Clydesdale vs Regular Horse

Clydesdale has a special place in more than 350 horse breeds that we have today. Though this powerful draft horse is listed as vulnerable to extinction, over the past centuries it has been one of the most preferred horse breeds for plowing and wagon pulling jobs. It has a large body frame and is strongly-built. Though it is mostly found in bay color, it has roaning pattern in multiple colors including patches of white. Now, these horses are part of prestigious horse battalions where they have a ceremonial role. They are also frequently used in parades and processions. Here, we are going to present a Clydesdale vs regular horse comparison.

Comparison with general horses

In comparison to Clydesdale, general horses are different breed types. This means they have sizes, characteristics, and purposes of breeding markedly different from those of Clydesdale. Some horses have better maneuverability so they are better used in the military. Some horses are good for rescue police, patrolling, and rescue works. They are hired by police departments. Some breed types are good in running, they are used in racing. Similarly, Clydesdale has both physical strength and mental attributes for load hauling tasks. That’s why they have always been used as plowing and carriage horses.

Clydesdale is a separate breed that belongs to the Draft class of horses. Like most other draft horses, Clydesdale is a strong and stocky horse. It is used for plowing and pulling heavy carriages and wagons. Even among the draft horses, Clydesdale is a larger sized horse. But it is smaller than Belgian horses. Clydesdale is also used in events and processions. It is because they look particularly impressive in their hairy tufts or feathered hair legs, much like a Shire horse. Other draft breed horses include Shire, Suffolk Punch, Precheron, Comtois, and Gypsy Vanner.

Clydesdales are well-muscled with a large frame. It’s most striking features include high withers, sloped shoulder, and arched neck. They have active gaits where hooves have a clear lift showing quality and power. These horses are energetic and enjoy their carriage work.

Height, weight, & differences

The Clydesdale horses are typically 16 to 18 hands high. This means they are 64 to 72 inches or 163 to 183 cm high. Their normal weight measures from 820 to 910 kg (1,800 to 2,000 pounds). But some well grown Clydesdale horses can be bigger and heavier, measuring more than 18 hands and 1000kg (2,200 pounds). Clydesdale is particularly a large horse breed.

When we talk about the size of other horses, it depends on the breed, and also the nutrition they have received. For example, a light riding horse would stand 14 to 16 hands or 56 to 64 inches. Their weight can range from 375 kg to 550 kg. A large riding horse can have a height of 15 to 17 hands or 62 to 68 inches. It can weigh 450 kg to 600 kg.

Draft horses

Draft horses are muscular and heavy. They are classified as cold bloods’. Though they are bred for strength, they are also calm and patient. This kind of temperament is particularly useful as the horse is expected to carry out heavy-duty functions like pulling a wagon or plowing a field. The most popular draft horses include Belgian and Clydesdale. Percheron breed horses are relatively lightweight and livelier. They are more used to working in drier climates. Shire can be slower but more powerful, good for plowing clay-based farmlands.

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of a domestic horse depends on many factors including breed, environment, nutrition, and care. If everything is fine, a domestic horse will live 25 to 30 years. Very few of them can cross the age of 40.

Breed types

There are over 350 horse breeds in the world, each has been developed for specific purposes. Horse breeds are divided into 3 basic categories: hot bloods, cold bloods, and Warmbloods. Hotbloods breed type is characterized by speed, spirit, and endurance. Cold bloods breed type is temperamentally calm and patient, fit to carry out heavy tasks such as pulling loads. Draft horses belong to the Coldbloods breed type. Ponies also come under this category. Warmbloods breed type is created by crosses between hot bloods and cross bloods breed type horses.

Clydesdale: Origin & extinction threat

The Clydesdale breed is named after the area — River Clyde valley in the Lanarkshire county — from where it comes in Scotland. The origin of The Clydesdale breed began when local mares were mated with imported Flemish stallions in the 18th century. Later, Shire blood was also introduced to Clydesdale in the 19th century. Soon its population began to grow and the new breed was named Clydesdale in 1826. By the end of the 19th century, a large number of Clydesdales had already been exported to other countries, mainly to Australia and New Zealand. However, the 20th century saw a drastic decline in the number of Clydesdale horses, mainly due to increased mechanization and casualties in the First World War. Now, for many decades Clydesdale is listed as a breed vulnerable to extinction.


Clydesdales are mostly found in bay color. But they also sport a roaning pattern in grey, black, and chestnut colors. Many of them also have striking white markings on their lower belly, face, feet, and legs.

Clydesdales: The show horse

Clydesdales are large and powerful horses. But they used to be larger and more powerful than how they are today. In the past, they were used as draft horses for road haulage and draft power. But with increased mechanization, Clydesdales are rarely used for those purposes any more.

Now, their impressive size and build make them a perfect showpiece on special ceremonial events. They are often used in parades and processions. Household Cavalry of the British Army use these as drum horses. American brewery Anheuser-Busch uses these horses for publicity. They are often a showpiece attraction at state fairs and national exhibitions. Some of the most popular Clydesdales form part of Budweiser Clydesdales hitches.

Final thoughts

In the Clydesdale vs regular horse debate, we find that Clydesdales has been a useful breed that for centuries shared the responsibility of plowing and heavy-duty load hauling. Now, their numbers have come down alarmingly but they are still seen in parades and processions. Like other breeds, Clydesdale is also a breed type. And it should be considered a general horse.