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By Jeffery Garfield

Last updated: 21st July 2023

Cleveland Bay Horse


Jeffery Garfield
Last updated: 21st July 2023

Considered the oldest breed of horses in England, the Cleveland Bay Horse is named after its place of origin (Cleveland, Yorkshire) and the color of its coat. Over the years, members of the Royal Family have supported and protected the breed. The horses are still used for pulling the Imperial carriages in royal processions. As a rare breed, the Cleveland Bay population is now thought to be on the brinks of extinction.

Cleveland Bay Horse Pictures

Quick Information

Temperament/Personality Sensible, intelligent, docile, calm
Physical Characteristics Bold, medium-sized head, well-set, large eyes with kind expression, large and fine ears, well-muscled body, deep chest, strong back, muscular loins, sloping shoulders, powerful, oval, long quarters, large knees and hocks, strong and sloping pasterns, legs may be slightly feathery
Colors Different varieties of bay (bright, ordinary, dark, and light), black mane, black tail, black legs, gray hairs and tail are also allowed, white marking as a small star on its forehead is allowed
Height (size) 16-16.2 hands (64-66 inches, 163-168 cm)
Weight About 1,450 lbs (658 kg)
Blood Type Warm-blooded
Common Uses Farm work, driving, show jumping, fox hunting, riding, carriage horse; for creating and improving other breeds
Health A healthy breed, not affected by common equine diseases
Gaited Yes; true, straight, free movement
Popular Traits Liveliness, versatility, endurance, good temperament
Feeding/Diet Concentrated hard feed including chaff
Country of Origin England
Ancestors Barb, Andalusian, Chapman, Thoroughbred, Arabian horses
Breed Registry/Association Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America, British Cleveland Bay Horse Society

Video: Cleveland Bay Harness Horse

History and Development

During the medieval period, English monasteries and churches started developing stocky horses for use as pack animals in northeast England. From the late 17th- to the late 18th-century the horses (nicknamed “Chapman Horses” since they were utilized by the traveling “chapmen”) were crossed with Andalusian and Barb horses for developing the first Cleveland Bay.

The original type grew heavier and bigger than today’s Cleveland Bays, but by 1785, the “agricultural type” was created through selective breeding. With the improvement of roads, the demand for driving horses increased. Thus, Arabians and Thoroughbreds were added to the breeding stock for improving the breed’s speed and agility.

In 1883, the Cleveland Bay Horse Society UK was set up, and in the following year, the first breed registry was published. Many Cleveland Bays were exported to New Zealand, Australia, India, Russia, the United States, South Africa, and other European countries. While the Cleveland Bay Society of North America was established in 1885, the stud book was published in 1889. By 1907, the association registered more than 2,000 horses.

World War I caused a significant decline in Cleveland Bay population, as many horses used for pulling artillery were lost. Moreover, the breed lost its popularity due to the Great Depression and increased mechanization during the 1930s. World War II quickened the decline, and many horse enthusiasts stopped developing the Cleveland Bay. However, the breed was saved from extinction by Queen Elizabeth II, as she purchased a stallion named Mulgrave Supreme, which sired 36 purebred stallions.

The worldwide Cleveland Bay population was reported to be 550 in 2006.

Interesting Facts

  • The Cleveland Bay horse was used in the development of Oldenburg, Hanoverian, Holstein, Yorkshire Coach Horse, and Vladimir Heavy Draft.

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