Monday, 8 February 2016

The Cleveland Bay

This breed originates from an area in Yorkshire called Cleveland.  It is always Bay in colour and has no white except perhaps a white star.  They are more often seen hunting nowadays as their stamina and  strong leg action allows them to move quickly in heavy ground.

The Cleveland Bay is the oldest established horse breed in England.  These are strong horses and were used extensively in agriculture and as pack horses since medieval times.  When coaches began to appear they were also used to pull these.  They were then crossed with Andalusian, Barb, Arab and Thoroughbred horses to produce the breed we know now.  This cross breeding meant that the Cleveland Bay was more suited as carriage horses as they were faster and more elegant.  This lighter frame also makes the breed better suited as riding horses.  

However, as the railways developed horses generally were needed less and therefore were less popular, the breed declined. In 1883 the Cleveland Bay Society was formed in Great Britain and the first stud book was established the following year.  As the breed became popular abroad many horses were exported around the world and were used for ‘fun’ to pull carriages. 

During World War I the Cleveland Bay horses were used to pull artillery (larger breed types) and also as riding horses (smaller).  Many horses were killed and the numbers fell again.  Numbers continued to fall before and after World War II and in 1962 there were only 4 purebred stallions in the UK.  Queen Elizabeth II bought a stallion to prevent his export to the US – Mulgrave Supreme. 

 Mulgrave Supreme

Interest in the breed then increased through the 1970’s for Cleveland Bay’s as riding horses.  The breed has been used to create and improve several other breeds.  Unfortunately, the breed is still considered critical.


Height: 16 hh – 16.2 hh

Colour: Bay

Conformation:  Bold head which is slightly convex. The neck is long but well muscled and the withers are again well muscled but less defined.  The breed has a broad chest and sloping shoulders, a deep girth and long back. The quarters are strong but the legs short with good strong bone.  There is little feather on the lower legs which was advantageous when the horses were working in the fields. 

Temperament:  Intelligent and well mannered.

The pure and part bred Cleveland Bay horses can turn themselves to almost anything.  Show-jumping, dressage, eventing, hunting, driving and some light draught work.  They are great all round riding horses.


Cleveland Bay Society:

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Until next time!

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