The Victorian Clydesdale Horse Society
Victorian Clydesdale Horse Society
The breed that built Australia
A brief history of the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society and the Victorian Branch.
Our CCHS Victorian Branch members and breeders have played a major role for over 100 years helping to promote and maintain the purity of the Clydesdale breed of horses. Of paramount importance has been to breed Clydesdales free from hereditary diseases which extended the working life of the Clydesdale when agriculture was dependant on horse power. This is why the Clydesdale was the popular choice as a work horse, hence our slogan.
In 2018 the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society of Australia (CCHS) celebrated its 100thyear. Since its inception in 1918 the CCHS has accrued 8720 members, 4400 registered Clydesdale studs and almost 30,000 registered Clydesdales. The organisation aims to uphold the breed features that made them the preferred working horse in the early 1900’s whist encouraging their versatility in hand, under saddle and in harness.
History of the Formation of the CCHS
Although there were draught horses in Tasmania earlier, it was not until the Gold Rush of the 1850’s that they were imported to any great extent direct from Scotland to New South Wales and Victoria. Most draught horses up to this time had been brought across from Tasmania, representing a variety of breeds including Shires, Clydesdales and Suffolk Punch horses.
When some top-quality mares and stallions were imported from Britain and bred with those brought over from Tasmania, Victoria soon became the principle supplier of heavy horses to other parts of Australia. The compilation of the Clydesdale or Draught Horse Stud Book was first suggested in 1885. However, it was considered that it would be very difficult to prepare as the breeds were so inter-mixed.
Eventually in 1904 a committee was formed to publish a “Draught Horse Stud Book for Victoria”. This was to include Clydesdales, English Shires and Suffolk Punches. The initial poor response led to the title change of “Draught Horse Stud Book of Australia” and the first volume was printed in 1907.
In the first four volumes no attempt was made to keep the breeds separate, but in volume V not only were the horses registered during the period from Volume IV – Volume V classified, but all those registered in volumes I – IV were also classified into separate sections. Horses from that time (1911), which were registered in the Clydesdale Stud Book of Scotland, and those showing two crosses of traceable Clydesdale blood on the sire’s side, and one of such crosses on the dam’s side were classified as Clydesdales. In 1917, following publication of volume VII, a rival group of breeders in New South Wales formed a committee and printed “The Australia Clydesdale Stud Book” Vol 1. This split between the states was finally healed in 1923, when many breeders deprecated the fact that two studbooks were published in Australia.
By the time Vol X of “Draught Horse Stud Book of Australia” was published, the regulations became more stringent, and horses had to show at least 80% Clydesdale blood to be accepted. This was coming more into line with the “Australian Clydesdale Stud Book”, which had stringent regulations and so led the way to amalgamation of the two Books on a mutually satisfactory basis.
Thus the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society was formed and the first Stud Book was issued in 1924. The two organisations involved were the “Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria” (Draught Horse Stud Book of Australia) and the “Australian Clydesdale Horse Society” (Australian Clydesdale Stud Book) and their talks began in 1917. The first meeting of the provisional Council was held in 1918 in Melbourne. By 1921 agreement was reached and the first federal president elected.
1904 – earliest date from which official records of draught horses in Australia were kept
1911 – separate Clydesdale pedigrees were recorded in the Draught Horse Stud Book
1917 – Australian Clydesdale Stud Book
1918 – Meeting held to amalgamate the Draught Horse Stud Book and the Australian Clydesdale Stud Book
1921 – Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society accepted in all states and the first Federal president was elected
1924 – the first Commonwealth Stud Book was produced
The Clydesdale Stud Book
The graph depicts the number of Clydesdales registered within the Clydesdale Stud Book since its first volume published in 1924. The most notable feature on the graph is the large spike in male and female numbers occurring in the late 1920’s and early/mid 1930’s which reflects their popularity as the ideal work horse. The marked decrease in numbers apparent in the late 1930’s was partly due to World War II and mechanization, the tractor.
The 1970’s mark the beginning of a resurgence of interest in the breed, a boom in prices and an influx of new breeders. Since 2008 numbers have plateaued with approximately only 100 males & 100 females registered annually.
Prior to the 1950’s, the majority of studs in operation finished breeding as horses became redundant due to mechanisation. A minority, dedicated to preserving the breed, continued as long as they were able to. Our oldest studs have survived because of the interest by the following generations. The quality of today’s Australian Clydesdale is due to the dedication of these breeders who have managed to maintain the bloodlines.
The oldest stud still actively breeding Clydesdales is the “Lavereen” stud, founded by James Martin. Located in Devenish, Victoria, it is now run by Graeme and Matt Trewin. The prefix was registered in 1920 making it 98 years old. The stud takes its name from James Martin's, grandfather's home in Ireland, old Irish for “Little Valley”. The Martin family had been breeding and showing Clydesdales since the 1880’s and has continued on by the Trewin family.
The importation of Clydesdales has continued up to the present to help improve the breed and expand the gene pool. “Flashdale”, was a notable Clydesdale Stallion imported in the 1920’s. Flashdale was awarded Champion Stallion at the Royal Melbourne Show in 1924 and 1926 and the inaugural Black Cup was listed in the 1925 RMS catalogue. Clydesdales being shown at the 2018 Royal Melbourne Show have bloodlines that trace back to this stallion.
The Future of the Clydesdale Horse
Exhibiting our Clydesdale horses is the best way to help preserve the quality of the Clydesdale as a supreme draught breed. The Judge’s report from the 1917 Royal Melbourne Show included the comment from judge, Mr Edwin Roberts,
“The Clydesdale is the only draught horse that should be bred in Australia, because they are useful for any kind of work.”
While they are less commonly used for “work” nowadays, this comment highlights their versatility as horses in hand, under saddle and in harness. Increasing popularity exists for sport horses generated from the crossing of a Clydesdale with a lighter breed. Their gentle, trusting temperament makes them a horse the whole family can enjoy.