The Clydesdale Horse one of the major heavy horse breeds of the world, has its origins in the Valley of the Clyde, Lanarkshire, Scotland. Although the exact details of the foundation of the breed are now lost to history, it is known that in the early part of the seventeenth century, selective upgrading of the native horses of this area was underway, with the use of infusions of blood from both Europe and England.
By the Eighteenth century, the local horses were becoming recognised as a separate and distinct breed. In 1815, heavy horse owners came together to begin to lay down formal criteria for the new breed and, in 1877, an official body was founded to promote the interests of Breeders. This body was the Clydesdale Horse Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and is the body upon which the Australian Society is modelled. The first Stud Book was published in 1878, and the Society in Scotland has continued to award prizes, control export of horses, and in general to influence the horse world-wide.
In Australia, numbers of heavy horses remained fairly low until the mid 1850’s. By this stage, roads were being improved, farm machinery was designed to operate more effectively at a faster pace, and the Victorian gold rush was in full swing. These conditions favoured a horse which was strong, long-lasting and having a quick, long stride. Under these conditions, the Clydesdale soon came to exert its supremacy in Australia, a supremacy maintained without falter for over 150 years.
The Governing Body in Australia is the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society, which was founded in 1921, a merger of the then-existing heavy horse organisations. The stud book is maintained by Federal Council with branches in the majority of states. The Queensland branch was reformed in 1974 and holds regular meetings and training days.
Many fine horses have been imported to this country, mainly from Scotland but with representatives from New Zealand and elsewhere. These horses did much to influence the modern type of Clydesdale over the past 20 years. From 1993 to 1995, six Clydesdale Horses were imported from Scotland and Ireland. (five Males and one Female) two of which came to Queensland.
Clydesdale breeding reached a pinnacle in the 1930’s, but the onset of World War II and the trend towards mechanisation, saw numbers greatly reduced in the early years after the War. However, a core of Clydesdale breeders continued to maintain their studs and by about 1970, the strength of the breeders was again increasing.
The Clydesdale is noted for its pleasant combination of weight and power on one hand, and fineness and activity on the other. These attributes in the legs provide the Clydesdale with its light, smart gait, where the feet are lifted smartly from the ground and placed well forward in their stride. Other special features of the Clydesdale are the intelligent eye, finely proportioned head and neck blending into a sloping shoulder and a back not over-long. The Clydesdale is noted for its quiet docile temperament giving rise to the phrase “The Gentle Giant”.
The modern Clydesdale stands about 16 – 17 hands and weighs some 800 or more kilograms, Being a relatively “fine” breed of heavy Horse, horses of extreme height or weight are not favoured. Popular colours are bays, brown and black, although other colours are seen.