My mother and her sister would sometimes ride their Clydesdale horse to school when living on the farm at Lake Rotoiti near Rotorua. Imagine two young primary school children sitting astride a Clydesdale with their legs sticking out either side as they slowly plodded along! This pictorial story is a tribute to Clydesdale horses which have helped shape rural New Zealand - as work-horses, as showground animals and for recreational riding.
The Clydesdale is a breed of heavy draught horse originating from the valley of the Clyde River in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Newspaper advertisements show that Clydesdales were being imported into NZ in the 1840s and that draught horses, including “Clydes”, were being recommended in preference to oxen for ploughing in Canterbury (see New Zealand rare breeds website). From 1850 to 1880, stallions and mares were annually exported from Scotland mainly to NZ and Australia (see Clydesdale Horse Society of New Zealand).
The years following the First World War saw a steady decline in Clydesdale numbers as tractors were increasingly used on farms and trucks began replacing carts and drays. However, the Clydesdales were a great attraction at A&P shows and during festival occasions.
A resurgence of interest in Clydesdales was created by the DB Draught brewery team – rare, black horses with white legs - which travelled throughout NZ from 1984-1999. Afterwards the team operated in private ownership as the Pirongia Clydesdales until 2017. (See Stuff.co.nz article)