100 Years of the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society

In 2018 the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society of Australia (CCHS) celebrates its 100th year. 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...

The gold rush of the 1850s prompted the importation of Clydesdales from Scotland to NSW and Victoria. Crossing these imported horses with mixed breed draught horses soon resulted in Victoria becoming the principle supplier of heavy horses to other parts of Australia. The first official record of Clydesdales in Australia was published in 1904 as the “Draught Horse Stud Book of Victoria” and included Clydesdales, Shires and Suffolk Punches. In 1907 it was renamed as the “Draught Horse Stud Book of Australia”. It wasn’t until 1911 that breed specification became a feature of the Stud Book. Horses that 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. A competing book was with more stringent registration regulations was published in NSW in 1917 – “The Australian Clydesdale Stud Book”. The amalgamation of the two books resulted in the formation of the Commonwealth Clydesdale Horse Society (1918), election of its first president (1921) and the publication of its first stud book (1924).

Since the publication of the first stud book in 1924, the largest peak in registered Clydesdale numbers occurred in the late 1920’s and early/mid 1930’s due to their popularity as the ideal work horse. A sharp decline in numbers in the late 1930’s was due to World War II and mechanization - the tractor. A resurgence in interest in the breed, a boom in prices and an influx of new breeders increased numbers in the 1970s. 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. The quality of today’s Australian Clydesdale is due to the dedication of the breeders who have managed to maintain the bloodlines. The oldest stud still actively breeding Clydesdales is the “Lavereen” stud, founded by James Martin in 1920 and continued by Graeme and Matt Trewin. More information about the history of the Clydesdale Stud Book, and the studs that contributed horses to it, is featured in the 2018 Clydesdale Year Book available at and after the Royal Melbourne Show.

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. He was awarded Champion Stallion at the Royal Melbourne Show in 1924 and 1926. Clydesdales being shown at the 2018 Royal Melbourne Show have bloodlines that trace back to this stallion.

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.

The 2018 Clydesdale Yearbook which features the 100-year history of the CCHS will be available from the 28th September 2018 at the Royal Melbourne Show ringside at the led Clydesdale Judging event or email or