Cleveland Bay

Print this page    

Cleveland Bays are the oldest pure breed of Warmblood horse in the world, their history goes back over 400 years.

The Cleveland Bay owes its beginnings to the Church in some respects, as the Monastic houses were well known for breeding horses of good bone and substance as pack horses to take their goods between Abbeys and Monasteries.

Cleveland Bays were originally known as the ‘Chapman’s Horse’, a ‘Chapman’ being the travelling salesman in the 17th Century. They were a horse with clean limbs (no feathering that you see on the draught breeds), ample bone, the ability to plough the fields all day, take the family to town in the buggy over rough roads and terrain, carry the farmer to church or to town with all his goods for market, or go hunting all day...a real ‘Jack of all trades’.

Yorkshire Coach Horse. Yorkshire Coach Horse.

As its name suggests, the breed is believed to have been originated in the Cleveland/Yorkshire area in England’s north, however as travellers, Chapmen were not exclusive to that area. It’s thought that there was some Barb blood brought in and used over the Chapman mares, which created what we know today as the Cleveland Bay.

What became known as the Yorkshire Coach Horse was a three-quarter Cleveland Bay/one-quarter Thoroughbred, bred specifically for carriage work. Faster, taller, more elegant horses were much sought after by Royalty and the ‘upper classes’ and the Yorkshire Coach Horse fit the bill perfectly. In the late 18th Century, Yorkshire Coach Horses were exported all over the world to provide ‘matched pairs’ and teams. With the invention of the motorcar and tractor, the need for the Cleveland Bay came to an end and a lot of horses exported to other countries. Thankfully, a handful of dedicated breeders in the North of England kept breeding them.

The Cleveland Bay are an established breed, so breed true to both type and colour, with characteristics and traits passed on to their progeny and this also makes them an ideal out-cross.

America, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand and many other countries have imported Cleveland Bays to improve their stock. Cleveland Bays were brought to Australia during the 1800’s; at the same time, Buffalo Bill was using them in his Wild West Show in America.

Many European Warmbloods, particularly the Gelderlander, Oldenburg, Holstein, and Hanoverian owe much to the Cleveland Bay influence. Some European and Baltic draught horses such as the Russian Vladimir and Danish Schienswig have the benefit of Cleveland blood. Breeds such as the Clydesdale, Welsh Cob and Standardbred even have the Cleveland Bay to thank for part of their makeup.

Queen Elizabeth II is a breeder of Cleveland Bay Horses, and when numbers were very low (at that time there were only four purebred Cleveland Bay Stallions left in the UK) she purchased a young stallion named Mulgrave Supreme, who was supposed to go to America, however Her Majesty, Patron of the Cleveland Bay Horse Society in the UK, stepped in. Without her support over the years, the Cleveland Bay may not have built back up to the numbers it has now.

You will find Cleveland Bays and Cleveland Bay Sporthorses (which is what Partbred Cleveland Bays are known as) doing a bit of everything and succeeding in the Olympic Disciplines of Dressage, Showjumping and Eventing, as well as being fantastic horses for hand and under saddle, Hunting, Stock Work, Adult Rider and Pony Clubs, and even in the Police Force. In the past Cleveland Bays have been used in Cavalry Horse breeding and work as well.

The Cleveland Bay is a brilliant all-round horse…they are known for their even temperament, good sound legs and strong, well shaped hooves and can quite often get away without the need for shoeing, even on harder ground.

The Cleveland Bay Sporthorse can be any colour but are predominately bay, so chestnut, black and grey are not disqualified from the register. More recently, pintos and buckskins are also available.

In Australia, a Cleveland Bay Sporthorse has at least 25% Cleveland Bay Blood. In the UK and America, they allow down to 12.5% CB Blood into their Partbred Registry.


You can find out more about Cleveland Bays on the Cleveland Bay Horse Society of Australia

BODY: The body should be wide and deep. The back should not be too long, and should be strong with muscular loins. The shoulders should be sloping, deep and muscular. The quarters should be level, powerful, long and oval, the tail springing well from the quarters.

HEIGHT: 16.0hh to 16.2hh, but height should not disqualify an otherwise good sort.

LIMBS: Arms and thighs and second thighs should be muscular. The knees and hocks should be large and well closed. There should be 9"upwards of good flat bone below the knee measured at the narrowest point on a tight tape. The pasterns should be strong and sloping and not too long, The legs should be clear of superfluous hair and as clean and hard as possible.

FEET: One of the most important features of the breed. The feet must be of the best shape and blue in colour. Feet that are shallow or narrow are undesirable.

HEAD AND NECK: The head characteristics of the breed should be bold and not too small. It should be well carried on a long lean neck. Ears tend to be large and fine.

ACTION: Action must be true, straight and free. High action is not characteristic of the breed. The Cleveland that moves well and which is full of courage will move freely from the shoulder, and will flex his knees and hocks sufficiently. The action required is free all round, gets over the ground, and fits the wear-and-tear qualities of the breed.

COLOUR: Cleveland Bays must be bay with black points, ie. black legs, black mane and black tail. Grey hairs in mane and tail do not disqualify. They have long been recognised as a feature in certain strains of pure Cleveland blood. White, beyond a very small star, is outside breed standards, but as from January 2005 may still be registered at the discretion of the Breed Committee and will be noted on the passport and in the Stud Book. Legs, which are bay or red below the knees and hocks, do not disqualify, but are faulty as to colour.

Share |

 Send to a friend

Your name

Your Email Address

Your Friends Name

Your Friends Email