Horse breeds fact file: Clydesdales

  • The history of Clydesdales dates back to the 1600s and the breed takes its name from the area around the River Clyde in Lanarkshire.

    During the early 17th century, the Duke of Hamilton imported 6 black coaching stallions from Flanders to improve local draught stock. These sires were used on local “Scotch” mares, the progeny of which was to evolve into the Clydesdale.

    These horses were said to be of better type than the Flanders horses and the native horses they were crossed with, and the breed soon gained a reputation as one of the best agricultural and haulage animals. Horse fairs at Lanark became a popular place to purchase horses and a strong export industry in Clydesdales soon developed.

    Different types started to evolve as the breed spread throughout the British Isles. The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in 1877 and its first studbook, published in 1878, mentions such types, including the Galloway, Kintyre and Banffshire.

    During the height of its popularity, the Clydesdale numbered around 140,000 animals in Scotland alone. However, with the introduction of mechanisation in agriculture and haulage, the Clydesdale’s primary use was lost and numbers dramatically declined. By the 1970s, the breed was designated “at risk” by the Rare Breeds’ Society and found itself at an all time low.

    The main purpose of the Clydesdale today is breeding and showing. The Clydesdale Horse Society has taken measures to increase the breed’s popularity, especially with young people. National classes have been developed to ensure that all ages of enthusiast are involved in the continuation of the Clydesdale.

    The Clydesdale stands 17hh plus and can be bay, black, roan and less common colours of grey and chestnut, with soft white feathering on the legs. Horses may have white patches running up to the belly.

    The foundation sire is believed to be Glancer 335, with two notable sires of the 19th century being Prince of Wales 673 and Darnley 222.

    Clydesdales are lively and intelligent with a good temperament, giving an impression of quality and weight, not bulk.

    As well as their use in showing and eco-friendly agriculture, the Clydesdale has competed in horse trials, endurance and general riding club activities.

    For more information visit www.clydesdalehorsesociety.com

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