Cleveland Bay: Introduction to Horse Breeds

With its distinctive coat color and noble appearance, it is common for Cleveland Bays to serve in the Royal Stables, compete in driving competitions or be ridden in the saddle. This versatile breed has been around for centuries, but with numbers dwindling, the breed is now very rare. Thanks to the efforts of Queen Elizabeth II and other breeders, numbers are climbing in Cleveland Bay and hopefully we can enjoy these horses for centuries to come.

Variety Overview

weight: 1,200 to 1,500 lbs

high: 16 to 16.2 lots

Body type: Muscular, with prominent bones

Most suitable: Driving, Cycling and Sports

Life expectancy: 25 years

The History and Origins of Cleveland Bay

The Cleveland Bay has a rich history and is the oldest breed native to the UK. The breed originated in the Cleveland and North Riding regions of Yorkshire, hence the name. The Chapman horse is a pack horse that was crossed with Spanish horses in the mid-1600s. Barbs also contributed to the breed’s development after 1661.

By the 1700s, the Cleveland Bay breed type was established, which was exported through Europe and influenced many others. Cleveland Bay horses become heavier and more muscular for agricultural use. However, as transport speed became more and more important, thoroughbreds and Arabians were introduced to create a lighter Cleveland Bay that was more suitable as a trainer horse.

In 1883, the British Cleveland Bay Horse Association was established. During the 1800s, many Cleveland Bay exports were made to countries such as the United States, India, New Zealand, and Australia.

This breed has also influenced the history of horses in the United States. The horses were first imported into states such as Maryland, Virginia and Massachusetts, where they became popular. Colonel Richard Henry Durrany, who lives in Virginia, was so proud of his Cleveland Bay horse that he created the Upville Colt and Horse Show in 1884 to showcase his Cleveland Bay. In 1885, the American Cleveland Horse Association was formed and established the American Stud Manual.

Before World War I, Britain equipped its cavalry with Cleveland Bay, but lost many horses in the war. An initiative has been developed in the UK to encourage the breeding of these horses to replenish their numbers. With increased mechanization and the Great Depression, the breed’s popularity and numbers declined again.

Queen Elizabeth II purchased a stallion, Mulgrave Supreme, one of only four remaining thoroughbreds in the UK in 1962. In doing so, she rescued the breed, helping to gradually replenish its population. Interest in these horses gradually increased, and they were used in international driving competitions and horseback riding. Cleveland Bay and the Crosses have proven to be very talented jumpers, and while interest in the breed has returned, it’s still in low numbers.

Cleveland Bay Horse Dimensions

This is a larger breed, usually between 16 and 16.2 hands tall. They typically weigh between 1,200 and 1,500 due to their thick and muscular bone structure.

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Breeding and Use

This breed is still very rare, with only 500 to 800 of these horses today. The breed is often crossed with thoroughbreds to create sporty horses suitable for show riding and hunting.

Today, Cleveland Bay serves at the Royal Stables in London, pulling coaches for special events. The future of this breed depends on the work of breeders dedicated to protecting Cleveland Bay.

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colors and markings

Cleveland Bay always has a bay coat with black spots, including completely black calves. Horses have a variety of bays, including the favorite Bright Bay, as well as Dark Bay and Bright Bay. A horse may have a small white star on its forehead, but the stallion book will not record any other white markings on the horse.

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Unique to Cleveland Bay

The Cleveland Bay coat color is a unique trait, but this breed is also known for its strength and stamina. In fact, Cleveland Bay helped create Oldenburg and improve Holstein and Hanover because of its desirable features.

Diet and Nutrition

Cleveland Bay people are generally easy to keep, and since they are naturally heavier, it is important to monitor their diet to maintain an appropriate weight. These horses are likely to do well on pasture, although horses that do heavy work may benefit from supplementation with hay and grain. Any easy-to-raise horse needs careful care to help prevent excess weight gain and possible health problems.

Common Health and Behavioral Issues

Known for being polite and easygoing, this breed is easy to train.

Cleveland Bay can be vulnerable to prone health issues such as worsening arthritis and founder potential.


This breed will benefit from regular, thorough grooming. Curry can help stimulate blood circulation and bring the coat’s natural oils to the surface for a beautiful shiny coat. Grooming classes also give horse owners the opportunity to carefully monitor the health of their horses. Most Cleveland Bays are shown with pulled manes, possibly braided. Keeping up with the mane pull can make show prep easier.

While Cleveland Bay hooves tend to be strong and healthy, regular farrier care is still important.

Champions and Celebrities Cleveland Bay Horses

Tregoyd Journeyman, a Cleveland Bay stallion, became the inspiration for Breyer’s model horses in 2006.

Various Cleveland Bay passes have been completed at the Olympics, and Cleveland Bay and the pass continue to serve in the Royal Stables today.

Is Cleveland Bay right for you?

The Cleveland Bay can be an excellent riding or driving horse, and its strength and athleticism make it a versatile addition to any stable. These horses are strong enough to carry heavy adults. With its pleasant temperament and high trainability, Cleveland Bay can be successful in many ways.

While this breed has many benefits, Cleveland Bay is more expensive than similar breeds. Be prepared to spend $10,000 or more on a trained thoroughbred horse; prices can run up to $20,000 or $30,000. Cleveland Bay Crosses and Sports Horses may lead to lower prices.

How to Adopt or Buy Cleveland Bay

Since Cleveland Bay is so rare, it can be difficult to find thoroughbreds for sale. It’s more common to find Cleveland Bay cross and sport horses in the US, so if you’ve made up your mind about a thoroughbred, be prepared to pay a higher price and potentially ship your horse to multiple states. It is possible to find purebred Cleveland Bays from breeders or private sellers, but be prepared to be patient as these horses are few and far between.

More horse breeds

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