Horses of superior quality were raised in Scotland’s Valley of the Clyde for more than three hundred years. They formed the nucleus of the entire breed that took its name from the district in which it evolved - the Clydesdale!
Breed records begin around 1750 when John Paterson in Lanarkshire imported a black Flemish stallion from England. When bred to the native mares of Lanarkshire, the offspring were big horses. Most were brown or black in colour with white markings on their face and legs.
The Clydesdale Horse Society of Great Britain and Ireland was organized in 1877 and the first volume of the Clydesdale Stud Book was published the following year. This stimulated the export of Clydesdales to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States, a trade that remains active to this day.
The first Clydesdale to enter Canada was the stallion named Cumberland. He came to Ontario in 1840. The Clydesdale was the first draft horse breed found in most every Canadian province. There were Clydesdales in Manitoba as early as 1881. Stallions arrived in the foothills as early as 1883, while a stallion was imported to British Columbia in the year 1887 by the Douglas Lake Cattle Co.
Clydesdales have long enjoyed undisputed supremacy among the draft horse breeds in Canada. This remains as true today as it was in 1905, for Canadian bred Clydesdales continue to enjoy international fame receiving many top honors at sales and shows throughout North America and are in great demand both here and abroad.
Horses of greater size and weight can be found in other breeds but the Clydesdale is unsurpassed for quality. Indicative of this quality is the straight, silky feather that furnishes the feet and legs. A horse of style, the Clydesdale has achieved unusual show ring success.
The Clydesdale is superior in action and quality of its feet and legs which must be placed correctly under the animal. The fore legs should be placed well under the shoulders, not outside in bulldog fashion, and the hind legs should be close and tight at the hocks.
The correct set of the hind legs is very important; they should be neither too straight nor “sickled”. Hocks which are wide, flat, clean and strong and knees which are big and broad, characterize the Clydesdale. Their pasterns are long and should slope from the hoof head to the fetlock joint at roughly 45 degrees. The feet are large, giving a good “grip on the ground”. They are round, large and open and prominent at the hoof heads. The head and neck should be medium size with a wide and open forehead. Horses having at least moderate length of neck and slope of shoulder are desired, with high withers.
In action the Clydesdale has no peer.
Correct action at the walk and trot is demanded. The stride that characterizes good specimens of the breed is long and straight, while the flexion of joints is pronounced. The feet should be lifted completely off the ground, so the bottom of each foot or shoe is clearly visible from behind with each stride. It is important that the Clydesdale stand and travel with his hocks close together.
Clydesdale popularity is unchallenged in Canada. The breed is fairly rugged and of great value for crossing with lighter mares. Supreme for quality feet and legs, no underpinning will wear like that beneath a Clydesdale.
The dashing action and striking beauty of the Clydesdale continues to arouse the admiration of true horsemen.