The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in Britain in 1877; a year later the American Clydesdale Society was founded. The Clydesdale was firmly established in the United States and Canada, making overseas sales a notable feature in Clydesdale breeding. Considerable numbers were also exported to Germany, Russia, Japan, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The origin dates back to the 18th century.
The breed originated in Clyde Valley, Scotland, when attempts were made to increase the size of the local draft horse. Flemish stallions and Shire stock were used. By the 19th century, breeders had managed to produce a distinctive breed of draft horse. They are commonly used for heavy draft.
Built lighter than the Shire, the Clydesdale horse is noted for its very active paces. Although it is bred for agricultural work, the breed is very versatile and can be suited to heavy urban draft. They stand anywhere from 16 to 18 hands. The head, with a straight profile, is finer than most other draft breeds. The neck is also longer than that of the Shire. The well-sloped shoulders contribute to a characteristic, high-stepping action. The withers are clearly defined and higher than the croup. Cow-hocks are characteristic and not considered a fault in conformation. The feathering is heavy, but not coarse.
The Shire gave increased activity, combined with additional strength and size. The Flanders Horse helped in developing its size, weight and strength.