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The scene has become a familiar one throughout the years. No parade is complete without the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales, pulling a red, white and gold beer wagon down a Main Street that has come to life with the cheers and applause of onlookers.

It was in 1933, shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, when the Clydesdales became part of Anheuser-Busch. August A. Busch Jr. decided to present a hitch of the mighty horses to his father to commemorate the first bottle of post-Prohibition beer brewed in St. Louis.

Mr. Busch told his father that he had bought a new car and asked him to step outside and take a look at the new vehicle. But instead of a Model "T," Mr. Busch's father gazed upon a Clydesdale hitch pulling a red, white and gold beer wagon.

That was only the beginning. Realizing the advertising and promotional potential of a horse-drawn beer wagon, Mr. Busch had the team sent by rail to New York City, where it picked up two cases of Budweiser beer at New Jersey's Newark Airport. The beer was later presented to Al Smith, former governor of New York and an instrumental force in the repeal of Prohibition.

From there, the Clydesdales continued on a tour of New England and the Middle Atlantic States. The hitch even delivered a case of beer to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the White House.

During the initial years on the road, the Clydesdales were transported by train. Before truck transport was introduced in 1940, the horses, wagons, and harness equipment had to be unloaded from the trains, put on local trucks, and then unloaded again wherever the horses stabled.

Now the horses travel in style aboard custom-designed tractor trailers. And their travels take them throughout North America and occasionally overseas.

Appearances have included performances at the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, major sporting events, including the Super Bowl in San Diego, NASCAR events, as well as the Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl parades, and many county and state fairs, just to name a few.

The Clydesdales travel to hundreds of appearances each year to meet cheering crowds and happy faces. Whether they're seen at a parade in Iowa or a rodeo in Texas, the Clydesdales are always a crowd pleaser. The Clydesdale hitches travel some 100,000 miles a year, and with each mile they cover, so continues the Anheuser-Busch tradition.

Peachtree St., Atlanta 2006


The Clydesdale Breed
Farmers living in the 19th century along the banks of the River Clyde in Lanarkshire, Scotland, bred the Great Flemish Horse, the forerunner of the Clydesdale. These first draft horses pulled loads of more than one ton at a walking speed of five miles per hour. Soon their reputation spread beyond the Scottish borders.

In the mid 1800s, Canadians of Scottish descent brought the first Clydesdales to the United States where the draft horses resumed their existance on farms. Today, the Clydesdales are used primarily for breeding and show.

The Budweiser Clydesdales
They were formally introduced to August A. Busch Sr. and Anheuser-Busch on April 7, 1933, to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. August A. Busch Jr. wanted to commemorate the special day. To his father's delight, the hitch thundered down Pestalozzi Street carrying the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the St. Louis brewery.

Hitch Requirements
To qualify for one of the six hitches (five traveling and one stationary), a Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding at least four years of age. He must stand 72 inches, or 6 feet, at the shoulder when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, be bay in color, have four white stocking feet, a blaze of white on the face, and a black mane and tail.

Each hitch horse will consume as much as 20 to 25 quarts of feed, 50 to 60 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.

Hitch Locations
Five traveling Budweiser Clydesdale hitches are based in St. Louis, Missouri; Menifee, California; San Diego, California; Merrimack, New Hampshire and San Antonio, Texas. The Budweiser Clydesdales can be viewed at the Anheuser-Busch breweries in St. Louis, Merrimack, and Fort Collins, Colorado.

The Budweiser Clydesdales also may be viewed at Grant's Farm, the 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family, in St. Louis and at the following Anheuser-Busch theme parks: Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Tampa, Florida, and at the Sea World theme parks in Orlando, Florida; San Diego, California; and San Antonio, Texas.

Clydesdale Operations
Based in St. Louis, Clydesdale Operations is responsible for maintaining and scheduling the five traveling hitches. They receive thousands of requests for the "gentle giants" every year. Each request is evaluated on the type of event, dates, history of appearances in that particular area and other input from Anheuser-Busch management representatives.

The official home of the Budweiser Clydesdales is an ornate brick and stained-glass stable built in 1885 on the historic 100-acre Anheuser-Busch brewery complex in St. Louis. The building is one of three located on the brewery grounds that are registered as historic landmarks by the federal government.

Expert grooms travel on the road with the hitch. They are on the road at least 10 months every year. When necessary, one handler has night duty to provide round-the-clock care for the horses, ensuring their safety and comfort.

Ten horses, the famous red, white and gold beer wagon and other essential equipment are transported in three 50-foot tractor trailers, which weigh 24 tons when fully loaded. Cameras in the trailers (with monitors in the cabs) enable the drivers to keep a watchful eye on their precious cargo during transport. The team stops each night at local stables so the the "gentle giants" can rest. Air-cushion suspension and thick rubber flooring ease the rigors of traveling.

Driving the 12 tons of wagon and horses requires a bit of strength and skill. The 40 pounds of reins the driver holds, plus the tension of the reins, equals 75 pounds. All hitch drivers are put through a rigorous training period before they are given the reins.

Each harness and collar weighs 130 pounds. The harness is handcrafted from brass and leather. Pure linen thread is used for the stitching. The harness is made to fit any horse, but the collars come in different sizes and must be individually fitted like a suit of clothes.

Duke, Captain, Mark and Bud are just a few of the names given to the Budweiser Clydesdales. Names are kept short to make it easier for the driver to give commands to the horses during a performance.

Clydesdale horseshoes measure more than 20 inches from end to end and weigh about five pounds -- more than twice as long and five times as heavy as the shoe worn by a riding horse. A horse's hoof is made of a nerveless, horn-like substance similar to the human fingernail, so being fitted for shoes affects the animal no more than a manicure affects people.

Turn-of-the-century beer wagons have been meticulously restored and are kept in excellent repair. The wagons are equipped with two braking systems: a hydraulic pedal device that slows the vehicle for turns and descents down hills, and a hand brake that locks the rear wheels when the wagon is at a halt.

Dalmatians have traveled with the hitch since the 1950s. In the early days of brewing, Dalmatians were bred and trained to protect the horses and guard the wagon when the driver went inside to make deliveries. The black-and-white spotted dogs were swift enough to keep up with the wagons, and their light-colored bodies and marking made them easier to see during the twilight hours. Today the Dalmatians are perched atop the wagon, seated next to the driver.

Peachtree St., Atlanta 2006

Peachtree St., Atlanta 2006

The Dalmatian: A Faithful Budweiser Clydesdale Companion

The World Famous Budweiser Clydesdales have been a symbol for Anheuser-Busch for more than 60 years. But what many people don't realize is that a Dalmatian has been a faithful companion to the hitch since the 1950s.

"They are great dogs, however, there really is a historical reason why we chose the Dalmatian to join the Budweiser Clydesdales," said Jim Poole, general manager for Clydesdale Operations.

In the early days of brewing, Dalmatians were bred and trained to protect the horses and guard the wagon when the driver went inside to make deliveries. The black-and-white spotted dogs were swift enough to keep up with the wagons, and their light-colored bodies and markings made them easier to see during the twilight hours.

"Back then I'm sure they looked for aggressive dogs that could guard the wagons," according to Poole. "We look for mild-mannered dogs who enjoy being with people."

Today, the Dalmatians are perched atop the wagon, seated next to the driver any time the Budwesier Clydesdales make an appearance, including the Rose Parade, the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics and the exciting Atlanta St. Patrick's Parade. They are an integral part of the Clydesdale operations.

"For the most part, each Clydesdale hitch, including the hamlets at our breweries and our theme parks, have two Dalmatians each," added Poole. "We usually pair a new puppy with an older dog so they can learn the ropes and they are acclimated to the horses very early on. We have almost an equal number of male versus female dogs and each puppy is obedience trained."

According to Poole, the dogs and horses create a strong bond. The Dalmatians are very compatible with the horses and even sleep with them in the stables at night.

"People really love the Dalmatians," added Poole. "Along with the Clydesdales, they are another great tradition and symbol for Anheuser-Busch."


A look into the rich, colorful history of the special Clydesdale breed begins in the early 19th century, along the River Clyde in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

The region, located in a valley, or "dale," was known for its rich soil and abundant crops. The farmers were in great need of strong horses for hauling, plowing and carting all the necessary farm equipment and workers.

One of the Dukes of Hamilton, a local wealthy landowner, imported to the region six Great Flemish Horses, a breed that had already been regularly shipped to Scotland to be used as warhorses and for farm work.

The Duke made his six prize horses available for breeding to local mares, and the Clydesdale breed was born.

People from outside Lanarkshire began to refer to the big, powerful horses as "the Clydesman's horse," a name that evenually became "Clydesdale."

The early Clydesdales quickly garnered attention as a breed more powerful than any breed available before. The horses were said to be capable of pulling loads of more than a ton at a walking speed of five miles an hour. It was the breed's hauling power and confident style that attracted North Americans to the Clydesdale breed. In fact, in the early days of brewing, it was said that a brewer's success was directly related to how far his draft horses could pull a load in one day.

Today's Budweiser Clydesdales are even bigger than their Scottish ancestors. To qualify for the world famous, eight-horse hitch, a Budweiser Clydesdale must meet certain requirements. Size, color and disposition are the important considerations.
Standing at 18 hands high (almost 6 feet) at the shoulder when fully mature,

Budweiser Clydesdales weigh approximately 2,000 pounds. They must be geldings, bay in color, have four white stockings and a blaze of white on the face, as well as a black mane and tail. A gentle temperment also is important, as hitch horses meet millions of people each year.

In two daily meals, a Budweiser Clydesdale hitch horse will consume 20 to 25 quarts of feed, 50 to 60 pounds of hay and up to 30 gallons of water.

Once a Clydesdale is selected to be among the chosen few to travel with one of the company's five traveling eight-horse hitches, he can expect to spend many of his days on the road, performing at hundreds of events each year.

The Clydesdales travel in a style befitting a king. In order to provide rest for each of the eight "first string" horses, the Clydesdale hitch team always travels with a total of 10 "gentle giants."

The traveling caravan also includes three 50-foot tractor trailers, custom-built for the horses with rubber flooring, air suspension and vent fans to ease the rigors of hours on the road.

Two tractor trailers carry the Clydesdales and a third takes care of everything else -- the historic beer wagon, harnesses and other gear.

Performance days for a Budweiser Clydesdale are a combination of excitement and perfection. While the horses are groomed daily, special attention is given to their appearance on performance days.

The expert grooms who travel with the horses spend about five hours washing and grooming the horses, polishing the harnesses, braiding red and white ribbons into the manes, and inserting red and white bows into their tails. The entire harnessing process takes an additional 45 minutes.

Once the harnessing is completed, Clydesdales are individually hitched to the red, white and gold 1903 Studebaker-built beer wagon. The wheel horses, those closest to the wagon (and generally the strongest), are hitched up first.

Once all eight horses are hitched to the wagon, the driver begins to adjust the reins. Driving the 12 tons of wagon and horses requires strength, experience and stamina. The 40 pounds of reins the driver holds, plus the tension on the reins, equals 75 pounds. During long parades, the driver and the assistant often alternate the reins in order to remain fresh and alert.


Excerpted with gratitude from
Kalida, Ohio Pioneer Days Web Site

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