Key Characteristics

The Clydesdale was originally bred for heavy farm and industrial work, although its large open hooves were better suited to city work than narrow arable furrows. It is noted for its high stepping, showy action, which makes it one of the most elegant heavy horses.

  • The Clydesdale stands on average 16.2hh, although some animals are taller. 
  • It has a, straight nose, big ears and a well-arched long neck. 
  • Its well defined withers and short back makes it a powerful workhorse. 
  • Quarters should be long, thighs strong, hocks broad and clean. 
  • The legs should be well endowed with fine silky feather. 
  • The colour is bay, brown or black with much white on the face and legs, often running into the body to give a roan appearance. Chestnuts are rarely seen.


  • The Clydesdale breed was founded in the early eighteenth century when two breeders, John Paterson of Lochlyoch and the 6th Duke of Hamilton, imported Flemish stallions and mated them with native draught mares in the Clyde valley.
  • At its peak, Scotland had around 140,000 farm horses plus an unknown number in towns and cities, most of which were Clydesdales in whole or part. 
  • Clydesdales were also exported to many countries.
  • As with other draught breeds, numbers dwindled with the increased use of mechanical power.


Clydesdales are mostly used as draught horses. They are used in agriculture and logging as well as driving. 

As well as being used as draught horses, Clydesdale can be ridden and are often shown in saddle. 

Clydesdales have been used to create a number of breeds, including the Gypsey Vanner horse. They can also be crossed with smaller breeds to create mid-sized draught horses. 

In America, Clydesdales are used by Budweiser for promotions and commercials. They were first used in 1933 to deliver the first case of beer from the St Louis brewery after prohibition was lifted. 

Breed Societies

For more information please contact The Clydesdale Horse Society