|1904 drawing of an English Clydesdale mare|
|A modern-day Scottish plowing match|
During World War I, thousands of Clydesdales were conscripted to help haul military equipment. About the same time, more machinery started being used on farms, so horses weren't needed as much. This caused a decline in breed numbers that continued between the wars and afterwards. In 1946, there were more than 200 breeding stallions in England, and by 1949 there were only 80. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust decided in 1975 that Clydesdales were vulnerable to extinction.
Meanwhile, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, lots of Clydesdales had been exported from Scotland to New Zealand and Australia. Many of these horses were bred, so that there were quite a lot of them, but breeders in those countries also wanted to go on importing Clydesdales from the U.K. to help keep their stock pure.
Back in the 1920s and 1930s, Clydesdales were much smaller and more compact than they are now. This is because in the '40s, people started breeding the horses to be taller so that they would look more impressive in parades or shows. The modern Clydesdale is 16 to 18 hands (64 to 72 inches) tall and weighs between 1,800 and 2,000 pounds.
The usual colors for the breed are bay, roan, black, gray, or chestnut. Most horses have white markings on the face, feet, and legs. Sometimes there is also white spotting on the body, especially on the belly. Clydesdales have a lot of hair on their feet. This is called "feathering."
There are several farms in the U.S. where Anheuser-Busch keeps or breeds Clydesdales. All together the company owns about 250 horses. In order to be part of a hitch, a Clydesdale has to be a gelding with an even temperament. He has to be 4 years old, at least 72 inches tall and weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds. He has to be bay in color, meaning he has a reddish-brown coat with a black mane and tail. He is also required to have a white blaze on his face and 4 white stocking feet.
|Photo: John Ehlke, Bay City Times|
Another part of each Budweiser hitch is an obedience-trained Dalmatian. Having these dogs on the wagons has been a tradition since the 1950s. Back in the old days, the role of the dog was to guard the wagon while the driver went inside to make a delivery. Nowadays, the dog's role is to sit on the seat beside the driver and look handsome.
The only other thing I need to tell you about Clydesdales is that if you are a small animal such as a mouse or a cat or a chihuahua, you should stay far away from the Clydesdales' feet. Those crazy horses weigh like a ton apiece, and if they step on you, they will smash you as flat as a pancake! Here's a picture of a chi named Berry who got his head stepped on by a Clydesdale back in 2009, and amazingly, he lived to bark about it! But I still don't think you should press your luck. Just saying.