One of the oldest, if not the oldest breed of British draft-horse, is the Clydesdale. As a variety, they attracted attention as early as 1715; but it was long afterward before they assumed that uniformity of character and potency which should be possessed by any class of animals before it can properly be called a breed. There appear to be good reasons for believing, and the most trusted authorities assert, that all of the heavy draft-breeds trace back to the wild Black Horse of Europe. This would seem to be a fair conclusion, since it is not probable that large draft-horses were developed from light, high-mettled, oriental foundation stock; though, without doubt, most, if not all of the draft-breeds have some admixture of warm blood. Horse-breeders from time immemorial have been fond of trying experiments; hence heavy stallions were, as they are now, sometimes bred to mixed-blooded mares, and not infrequently desirable female offspring resulted. These were then used to beget other offspring. Selections were then made according to the consensus of opinion of the best breeders, usually in a somewhat restricted district, as to the characteristics and qualities most desired.
Almost nothing is known of the method by which the blood of the original Black Horse of Europe was transformed into the Flemish draft-horse. Suffice it to say, at an early period, a heavy, rotund, short-legged draft-animal, somewhat similar in type to the Clydesdale of the present day, had been developed in Flanders. These, or their progeny, in a more or less pure form, appear to have been used to give the desired weight and form to nascent varieties of heavy horses in Great Britain and France, and probably in other European countries as well. However, the Flemish type has been so changed, both in France and Great Britain, as to lose many of its original characteristics. Hence, notwithstanding the fact that more or less of the blood of the British and French draft-horses is of Flemish origin, these modern breeds are justly entitled to the names they bear, as they are a new production rather than an improvement of the old Flemish breed.
Fig. 29. Lord Stewart, Clydesdale stallion Seaham Harbour Stud, Seaham Harbour, England.
The memory of Mr. John Patterson, of Lochyloch, Scotland, pioneer in draft-horse breeding, and Robert Bakewell, pioneer in the breeding of mutton sheep, should be honored and preserved; for they gave an impetus to the improvement of live stock which is still felt wherever superior farm animals are loved and prized. Some time in the early part of the eighteenth century, Mr. Patterson brought from England a Flemish stallion, which is said to have so greatly improved the draft-horses of Upper Ward as to make them noted all over Scotland, and in portions of England.
The color of the modern Clyde is generally bay or brown, sometimes with and sometimes without white markings, thougn blacks and sorrels are occasionally seen. The white is usually confined to a strip in the face, "blaze," and the lower part of the legs. Formerly the colors were not so dark, nor were the animals so well formed as they are at the present time. They still occasionally retain some of their old characteristics of shape and color. The flanks, the inside of the thighs and the belly are frequently a light bay, fading out in the less-exposed parts to a dun. The Clyde belongs to the large breeds, the stallions weighing from 1,500 to 2,000 pounds, and mares from 1,300 to 1,600, although specimens of heavier weights are sometimes found. The Clyde is tall, sixteen to seventeen hands, rangey, yet smooth and symmetrical, with long head, medium or rather short neck, strong, short legs heavily fringed below the knee with hair, "feather," and unusually long, slanting shoulders for a draft-breed. The length of shoulder and the rather unusual slant indicate activity and ease of movement. They have a kind, quiet disposition, good courage, and quite enough spirit for heavy work. Some of the horses first imported had poor feet and too long limbs. Recent importations show great improvement, not only in these two points but in others as well. Some of the Clydes are too small at the waist, "wasp-waisted," in which case the floating ribs are too short and the flank is too high. Both of these characteristics, as well as the too steep rump, were observable in some of the earlier importations. However, it should be said that if the flank were bred down too low it would interfere with the long, rapid stride for which the Clyde is especially noted. Then, too, the feet of this breed, like those of all other draft-breeds, are not always so good as might be desired. It may be said, however, that few or none of these defects are discoverable in the better specimens of the modern Clyde.
Fig. 30. Quartette of two-year-old Clydesdale colts.
Clydesdale, the valley of the Clyde river, which extends with its tributaries through the counties of Renfrewand Lanark, is fertile and moist, and hence it is often difficult to secure horses with as hard and cylindrical feet as desired. All large draft-breeds incline to be flat-footed. Abundant hair, "feather," on the lower part of the legs, is objectionable in many parts of the United States. Fortunately, American-reared Clydesdales show a marked diminution of "feather," and improvement in the shape and character of the feet. Especially is this true in locations of light rainfall and abundant sunshine. Occasionally we still see "wasp-waisted" and "goose-rumped" Clydes, but they are becoming more and more rare. Better horses are now being bred in Great Britain; and better horses are being imported, and far better judgment is being exercised in mating and rearing in the United States, than formerly. The result is a large number of really superior Clydes and a relatively small number of poor, unsymmetrical animals.
Fig. 31. Borthwick. Imported Clydesdale stallion. Owned by Alex. Galbraith, Esq., Janesville, Wis.
The attempt is often made to show that a breed originates from one or a few animals of note, whereas such animals only improve or accentuate desirable qualities. They may be, and usually are, the first mile-stones from which the history and records of the breed are made up, so it has become customary to give credit, as the parent stock of the breed, to a few animals which showed marked improvement over other animals of similar characteristics. It is self-evident that the power to produce specimens above the average was present, though usually latent, in the ancestors which preceded the specimens which showed marked variations for the better. The valuable and distinguishing characteristics of a breed are not produced in a day or in a single generation. They come by slow growth, in accordance with the laws of evolution. However, for convenience in writing up the inception and development of a breed, we start with one or a few more or less noted animals, and largely or entirely ignore the ancestry which lies back of them. From a few more or less distinguished animals, the breed begins and is usually developed by in-breeding for a few generations. When a breed is being formed, often little is known of the ancestors of the females which are bred to the selected foundation-males. Several generations may elapse before an attempt is made to exclude from the breed, especially on the female side, animals which have less than seven-eighths of the selected or approved ancestry.
The terra "full blood" has been an extremely indefinite one, and when applied to recently formed breeds is still so. The flexible rules observed when a breed is being formed, instead of being a hindrance, are, in, fact, a great help, as they give wide opportunity for selecting the best animals and for making such crosses and combinations as give promise of securing improvement. The improvement once secured, "inbreeding," to some extent, must be resorted to, or the improvement is likely to disappear. (See Chapter XIII (Principles Of Breeding)). However much the historian may be interested in the early history of the breed, - which too often is lamentably contradictory, - it does not follow that the busy farmer, or even the agricultural student, should go into the innumerable petty historical details, many of which are unverified. It is far better to learn the characteristics of a good animal, secure him, and then acquire the skill and knowledge necessary to preserve the standard of excellence already attained; or better still, to raise the standard higher. It matters little now whether the ancestor of your horse, fifteen generations removed, was Flying Childers, Periwinkle or Snodgrass. Those who desire a more extended historical sketch than is here given can secure it by reading some of the works devoted to this breed.
Fig. 32. Clydesdale mare. Permission of F. S. Peer.