Don’t believe everything you see on the Super Bowl. The Budweiser Clydesdales are still seeing spots. And just in time for tomorrow’s 83rd anniversary of the hitch’s first delivery of post-Prohibition beer, they’ll be seeing more spots than ever, as a new Dalmatian puppy joins the organization.
It all began on April 7, 1933. Brothers August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch III surprised their father, St. Louis brewery owner August A. Busch, Sr., with a special gift. They trotted out a six-horse hitch of Clydesdale horses.
It wasn’t his birthday. It wasn’t a company anniversary. He wasn’t retiring. So why the gift? The Busch family had a lot to celebrate in April 1933: the United States Congress had finally started the process that would amend the Constitution and end Prohibition. Their beer could flow again.
What many people don’t realize is that the sons organized not one hitch to represent Budweiser, but two. A separate hitch appeared on the streets of New York City, where it delivered a keg of beer to former New York governor Alfred Smith, a tireless opponent of Prohibition, at the Empire State Building.
The traveling hitch toured New England and went on to Washington, DC, where it delivered a case of Budweiser beer to the White House.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was just settling into Washington that spring, after winning his first election as President. His election promise had been to repeal Prohibition and he wasted no time in signing the first step, the Cullen-Harrison Bill, which allowed 3.2 beer and wine sales, on March 22. By the end of the year, the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution would be passed and completely repeal Prohibition.
The future looked bright for Budweiser and its signature Clydesdales; the brewery quickly enlarged the hitch from six horses to eight.
In 1950, Budweiser added a key element to the hitch picture when the first Dalmatian hopped onto the wagon. Today, each hitch has its own dog.
Early Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl commercials featured a Dalmatian, and the 2007 commercial, in which the dog trains Hank the Clydesdale, “Rocky”-style, to make the team has been voted the best Super Bowl commercial ever shown.
But in 2014, Budweiser introduced some impossible-to-resist Yellow Lab puppies in the their annual much-anticipated commercial, and some feared that the Dalmatians had taken a back seat on the hitch wagon.
As it turns out, the Dalmatians were probably too busy working to even notice, and Budweiser’s new puppy is proof of the commitment to the traditional breed of choice.
Why Dalmatians? Long ago, you would have found Dalmatians close by horses in harness. They are even sometimes called “coaching dogs”. They were the burglar alarms of their day, and slept in the stables to guard the horses, harness and wagons from thieves.
Another job of the Dalmatians was to scare away dogs who might come out to bark at the coach as it passed. These dogs might scare the horses, so the Dalmatians intercepted them and prevented the teams from shying or possibly causing the coach to veer into a roadside ditch.
In city traffic, a Dalmatian could sprint ahead of the horses and clear the way for a fire wagon.
Today, the Budweiser Clydesdales’ popular mascot sits high up on the drivers seat and has a great view of the parade.
Barley has a wonderful and busy life ahead of him. The Budweiser Clydesdales and Dalmatians are both great example of the successful co-existence of dogs and horses in the working horse and working dog worlds. They appear in front of millions of people each year in person and on television, and no one ever forgets them.
The new puppy will make sure that a whole new generation is aware of the Dalmatian connection to the Budweiser Clydesdales, no matter what goes on during the Super Bowl!