Budweiser Clydesdales – An American Icon

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

They’ve fascinated us for decades. They’ve warmed our hearts during Super Bowl commercials. All that beauty and grace in such enormous bodies…

Clydesdales have been a symbol of Budweiser beer for more than eighty years. In 1933, to commemorate the repeal of Prohibition, the Busch brothers gave a hitch of six Clydesdales to their father. Recognizing that a horse-drawn beer wagon would be a marketing goldmine, the beer company arranged for another six-hitch to be delivered to New York City to mark the occasion and the legend was born. After a ceremony at the Empire State Building, where the Clydesdales had drawn quite a crowd, the company presented a case of Budweiser to Governor Alfred E. Smith to thank him for his work to repeal Prohibition.

It wasn’t long before the hitch number increased to eight Clydesdales, and in 1950, a Dalmatian was added as their mascot.

Not just any Clydesdale can be a Budweiser Clydesdale—as demonstrated in a tear-jerking Super Bowl commercial. According to Warm Springs Ranch, a breeding facility in Boonville, MO, the successful candidate must “stand at least 18 hands high (or 6 feet tall). They must be geldings and at least 4 years old. They must have a bay coat, four white stockings, a blaze of white on the face, a black mane and a black tail. And they must weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds.”

Other fun facts include:

  • The horses are given short names like Mark, Duke, and Bud. And Hank—like the one in the commercial. This helps the driver more easily give direction to an individual horse.
  • Hitch drivers endure a lengthy and rigorous training regimen before they assume the title “Budweiser Clydesdale Hitch Driver.” It requires physical strength and skill to maneuver the combined 12 tons of wagon and horses. The lines alone weigh 40 pounds. Add the tension of the horses and the driver is dealing with 75 pounds of weight. All. The. Time. That’s quite the workout.
  • The turn-of-the-century beer wagons have been fully restored and have additional modern braking systems for safety.
  • The traveling hitches are based in St. Louis, Missouri; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Merrimack New Hampshire.
  • Each hitch horse eats 20 to 25 quarts of whole grains which contain minerals and vitamins, 50 to 60 pounds of hay, and 30 gallons of water per day. All of this is overseen by a team of groomers and handlers.
  • They need that much food because the combined weight of the custom-made collar and the harness is 130 pounds.

Tours of the Warm Springs Ranch breeding facility and the St. Louis facility are available.

Photo Credit: Bill Young

I’ll admit it. I’m not much of a beer-drinker, but the Clydesdales sure are fun and amazing!


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