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The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale Horses -- Is It Time For the Pasture?

Updated on January 8, 2016
Photo by BC Grote
Photo by BC Grote

The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales have been synonymous with the brewing company since ‘Gussie,’ aka Augustus A. Busch Jr., presented them to his father as a surprise to mark the beginning of the end of prohibition in the United States. While many think of it as a repeal of prohibition, the Cullen-Harrison Act was actually just a loosening of standards on the Volstead Act (the 18th Amendment that limited the alcohol content of beer and wine to .5% alcohol).

The Cullen-Harrison Act made it legal for beer and wine to contain a whopping 3.2% alcohol and was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on March 23, 1933. At the time, President Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” Though it was a beginning, Prohibition wouldn’t actually be overturned until the end of that year on December 3, 1933, when the 18th Amendment was repealed by the addition of the Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution.

The Cullen-Harrison Act was wonderful news to the few breweries that managed to stay afloat during Prohibition. The Anheuser-Busch Company had survived by selling 5 lb. packages of “Budweiser” brewer’s yeast, which was enough to make a large batch of beer, along with other ingredients needed to make beer, like hops.

Photo by BC Grote
Photo by BC Grote

April 7, 1933 -- A New Beginning for Anheuser-Busch


On that April 7th of 1933 -- the day the new law took effect --Gussie surprised his father with his gift to commemorate the renewed ability to brew their Budweiser beer. Teasing his father, Gussie told his father that he wanted him to come down and see his new Lincoln Town Car. Augustus Busch Sr. was a bit upset and gave his son a stern lecture about buying a new luxury car during the Great Depression. Still, after the lecture, he went down to have a look. To his delight, he found a team of six Clydesdale horses, hitched to a modified Studebaker wagon, designed to haul beer. This wagon, pulled by the team, carted away the first case of freshly brewed Budweiser beer down Pestalozzi Street in St. Louis, Missouri.

Photo by Savemejebus
Photo by Savemejebus
Photo by Bucklava
Photo by Bucklava

Traveling the Country in Style

Still today, the team of Clydesdale horses -- with eight horses in the hitch, instead of six -- along with a Studebaker wagon, represent the Anheuser-Busch Company in print advertisements, commercials and functions all over the country. Though it might seem cruel to transport the team all over the country, there are actually several teams in various locations around the country, like Merrimack, New Hampshire and San Diego. These teams travel in style in a semi equipped with air-cushion suspension and thick rubber floors. They also stop each night so the team can rest in local stables along the route. As one can see by the picture, the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales live in luxury at home as well as on the road.

Photo by compujeramey
Photo by compujeramey
Photo by Greg Stengel
Photo by Greg Stengel

Grant's Farm

Grant's Farm, located just outside St. Louis, once belonged to President Ulysses S. Grant. It came into the Busch family in 1907. The 281 acre farm is now the breeding farm of the famous Clydesdale horses that are used by the company, with around 15 foals being born each year there. Clydesdale horses are easily recognizable from other breeds. The most well known attribute is the “feathers,” which is actually abundant hair growth located above the hooves. Another well known characteristic is the massive body and size. Clydesdales can be 17 to 19 hands (one hand equals 4 inches) tall at the withers, which is the tip of the shoulders.

Of course, being the famous Clydesdales of Anheuser-Busch fame, not just any Clydesdale can make the team. Each horse has to be over 4 years old, neutered (a gelding), be bay colored (a reddish brown) and have a black mane and tail. They also have to have white feathers and a white strip that runs down their face, called a blaze. In addition to all that, they also have to be at least 18 hands (6 feet tall) and weigh between 1800 and 2300 pounds! No wonder they are so impressive!

The Anheuser-Busch Factory In St. Louis, Missouri

Photo by Stephen Bolen
Photo by Stephen Bolen

The World's Largest Brewery

That brilliant stroke of advertising genius turned into a 76 year tradition that helped to make Anheuser-Busch the largest brewery in America. It is now the largest brewery in the world. It was purchased by Brazilian-Belgian company InBev, creating Anheuser-Busch InBev in November of 2008 for over $52 billion dollars.

InBev has made many changes in the short time that they’ve owned the company, slashing costs wherever they can, including, as Wall Street Journal reported, tearing down executive offices and making those executives sit in desks out among the rest of the workers. With other cost cutting procedures that include loss of life insurance for retirees, sale of the company jets and slashed advertising budgets, will the famous Anheuser-Busch InBev Clydesdales survive as the company's mascots? That remains to be seen.


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