HEIGHT: 16 to 16. 2 hands.
COLOR: As the hallmark of
the breed, all horses are bay with
black points. A small white star on
the forehead is allowed.
Strong, active and calm.
Learn more at the Cleveland Bay
Horse Society of North America:
The Cleveland Bay is a “good ’ol chap” from the Cleveland area of northeastern England. The breed escends from the Chapman horses, named for the traveling salesmen (known as Chapmen) that they hauled goods for during the Middle Ages.
Chapman mares bred to Barb horses laid the foundation for today’s Cleveland Bay in the 17th century. The
breed evolved into a strong, accomplished harness horse
that played an agricultural role in the 18th century.
When Queen Elizabeth I reigned in England, the
Cleveland Bay’s strength and endurance made it an
ideal choice for pulling the heavy royal coaches. And
when speed became a priority, the Thoroughbred was
introduced to the lineage. In turn, the Cleveland Bay
contributed to the development of many European
warmbloods, particularly the Oldenburg, in the 1860s.
Over the next century, the Cleveland Bay experienced repeated ebbs and flows in popularity. From the
development of the railroad to World Wars I and II, the
breed saw major decline, leading to its near extinction
multiple times. By the 1960s, there were only a handful
of stallions and mares left to rebuild the breed.
Fortunately, Cleveland Bays are bred on both sides
of the Atlantic, with enthusiasts eager to ensure their
survival. England’s Cleveland Bay Horse Society was
formed in 1884, and the Cleveland Bay Horse Society
of North America soon after in 1885.
Queen Elizabeth II purchased a Cleveland Bay colt
in the 1960s and made him available to the public for
breeding. Over the next 10 years, the breed flourished
and found success in various competitive disciplines,
especially driving, dressage and show jumping.
Although numbers declined significantly again in the
United Kingdom in the 1980s along with the agricultural economy, demand for the breed overseas began to
grow. The Cleveland Bay is still critically rare, with only
about 500 purebreds in the world, and just over 200 of
them in North America.
Breed societies in the United Kingdom, United
States and Australia are working hard to increase the
Cleveland Bay’s worldwide recognition as a horse with
the strength, stamina and temperament to pursue any
riding or driving discipline.
KIM KLIMEK is a freelance writer based in Kentucky.