. Others live in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Still others live in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
There is good news for people who love Clydesdales. More people are learning about these excellent horses. The number of Clydesdales is growing!
Today, you do not see many Clydesdales on city streets – except in parades. You might see some in farm fields or on country roads. But they are still favorites at fairs and horse shows. People love to see these big horses and watch them move. And seeing these gentle giants in person is best. They are a sight you will never forget!
Clydesdales are calm, gentle horses.
- One company; Anheuser-Busch, has the biggest herd of Clydesdales in the world – over 200 horses!
- Most Clydesdales live for about 18 to 23 years.