The Clydesdale horse might be instantly recognizable because of their fame thanks to beer marketing commercials, but there is no mistaking this breed of horse when you see it. Clydesdales are known to grow to a height of over 18 hands, which means a height of over 6 feet for the average horse. A Clydesdale name Poe is believed to be the tallest in the world, standing at 20.2 hands and weighing in at an impressive 2,800 pounds.
When Poe holds his head up high, that head of his is 10 feet off the ground. That means Poe could dunk a basketball without any effort if he was so inclined.
And Poe isn't the only massive horse that is out there today with this breed. There is another Clydesdale in Texas that also measures above 20 hands and has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest horse.
These horses can come in a variety of colors, including chestnut, bay, and brown. Some can even be black. The trademark colorization of the Clydesdale, however, is their white underbelly. There is no breed standard for colorization as there is for others, but registered Clydes do have certain standards that must be met – especially if they are going to be used for breeding purposes.
Why Is the Clydesdale Horse So Large?
The Clydesdale horse was initially bred to be a war horse. Their official breed history begins around the 17th century and comes from horses that were used in Clydesdale, Scotland – now called Lanarkshire – for farm purposes. There are local records which date the use of this breed for homestead work back to the 14th century and their presence may even date back further than that.
What attracts people to the Clydesdale horse is that it has massive power and intelligence. The horses have been used to pull heavy loads in rural areas, been used to assist with urban development projects, and has even been part of industrial applications from time to time. These horses love to work, take pride in what they do, and are extremely loyal to their owners. Despite their size, they are incredibly well-behaved.
Up until the 1960s, they were still being used for pulling vegetable carts or milk carts in local areas. Because of their size, unfortunately, they can be a difficult horse to own. In 1975, the total global population of Clydesdale horses was believed to be just 80 animals. Thanks to the marketing of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company, however, their popularity began to rise and efforts were made to save this strong breed.
Today there is an estimated population of 5,000 horses and about 600 foals are born each year. Most Clydesdale horses are used for show today since their heavy hauling has been replaced with tractors, but on eco-friendly farms and back area logging operations where strength is needed, these horses are still able to pull their own weight with ease. It may be a challenge to get them to their destination because of their height, but they'll work hard once you do get them there.
The Development of the Clydesdale As a Show Horse
As the story goes, Queen Elizabeth II saw a Clydesdale walking down the street one day and it was pulling a milk cart. It is said that she was so impressed by the sight of this animal, with the trademark feathering above the hooves that is believed to come from English or Fleming genetics, that she immediately pressed one into royal service. The Clydesdale would become a drum carrier, hauling a 90 pound kettle that was used by the Household Calvary Band.
It is not uncommon to hear people refer to the Clydesdale horse as a “drum horse” or a “gypsy horse” because of this. Today the Clydesdale horse is on the road to recovery because they are being bred as show horses. Although the ongoing care costs are higher for this breed than any other horse because of its size, these horses are remarkably affordable. A survey of available Clydesdale ponies for sale right now has an average price of $5,500. Some older Clydesdale horses are available for as little as $1,500.
How Strong Are Clydesdale Horses?
In Scotland, it was not uncommon to see a Clydesdale horse pulling loads that weighed more than 1 ton. This means the horse can typically pull a load that is about equal to its body weight. For a horse like Poe, that means there is the potential to pull 3,000 pounds at once. When Clydesdale horses are put together as a team, they can pull even more weight. The Clydesdale team maintained by Anheuser-Busch pulls a wagon setup which weighs 12 tons in total.
These horses aren't slow pullers despite the heavy weights they are able to pull along. The average Clydesdale can pull a weight that is equal to its own at an average speed of 5 miles per hour. This made them an effective farm hand and why Scottish settlers who came to North America in the 1850s and later brought this breed along with them.
It takes a lot of fuel to be able to maintain that strength. According to information provided by Anheuser-Busch, the Clydesdale horses at their locations will consume up to 25 quarts of whole grains, minerals, and vitamins every day. They'll also eat up to 60 pounds of hay daily, along with up to 30 gallons of water.
The harness and collar for the Clydesdale must be equally sturdy in order to maintain the heavy loads. For the Anheuser-Busch team, each horse wears a harness and collar that weights about 130 pounds and is made of patent leather and solid brass. Even their horseshoes are large, weighing in at 5 pounds and being 20 inches long. For reference, that's 5x heavier than light horseshoes and twice as long.
Are You Ready To Support Clydesdale Horses?
Although the Clydesdale breed has been taken off of the vulnerable list and their populations are growing, they are still within the danger zone. These majestic horses are tall, massive, and an important part of our history. From the war horse to the farm horse to the show horse, when you look into the eyes of a Clydesdale, you can see that they're communicating with you at the same time.
These horses may be over 18 hands in height and that can make it difficult for some owners to maintain them, but these gentle giants aren't going to take advantage of their size. How tall is a Clydesdale horse? You might be able to measure their shoulder height and some horses may stand with their heads 10 feet above the ground, but the measure the height of their work and loyalty is virtually impossible to do.