How the Clydesdales Became The Symbols of Budweiser

By Heather Taylor, Icon Researcher & Blogger at Advertising Week

Have you ever wondered how the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company settled on a hitch of Clydesdales horses to promote Budweiser beer? For more than 80 years, the Clydesdales have been icons on behalf of the brand’s brew dating from the Prohibition era to Super Bowl Sunday. Giddy up, AW 360 readers, and join us on a sleigh ride into the past for a glimpse into the historic world of the Budweiser Clydesdales.

The perfect Prohibition repeal present

In 1933 August Anheuser Busch Sr., CEO of brewing company Anheuser-Busch, received a present from his two sons August A. Busch Jr. and Adolphus Busch III: two six-horse Clydesdale hitches carrying the first post-Prohibition Budweiser beer produced by the brewery. The present was meant to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition and the family was moved to tears by the gift.

Once everyone had finished crying into their beer (yep, that’s where the phrase was officially coined!), the horses were given a closer look. The Clydesdale breed was initially developed for farm work in Clydesdale, Scotland more than 300 years ago. While they may appear to be a bit imposing due to their height and size, they are naturally gentle giants.

What if Anheuser-Busch took a hitch of horses drawing a beer wagon to New York to celebrate the end of Prohibition and present then-governor Alfred E. Smith with a case of Budweiser as a gift? That’s exactly how the Clydesdales made their debut, with one hitch sent to tour New England and the other to cover St. Louis, Missouri (where Anheuser-Busch is based) and other Midwestern cities. Thousands came out to cheer on the instantly iconic Budweiser Clydesdales. In that moment, they symbolized a new era for Anheuser-Busch and the American industrial spirit.

Introducing a furry friend as the Clydesdales’ official mascot

As Anheuser-Busch began breeding Clydesdales for the Budweiser hitches in the 1940s, a puppy pal joined the team. The Dalmatian became the official mascot for the Budweiser Clydesdales in 1950, introduced at the opening of the Anheuser-Busch Newark Brewery.

Why was a Dalmatian chosen to travel with the hitches? Traditionally, Dalmatians have been known as coach dogs. They run between the wheels of coaches to guide them along while acting as companions to the horses. Today’s Dalmatians are more likely to travel as a passenger with the Clydesdales instead of running with them, sitting next to the driver on top of the wagon with pride.

A day in the life of a Clydesdale circa 2017

When the Clydesdales aren’t starring in Super Bowl commercials or preparing for a public appearance with their famous red, white, and gold beer wagon, they can be found at their various residences including the Anheuser-Busch breweries in St. Louis and Merrimack, New Hampshire. Clydesdales are bred at Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville, Missouri and are trained on the grounds at Grant’s Farm, the ancestral home of the Busch family in St. Louis.

Like any job, being a part of the Budweiser hitch does come with its own unique set of requirements. A Clydesdale must be at least four-years-old, weighing in at 1,800 pounds (minimum), and with a height of six feet tall to qualify, along with having the appropriate appearance of four white legs, white blaze, black mane and tail, and a bay coat.

Once you’re on the team, you’ll receive an easy to remember name! Members of the hitches are given short names like Scooby and Kelso to make it easier for drivers to give them commands during a performance.

What’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? The daily diet for Clydesdale horses consists of 20 to 25 quarts of whole grains and 50 to 60 pounds of hay. All of this gets washed down with 30 gallons of water — again, that’s per day.

How do horseshoes for Clydesdales work? These weigh in at about five pounds apiece and measure at more than 20 inches from end to end. Getting a horseshoe put on, according to the Budweiser Clydesdale blog staff, is the same feeling as how humans feel when they get a manicure.

From the Prohibition to last days of 2017, it’s impossible to imagine the Budweiser brand without the beloved hitch of Clydesdales serving as the symbol of the brewery’s heritage. Cheers to these icons and their enduring legacy!

Image credit: Anheuser-Busch

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