We are very pleased to report that Budweiser, home to the famous Clydesdale horses, has promised to stop docking the tails of their horses (Wamsley, 2023). Tail docking can be done either by wrapping the middle of the tail and preventing the blood from getting to the remaining section, thus starving the tissue, or by surgically amputating the tail.
Tail docking is inhumane and, besides the pain that it initially causes the horse, can be detrimental to a horse’s physical and emotional health for the remainder of his lifetime. Horses not only use their tails for protection of the elements and to swat flies and mosquitos, but they also use tails as a way to communicate with one another.
Clydesdale tail docking has a long and painful history.
For the most part, the tails of draft and cart horses’ tails were docked to prevent the tail from being caught in the traces of the carriages. This is easily rectified, however, by braiding and tying up the tail; essentially the grooms did not want to take the time, or did shoddy work and the tail would come loose. This is a rather extreme solution when people just have to do their job correctly, and more recently the tail docking has been done solely for cosmetic purposes (AVMA, 2012).
There are some historical references to horses’ tails being docked to differentiate between British and French horses, but overall that was not the significant reason horses’ tails have been docked over the centuries, or are being docked today (Lefebvre et al, 2007).
Clydesdale tail docking has been banned in 11 states in the U.S., including California.
We are thankful that Budweiser has finally decided to do the right thing and allow their horses to grow out their beautiful tails and use them to swish away at flies, or warn away a neighboring horse who might get too close. We should all be mindful of how we work with animals and ensure that we are taking the most humane path to their care and safety.