I have to admit that Budweiser is not my favourite beer. As we say in the historic brewery, everyone’s palate is different. I’m not a fan of eggs either, but I love spice. Just the way my palate is constructed.
Nevertheless, I do have a secret soft spot for the Budweiser Clydesdales. Clydesdales in general make me happy—they’re gorgeous animals, and they always remind me of Ross and Integra here at Black Creek. Plus—the Budweiser Clydesdales actually have a Canadian connection!
Draught horses have long been used to pull brewery wagons and make deliveries. As you all know from lifting your purchased growlers, beer is heavy. And remember, nineteenth century roads were very rough; large, well-muscled horses had an easier time of it. Different companies favoured different horse breeds. Some liked Hackneys; Shires were popular.
But we’re here to talk about Clydesdales.
The Clydesdale breed emerged in 1800s Scotland—from the region around the River Clyde, funnily enough. Selectively bred from Flemish stallions, they were also the favourite breed of one Mr. Patrick Shea, a brewer in Winnipeg.
Born in County Kerry, Ireland, Shea emigrated in 1870, finally settling in Manitoba in 1882. From 1884, he operated the Waverley Hotel with his new friend, fellow Irishman John McDonagh (side bar: it always fascinates me, pondering how two people decide to go into business together—did they cook up this plot over a pint?). In 1887, the dynamic duo purchased the defunct Winnipeg Brewery. Sadly, McDonagh died six years later, leaving Shea the sole owner.
Besides brewing, Shea was also dedicated to breeding Clydesdales. So much so, he took to importing champion horses from Scotland to strengthen the bloodline. Even after the introduction of the car, Shea continued to use his horses well past World War I. In 1933, he finally sold some to an American brewery….
…because in 1933, Prohibition had just been repealed in the United States, and one August Busch Jr. wanted to give his father a gift to celebrate. August Busch Sr., a St. Louis brewer, had been told his son had bought him a car. But when he came out, a team of Shea’s Clydesdales awaited him. They carried the first case of post-Prohibition beer, thrilling crowds and providing lots of advertising for Anheuser-Busch.
Today’s Budweiser Clydesdales are descendants of that original team, and they still thrill crowds and provide advertising—think of the Super Bowl!
So what does it take to be a Budweiser Clydesdale?
Prospective hitch members must be…
- A gelding
- At least four years old
- At least six feet high at the shoulder, weighing between 1800-2300 pounds.
- Bay in colour (light-dark reddish brown)
And they must have a black mane and tail, four white stocking feet, and a white blaze on the face. Our boy Ross might have a little too much white around his legs and face, and I’m not sure he’s quite big enough…but I’d take him any day. 😉
Even though those Clydesdales are pretty stunning…