How to Identify a Clydesdale Horse

A Clydesdale horse is a draft or heavy horse. Draft horses were bred to do heavy pulling work, mostly in rural agricultural situations. Before we had tractors and heavy machinery, we relied on horses to do a lot of work. The most famous Clydesdale horses are the Budweiser horses, which have been featured in advertising for many years. While it is tempting to assume any large horse with extra fur close to their hooves is a Clydesdale, this article will discuss some of the finer points, as there are many draft horses that are not Clydesdales.


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    Look for white feathering. This is the long hair that starts just below the knees and drops down around the large, broad hooves to the ground. If you see this characteristic on a very large horse, chances are that you are looking at a Clydesdale. Check the rest of the markers to be more certain, however.
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    Check the color. Clydesdales are usually bay colored. Bay is a dark brown in horse terms. They can be other colors; roan, black, etc. They almost always have white markings on the feet, face and legs. Most Clydesdale owners only want a horse that is bay colored.
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    Measure the height from the ground to the withers. Clydesdales are high. They range in height from 16 to 18 hands high. One hand equals 4 inches (10.2 cm) and is a very old measurement that we still use today. An 18 hands horse stands 72 inches (182.9 cm) or 6 feet (1.8 m) high or tall.
    • The withers are the top of a horse's shoulders, on the back, just after the neck.
    • Horse people will always say high, not tall.
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    Observe the musculature. They are stocky horses with arched necks. They are powerfully built and never slender.
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    Focus on the size and shape of the hooves. Clydesdales, like all draft horses, have large, broad hooves. Hooves are what horses have for feet. They have a lot of feathering around the hooves. Feathering is long hair that looks like feathers floating around the hooves. The feathering is always white.
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    Check the gait and watch how high the hooves come off the ground. When moving; walking, trotting, Clydesdales lift their feet more than a lot of draft breeds. Some people call this prancing. Horse people call it movement or action. Clydesdales have more action than many of the other draft breeds. This makes them showier when pulling a carriage. Because of this action, Clydesdales are chosen to pull carriages more often than other draft breeds.
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    Check for a Roman nose. Clydesdales like most draft breeds have what is called a Roman nose. The curve of the front of the head or face is outward. It does not dip in.

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Categories: Horses