FRequently asked questions

Why do Clydesdales have so much hair on their legs?

One of the trademark features of the Clydesdale breed is the long, silky hair which grows down the back of each leg and around the front of the hoof. This hair, known as ’feather’ at the back of the legs and ’spat’ around the hoof, has a special purpose. The back of the heel on any horse is susceptible to various skin conditions, such as mud fever and greasy heel. These conditions are made worse by being allowed to remain continually damp. The hair on the Clydesdale’s legs, therefore, acts as protection by working as a very efficient drainage system to channel water away from the delicate heel area.


How much does a Clydesdale eat?

Although the Clydesdale is a large and heavy breed of horse, their nutritional requirements can be met surprisingly easily. Most members of the breed are notoriously ’good doers’, that is, they are easily maintained on a basic ration. This ration will vary according to the amount of work the horse is required to perform. In addition, broodmares and young horses have specific nutritional needs. As a rough guide, a horse will consume 2% of its bodyweight each day. For an average Clydesdale weighing around 800kg, this equates to a daily intake of roughly 16kg of feed.


What is the difference between a Clydesdale and a draught horse?

The Clydesdale is a specific and pure breed of horse which may be registered as such in a Clydesdale Stud Book, either in Australia or another country such as the UK or America. To be eligible for registration in the Stud Book, a horse must be the progeny of registered parents. The term ’draught horse’ may be regarded as a description of a type of horse. Therefore, a draught horse may be any one of the heavy horse breeds, for example, Shires, Suffolk Punches, Percherons or Clydesdale, or, indeed a cross thereof.


What is the Clydesdale used for today?

The Clydesdale horse is a versatile breed used today for a multitude of purposes. Several promotional teams of horses are maintained by famous brewing houses to advertise their products. Many Clydesdales are used on farms for ploughing, cultivating, harrowing and so on. Horses have an advantage over modern farm machinery in that they do not compact the soil as much as some of the heavy equipment, thereby benefiting soil structure. We see horses used for working in vineyards for exactly this reason. The smart action and ground covering stride of the Clydesdale horse makes it an ideal choice for pulling carts and wagons. Many people are starting to ride their Clydesdales, as they make willing and comfortable mounts, particularly at the slower paces. Finally, many people enjoy breeding and showing their stock at various Agricultural and Royal shows around the country.


Where can I find out more information about the breed?

The first place to start is to contact the Branch Secretary in your State who will guide you to the best source for the information that you require. In addition, a number of publications relevant to Australian bloodlines, breeding, husbandry and harness are available. These include a publication by the NSW Branch of the CCHS - "The Clydesdale Horse - A Resource Book", annual Yearbooks produced by the Victorian Branch and a new publication from the Queensland Branch. Once more, contact your nearest Branch Secretary for further information. They will also assist those interested in purchasing horses by providing the names of breeders in their area.


Is harness for Clydesdales still available?

Yes, Clydesdale harness is still available. Some new harness can be purchased from a limited supply of Saddlers/Harness makers that have a particular interest in heavy horses. Some American harness is also available for purchase. Second hand harness and some work harness can be purchased privately from heavy horse enthusiasts. The relining of collars is also available from similar sources. Contacts would be available from Committee persons in each State.


I would like more information. Who can I contact in my State?

Each State Branch has a Secretary and an Executive. These persons can be contacted for extra information. Please contact these persons in your State.


How does the breed registration system work?

The registration of all Clydesdales in Australia is by the exclusive use of a registered Clydesdale Sire & Dam. Registration of new stock is undertaken prior to being 1 year of age, and is recorded with the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society, in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia). The present registration form includes details such as: Breeder, Name of Horse, Sex, Date of Birth, Sire, Dam, Colour, White markings, Brands on both near and off side shoulders, Whorls and Scars. Drawings of these are also to be included on the form. Clydesdales must be registered before the lapse of the fifth breeding season since birth.


Is the Clydesdale susceptible to any particular diseases or ailments?

Some Clydesdales suffer from an irritating skin condition, commonly known as "itch", which is particularly prevalent in the lower leg of the horse, amongst the feather. It is thought to be caused by a type of mange and requires regular treatment to prevent undue distress to the horse. In addition, the lack of dark pigmentation around the eyes and muzzle of some Clydesdales may result in sunburn during the warmer months.