Arabian Horse vs Clydesdale: Breed Comparison Insights

If you’re a horse lover, you’ve probably heard of the Arabian Horse and the Clydesdale. But have you ever wondered how these two breeds stack up against each other? In this post, we’ll dive into a detailed comparison of Arabian Horse vs Clydesdale, exploring their unique characteristics, history, and uses. So, whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or just starting out, read on to discover the key differences between these two magnificent equine breeds.

Arabian Horse

Gray purebred Arabian horse on background of evening sky

The Arabian horse is an ancient and admired breed, known for its speed, stamina, beauty, intelligence, and gentle temperament. Having both a mysterious and captivating history, it has been one of the most influential breeds in the development of modern light horses.


Although the exact origins of the Arabian horse remain veiled in legend, it is widely believed to have been developed in Arabia by the 7th century CE. The Bedouins have usually been credited with the beginning of selective pure breeding of these horses. They aimed to retain and improve the qualities of the Arabian horse, and as a result, contributed significantly to the creation of other horse breeds throughout history (

Physical Characteristics

Arabian horses are compact and relatively small in comparison to other breeds. They are typically 14-15 hands (1.4-1.5 meters) tall at the withers, or the highest point of the horse’s shoulder (Horsy Planet). They possess a uniquely refined head, wide forehead, large eyes, and a distinctively arched neck. The Arabian horse’s body has a short, straight back, deep chest, and high tail carriage, which all contribute to its excellent strength, agility, and stamina.


Arabian horses are known for their gentle and affectionate nature, making them suitable companions for both experienced and novice riders. They are also highly intelligent and responsive, fostering a strong connection with their riders. This strong bond allows for easier training and increased trust, which is critical in various riding disciplines and equestrian activities.


The Arabian horse has been used historically for a wide range of tasks and riding styles. Its most significant contribution has been in the development of other, modern light horse breeds such as the Thoroughbred, Orloff Trotter, and Percheron (Britannica). The breed’s versatile qualities, endurance, and cooperative nature make it well-suited for activities like racing, dressage, endurance riding, and jumping as well as for recreational riding and trail riding.


Clydesdale Horses in Snow



The Clydesdale, a type of draft horse, hails from Scotland and is named after the region it originated from, the Clydesdale or the valley of the River Clyde, which is mostly situated in Lanarkshire county. Its lineage can be traced back to the 18th century when Flemish stallions were brought to Scotland and bred with local mares. As the breed evolved, Shire blood was also introduced in the 19th century. [source]

Physical Characteristics

Clydesdales are large, immensely strong, and barrel-chested horses. They typically stand 17 to 18 hands (68 to 72 inches, or 173 to 183 cm) tall and weigh around 2,000 pounds (900 kg). Their coat colors are usually bay, dark brown, or black, with prominent white markings. The breed is also known for its distinctive feathering, which is the long, thick hair on its lower legs [source]


Despite their imposing size, Clydesdales are known for their calm and gentle temperament. They have a sensible and easygoing nature, which makes them well-suited for various tasks and activities. It is important to note that individual temperament might vary, but generally, Clydesdales are considered to be good-natured horses that are easy to work with. [source]


Originally bred for agricultural work, Clydesdales have been utilized in various capacities throughout their history. The breed’s strength, endurance, and gentle temperament make them well-suited for tasks such as plowing and hauling heavy loads. Nowadays, they are often used for driving and pulling carriages or wagons during parades and public events. They can also participate in draft horse competitions and are sometimes used for recreational riding, although their size might be a challenge for novice riders. [source]

Comparing the Two Breeds

Arabian horse running in summer heat

When comparing Arabian horses and Clydesdales, it’s essential to understand the differences and similarities between these two breeds, such as their size and build, purpose, personality, and care and maintenance requirements.

Size and Build

The Arabian horse is a smaller and more agile breed, with a refined and elegant appearance. They usually stand between 14.1 and 15.1 hands tall and weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds. In contrast, Clydesdales are massive and powerful draft horses, often standing 16-18 hands tall and weighing between 1,600 to 2,300 pounds.

Arabians have a distinctive dished head and high tail carriage, while Clydesdales are known for their feathered legs and large, expressive eyes.


Historically, Arabian horses were bred as warhorses in the desert, prized for their endurance, intelligence, and close bond with their riders. Today, they are primarily used for endurance riding, horse shows, and pleasure riding. Clydesdales, on the other hand, were originally bred for heavy farm work and pulling wagons, due to their immense strength and calm temperament. While they still perform some heavy work, they are mainly used in parades, pulling carriages, and as gentle giants for riding and therapy programs.


Arabian horses are known for their intelligence, sensitivity, and strong bonding with humans. They can be highly spirited and require an experienced handler, but when treated with respect, they become fiercely loyal and responsive partners. Clydesdales, in contrast, are well-known for their sensible, calm temperament. They are gentle, friendly, and easygoing, making them suitable for less experienced riders or handlers.

Care and Maintenance

Arabian horses typically have lower maintenance requirements than Clydesdales. They have strong hooves and do not often require shoes, and their natural desert heritage means they are more resilient to heat and require less water intake. However, they need to be diligently groomed to maintain their fine coats.

Clydesdales, with their enormous size, necessitate more significant care and feeding, as they consume about twice as much feed as average-sized horses. Their large hooves require regular trimming, and their leg feathers need frequent washing to prevent skin infections. They need ample space for grazing and exercise and have slightly higher care costs due to their size.

Choosing the Right Breed

An adult Scottish Clydesdale horse standing

When choosing between an Arabian horse and a Clydesdale horse, there are several factors to consider, such as personal needs, lifestyle, horse experience, and financial considerations. In this section, we will provide insight into each of these aspects to help you make an informed decision.

Personal Needs

Understanding your personal needs is essential before selecting a horse breed. Arabian horses are known for their versatility, stamina, and elegance, making them suitable for various disciplines, including endurance riding, dressage, and jumping. They are also intelligent and affectionate, which can be a good match for those looking for a close bond with their horse. On the other hand, Clydesdales are heavy draft horses, known for their strength and gentle temperament. They are primarily used for heavy work, such as pulling carriages, and their calm demeanor makes them great for less experienced riders or as therapy horses.


Consider your lifestyle before choosing a breed. Arabian horses require a substantial amount of exercise and mental stimulation, so they are best suited for active individuals. They also need a proper and balanced diet, as well as regular grooming due to their fine coats. Conversely, Clydesdales are more low-maintenance in terms of exercise, but they may require more space to accommodate their large size. Their feathered legs also need regular grooming to prevent skin conditions or infections.

Horse Experience

Both Arabian and Clydesdale horses have unique challenges that require different levels of expertise, making owner experience an essential consideration. Arabian horses are spirited and can be sensitive to their rider, requiring a knowledgeable and confident handler. Clydesdales, being gentle giants, might be more suitable for first-time or less experienced horse owners due to their forgiving and patient nature. If unsure, it’s always best to seek the guidance of an experienced horse professional when choosing a breed.

Financial Considerations

Last but not least, evaluate your budget when selecting a horse breed. Initial costs for purchasing an Arabian horse or a Clydesdale may vary, but keep in mind the ongoing expenses of ownership, including feed, farrier services, veterinary care, and more. Arabian horses usually have lower feeding costs, as they can maintain weight on less forage than larger breeds like Clydesdales. However, Clydesdales might have lower healthcare costs overall, as they are known for their durability and resistance. Overall, it’s crucial to ensure you can financially support the needs of the breed you choose.


In conclusion, both the Arabian horse and the Clydesdale exemplify unique and distinct attributes, making them exceptional breeds in the world of horses. The Arabian horse, famed for its speed, stamina, and intelligence, has contributed significantly to the development of modern light horse breeds (Britannica) . Its compact size and versatility allow it to excel in various equestrian disciplines.

On the other hand, the Clydesdale is a renowned heavyweight draft breed, with roots in Lanarkshire, Scotland (Britannica) . These magnificent horses, typically standing 17 to 18 hands tall, have a long history of being used for agricultural and industrial purposes.

While the Arabian horse is more commonly associated with activities requiring agility and endurance, the Clydesdale demonstrates impressive strength and hardiness, making it an ideal choice for tasks involving heavy workloads. Both breeds possess distinctive appearances and specific needs, from their daily care routines to their nutritional requirements (HolistaPet) .

Ultimately, when comparing the Arabian horse and the Clydesdale, it is essential to consider the individual goals, preferences, and requirements of the prospective horse owner. These remarkable breeds each have their own set of strengths and characteristics that make them sought after and cherished by enthusiasts worldwide.