While the 2 horses are both equines, you might want to know how they compare: Clydesdale vs Regular horse.
Of course, they have many similarities, but there are some big differences; size and Clydesdale’s amazing leg feathers are the most noticeable.
Now a very vulnerable breed, the Clydesdale originated in Scotland’s Clyde Valley and once had a population of 10s of thousands. (1)
But what else sets these gentle giants apart from regular horses? Let’s take a look!
- Clydesdales are much taller than regular horses and often stand 18 hands tall
- The Clydesdales are types of draft horses with more strength and muscle mass than a regular horse
- Regular horses weigh around 500 pounds less than a smaller Clydesdale
- Clydesdales tend to have a more sensible, calm temperament than a regular horse
Clydesdale: Origin & Breed Threat
The Clydesdale comes from an area of western Scotland called the Clyde Valley, in the county of Lanarkshire. Farms at the time needed larger, stronger horses to work on farms.
To create a horse for this purpose, the 6th Duke of Hamilton and John Paterson of Lochlyoch, imported heavier Flemish stallions to Scotland in the mid-18th century. They then started a breeding program by mating these stallions with local mares.
The best horses were selected and used for farm work and transporting heavy goods. Over time, with selective breeding, the Clydesdale was refined and developed standard characteristics.
Pedigree records began in 1830, and in 1877 The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed. (2) The breed became very popular for its strength and good temperament, with the first Clydesdale reaching North America in the mid-19th century.
The population peaked at well over 150,000 Clydesdale in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, like other heavy horse breeds, WWI and the introduction of mechanical tools for farming and transport, the Clydesdale population plummeted.
In the 1930s, the world’s most famous Clydesdale team was formed. You probably know them as the Budweiser Clydesdales. We certainly owe some thanks to August Anheuser Busch Sr and Jr for protecting this wonderful breed.
However, Clydesdale is still in danger of being lost completely. They are noted as of great concern (at risk) by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. (3)
So just how rare is the Clydesdale?
Check out this amazing video!
How Many Clydesdales Are Left In The World?
There are only around 5,000 Clydesdales left in the world, with less than 1,000 in their native home. Compared to a significantly higher population of regular horses.
If you are in Canada, there is a wonderful documentary, Clydesdale: Saving the Greatest Horse, about one woman on a quest to save the breed. Watch if you can! (4)
So now that you know a little bit about this unique breed’s origins, let’s take a closer look at what is a Clydesdale vs regular horse.
This is a wonderful documentary about Clydesdale and is worth watching if you want to learn more about them.
Keep in mind it is from 1957, so some training techniques might look old-fashioned, but nothing overly cruel is happening.
Regular Horse Vs Clydesdale Characteristics
The Clydesdale differs from modern regular horses in that it is a type of draft horse purpose breed for heavy work. They are much taller and larger, with a build that is designed for pulling heavy loads at a reasonably slow pace over long periods of time.
Like other heavy horse breeds that once pulled heavy goods and helped plow fields, they have a much more sensible, less spooky temperament.
One standout characteristic that Clydesdale has are its beautiful thick leg feathers. While other breeds, such as the Gypsy Vanner, have the same impressive leg hair, the majority of regular horses have very little to no leg feathers.
Clydesdale Vs Regular Horse Height and Weight
The average height of a regular horse is 16 hands when taking most breeds into consideration but not looking at ponies.
The average height of a Clydesdale is significantly taller at 16.2 hands, but many are much taller. The horses closer to 16.2 are more likely to be mares.
All of the Budweiser Clydesdales in the famous hitch you see on TV and demonstrations are around 18 hands tall.
As far as weight goes, the Clydesdale’s large frame and height mean they are much heavier than the average regular horse, with a weight range of 1,700 to 2,200 pounds! You definitely don’t want one of these guys to accidentally step on your foot!
On the contrary, a regular horse weighs around 1,200 pounds.
On average, horses live 25 to 30 years. They are always exceptions when a horse can reach their late 30s. The Clydesdale horse has a slightly shorter life expectancy of 20 to 25 years.
The majority of Clydesdales are a beautiful ‘blood’ bay color with a black mane and tail and white markings. This is because it is the most desired color for the breed, so other colors became rare.
However, Clydesdales can also have black coats, chestnut coats, and even roan. They almost always have white markings, regardless of color.
A regular horse can come in a much wider variety of coat colors. You won’t see a paint, appaloosa, buckskin, or palomino Clydesdale.
Looking for a name that perfectly fits your palomino horse’s golden coat? Check out our “palomino horse names” video for some great ideas:
Like all former working horse breeds, the Clydesdale has a wonderful, gentle temperament, despite its intimidating size. They are a type of draft horse which is sometimes called a ‘cold blood’.
This doesn’t mean their blood is cold but that they are not as flighty and easily spooked as warmbloods or hot-blooded breeds. It doesn’t mean that they lack energy, however.
They are bred to want to work and will happily do so. Their calm temperament was absolutely necessary for the type of work they did, such as transporting goods within noisy, busy cities safely.
Many regular horses would not cope with working in a city environment.
Clydesdale Vs Regular Horse Price
It is tricky to compare the price of a Clydesdale and a regular horse because there are so many types of horses.
However, when looking across breeds and disciplines, the Clydesdale probably costs less to buy than a regular horse, with prices around $5,000. While regular horses can cost anywhere from free to millions, you are unlikely to see a Clydesdale sell for 7 figures.
Learn about the famous Budweiser Clydesdales in this video.
1. Can a Clydesdale be ridden?
Yes, you can absolutely ride a Clydesdale, and they make wonderful riding horses for larger or timid riders. Of course, they still need to be trained for riding and will need special tack that fits them.
Read our complete guide about “Are Clydesdales good for riding?”
2. Why do they cut off Clydesdales’ tails?
The tails are cut off Clydesdales to prevent them getting from getting caught up in the tack and hitch they are pulling. This is both for their and the driver’s safety.
This used to be done by docking, which is now illegal in many countries. (5) Today, the hair is cut very short, and if you look closely, the tail is securely tied up when they are at work.
3. Is there a bigger horse than a Clydesdale?
Yes, while the Clydesdale is pretty massive, it is one of the smaller heavy draft breeds. So, what horse is bigger than a Clydesdale? The Shire is taller with a bigger build. The Percheron is also much heavier in build.
4. Are the Budweiser horses Clydesdales?
Yes, all the Budweiser horses are Clydesdales. The horses that you see pulling the hitch are specially selected for a specific color, markings, and temperament. All horses that pull the Budweiser wagon are geldings.
As you can see when asking ‘what is a Clydesdale vs regular horse’, both have typical horse characteristics. However, Clydesdales tend to have a more calm temperament. They are also much larger in height and built than regular horses.
And, of course, their famous leg feathers!
Have you ever met a Clydesdale up close? I’d love to hear about your experience or any questions you might have.
- World 2 N. Clydesdale horses [Internet]. National Museums Scotland. Available from: https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/natural-sciences/farm-animals/farm-animals/clydesdale-horse/
- Angelique. Clydesdale Horse [Internet]. The Livestock Conservancy. Available from: https://livestockconservancy.org/heritage-breeds/heritage-breeds-list/clydesdale-horse/
- Lleyn H. Watchlist 2022-23 Sheep Cattle Equine Pigs Goats Poultry AT RISK [Internet]. Available from: https://www.rbst.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=5ee279d9-48ec-411d-962d-2115212bc0be
- Clydesdale: Saving the Greatest Horse [Internet]. Www.cbc.ca. www.cbc.ca; 2022. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/documentarychannel/docs/clydesdale-saving-the-greatest-horse
- Welfare Implications of Horse Tail Modifications [Internet]. American Veterinary Medical Association. 2020. Available from: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/literature-reviews/welfare-implications-horse-tail-modifications
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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