Rural Heritage Horse Paddock

Clydesdale & Shire Draft Horses


mixed teamShire & Clyde

Clydesdales originated in the Clyde River Valley of Scotland and owe much of their heritage to the Great Horse of the Middle Ages. In their home country they became famous for their size, power and snappy looks. Not only could they pull heavy weight—whether plowing steep, rough hills or pulling a freight wagon from city to city—but they looked stylish doing it. While the Clydesdale remained a farm horse, it quickly found its calling as a freight horse because of its size, power, quick way of going and because it attracted attention, therefore advertising the owner's wares.

For the same reasons the Clydesdale was so popular in Scotland and much of Europe, it quickly gained favor in Canada and the United States. Abundant white feathering on the feet is a trademark of this breed, although those who work horses in the field find the extra grooming to keep the feathering clean to be a slight detriment. Clydesdale are therefore commonly seen in exhibition hitches for brewery companies and in shows and parades. In the United States Clydesdales are more numerous than the similar looking Shire, although the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists both as rare breeds under that status "watch."

color— bay, brown, roan, or black with white blaze and stockings
average mature weight— 1,700 - 2,200 pounds
average mature height— 16.2 - 18.2 hands
temperament— active, gentle, responsive
uses— heavy draft
association— Clydesdale Breeders of the United States
Clydesdale Horse Society
  Clydesdale Horse Society of Canada
  Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society of Australia
  Clydesdale Horse Society of New Zealand
web resources— About Clydesdales
International Museum of the Horse
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Oklahoma State University


Shires were used to draw heavy carts for farm markets and in large teams to plow the expansive fields of the English Shires, which gave the breed its name. Imported into the United States and Canada in the early 1900s, the massive Shire quickly found its place pulling heavy loads throughout the countryside and on city streets. In the United States today Shires range in conformation from the old-style work horses to the modern "hitchy" show style.

The Shire is the tallest horse breed in the world. It has a long, muscular, but refined neck and a medium-sized head. The entire body is muscular and powerful. The legs are longer than those of most draft horse breeds and have dense, silky feathering. The Shire has great strength as well as endurance and a snappy, active way of going. The American Shire is popular in the show ring, where it is often found hitched to brewery drays in matching teams of six or eight.

color— black, brown, bay, gray
average mature weight— 1,700 - 2,000+ pounds
average mature height— 17.1 hands
temperament— docile, kind, hardworking
uses— heavy draft, crossbreeding with hunters and thoroughbreds
to produce tall, heavy jumping/riding horses
association— The American Shire Horse Association
  Shire Horse Society (UK)
  Canadian Shire Horse Society
  Shire Horse Society Australia Inc
  Shire Horse France
web resources— American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
International Museum of the Horse
Oklahoma State University

Return to: What is a Draft Horse?

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15 June 2011