A Clydesdale is a type of draft horse, meaning that it has been bred to be a working animal, pulling heavy carts or drays filled with various goods. These horses are famous in the United States in their role as mascots for Budweiser beer, and they also enjoy an iconic status in Australia and the United Kingdom. Sadly, despite their fame, the Clydesdale breed is considered to be “at risk,” meaning that careful conservation to conserve the breed is required. Oddly enough, Anheuser-Busch, the manufacturer of Budweiser, is actually doing a great deal to preserve the breed, as it owns and breeds Clydesdale on numerous farms across the United States.
This horse breed was developed in the Clyde Valley of Scotland, and it is closely related to the Shire horse, another draft horse breed. Clydesdales have several adaptations which make them well suited for life in the cold regions of Scotland, including thicker bodies and heavier coats to protect them from the elements. The breed emerged as a recognizable and distinct type of horse around the mid-18th century, and it quickly came to be a very popular draft horse breed in the United Kingdom.
Like other draft horses, the Clydesdale has a body which is built for serious work. The horses have extremely muscular hindquarters and shoulders which allow them to pull heavy loads, along with compact torsos. Clydesdales have classically small, Roman-nosed heads with wide set eyes, and they are famous for their feathering, long tufts of white hair which run from their knees to their ankles. As is the case with draft horses in general, the Clydesdale is an extremely gentle, friendly, and patient horse.
Despite the fact that the Clydesdale has a very heavy build, these horses are famous for being extremely graceful. They have a high-stepping gait which fans of the breed characterize as “joyous,” and the horses are known for being show-offs, even while at work. A well bred and trained hitch of Clydesdales can be quite a sight, especially when the horses are color-coordinated. Since many people enjoy seeing draft horses in action, some breweries in various regions of the world maintain teams for the purpose of showing, and in a few parts of Britain, Clydesdales still make beer deliveries, as they have been doing for centuries.
Like other working animals, the Clydesdale's place in society was disrupted by the introduction of the engine, which allowed people to replace horses with tractors, trucks, and other mechanized tools. The Clydesdale experienced an extreme downturn in popularity as farmers found themselves unable to keep their horses and keep pace with mechanization, and for a brief period, the situation for the Clydesdale was quite dire. Fortunately, a community of people interested in breeding and showing draft horses has emerged, and it seems unlikely that this breed will be lost entirely, although it may remain rare.