The Clydesdale Horse is the pride of Scotland and is a native breed which was founded in Lanarkshire, Clydesdale being the old name for the district. The history of the breed dates back from the middle of the 18th century when native horses of Lanarkshire were graded up in an effort to produce greater weight and substance by the use of Flemish stallions.
The first stallion, imported by the Sixth Duke of Hamilton, was dark brown in colour and was kept for the benefit of his tenants who were granted its use, free of charge. John Paterson of Lochlyloch brought from England a Flemish stallion, black in colour with a white face and some white on his legs, around this time. The venture proved successful and Lochlyloch blood speedily became famous and sought after.
The next step brings us into the region of recorded pedigrees, as from the mare now to be referred to, practically every Clydesdale of recorded lineage, can trace descent. In 1808, a displenishing sale was held at Shotts Hill Mill, Carstairs, when the stock of Mr Clarkson was disposed of. Mr Somerville, Lampits Farm, Carstairs, purchased a two-year-old filly. Mr Clarkson was a descendant of the Paterson's of Lochlyloch, the importers of the Flemish stallion and there is good reason to believe the stallion claimed a place in the family tree of this filly.
The filly produced amongst others a black colt foal, which under the name of ‘Thompson's Black Horse’, or Glancer, is to be found in the pedigree of horses today. Glancer had white on both hind legs and is described as “having a strong neat body set on short thick legs, the clean sharp bones of which were fringed with nice, flowing silken hair”. The Lampits mare went on to produce Farmers Fancy and Glancer I and it is felt by some that the frequent mating of descendants of these two horses has resulted in lasting benefit to the breed.
Jean, by Farmer's Fancy, produced a filly foal by Samson in 1860. This filly became the famous Keir Peggy, a grand powerful dark bay. Besides having five filly foals, Peggy had four colt foals, one of which was Darnley a rich bay with very little white. Among Darnley's most famous sons were MacGregor, Top Gallant and Flashwood. Top Gallant's most prominent son was Sir Everard, who in turn was the sire of Baron's Pride.
Baron's Pride went on to sire one of the breed’s most famous sons, Baron of Buchlyvie. Bred by William McKeich, foaled in 1900 and out of Young Maybloom, this horse was sold by public auction in Ayr during December 1911 to William Dunlop of Dunure Mains, Ayr, for £9,500.
At its peak, Scotland had around 140,000 farm horses plus an unknown number in towns and cities, most of which were Clydesdales in whole or part. The top year came in 1911, when 1617 stallions were exported. Three years later Clydesdale horses were conscripted by the army to serve in The First World War. It is known that between 1850 and 1880 a large number of the best stallions and a few good quality mares were annually exported mainly to Australia and New Zealand. It was, however, after the foundation of the Stud Book that exports began to be numbered in hundreds and during the period 1884 to 1945, 20,183 export certificates for stallions, mares and fillies were issued by the Society, the importing countries being not only the Dominions, but America, South America, Russia, Italy and Austria.
The conditions prevailing in Britain during the Second World War necessitated the agricultural industry being brought to its highest pitch of productivity, and this could only be attained by the extensive use of the tractor and sadly, horses were replaced by mechanical power.
In 1958 under the Directorship of Alan Harper (Campbell Harper Films) and sponsored by Films of Scotland and the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society, a film entitled 'The Good Servant' was issued. The film tracks the story of the Clydesdale Horse, from foal to champion at the Royal Highland Show - and in it there's a youthful Tom Clark winning the RHS with the Clydesdale 'Muirton Supreme'. The film is worth viewing - the link is below - but please do bear in mind the copyright under which it is issued.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, breed numbers dwindled and in 1975, the Clydesdale was categorized by the Rare Breed Survival Trust as “vulnerable”. Over the years and with the increase in breed numbers, it is now categorized as “at risk”.