Clydesdale: What’s in a Name?


By Steve Chambers — Clydesdale is the most common name given to larger athletes. Anyone familiar with a certain beer company’s holiday commercials knows what a Clydesdale looks like. They truly are the behemoths of horses. Where a typical thoroughbred race horse will weigh 1200-1500 lbs., Clydesdales tip the scales at 1900 lbs. or more and stand much taller.

Sometimes female Clydesdales are called Fillies, an obvious “me-too” to the equine world. “Filly” is misleading, because a filly is simply a female horse over one year and under five years of age, regardless of size. One of the most famous fillies was Ruffian, winner of the Filly Triple Crown and unbeaten in 10 races. In 1975 a two horse battle of the sexes was set up between Ruffian and that year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Foolish Pleasure. Ruffian broke her leg during the race and had to be put down. She was the only non-human athlete named to Sports Illustrated’s list of the Top 100 Female Athletes of the 20th Century.

Athena is another name given to female Clydesdales. Athena was a Greek warrior goddess, often attended by the goddess of victory, Nike. She was the patron goddess of Athens.

Amazon is a term frequently used for female Clydesdales. Amazons were a mythic race of warrior-women in ancient Greece, of large stature and ferocious in battle. Legend has it the name is derived from the Greek “a-mazos”, meaning “without breast”. The Amazons were said to have cut off their right breasts so it would not interfere with their ability to draw a bow or throw a spear. According to many accounts, the Amazon River in South America was named by Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana in 1541, in honor of the native female warriors he found along its banks.

In some parts of the country, other descriptive terms are used in place of “Clydesdale”. In the southwest, you might race in the Longhorn division, while in southern California there is the Shamu division.


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