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Cleveland Bay - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the Cleveland Bay Cleveland Bay Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The Chapman Horse was the foundation for the modern Cleveland Bay horse, later influenced by infusions of Spanish blood.


During the Middle Ages, in an area of near Cleveland, in Yorkshire, England, a bay colored pack horse type was bred and became known as the Chapman Horse because the horses carried the wares of the chapmen. Chapmen were the merchants, the traveling salesmen of the day, carrying wares for sale.

In the second part of the 1600’s, along with the Chapman Horse, or early Cleveland Bay, there were numerous Andalusians and Barbs in Northeast England since there was much traffic between the Barbary Coast of North African and the British northeast sea ports. From this amalgam was bred, without use of the Thoroughbred, a powerful, clean legged horse able as no other before him to work heavy clay lands and to haul considerable loads plus a horse that could carry heavy men out hunting and was a notable jumper. Above all else, the Cleveland Bay was a coach horse unsurpassed by any other up until the reign of George II.

When roads became paved, the Cleveland Bay was judged too slow for coaches able to travel at an average speed of 8 to 10 miles per hour (12-16kph). As a result, the Yorkshire Coach Horse, a cross between the Cleveland Bay and the Thoroughbred, came in to being. However, the Yorkshire Coach Horse’s stud book was closed in 1936 when this horse became extinct.

By 1962 there were only four Cleveland Bay stallions in Britain. This breed survived largely because Queen Elizabeth II made available the stallion Mulgrave Supreme, originally destined to be sold to America. He was so successful that by 1977 there were 15 stallions, most of them being his progeny.


The head of the Cleveland Bay still displays some characteristics that are reminiscent of the Andalusian from which it in part descended, although these features are not so notable in the modern Andalusian as there were in his Renaissance ancestors. The sometimes convex profile, which in former day was termed ram like or hawk like, is a typical characteristic of Spanish stock.

The Cleveland Bay is always bay with black points and stands between 16 and 16.2 hands in height.

The modern Cleveland, though lighter than its predecessors, is especially powerful in its neck and through the shoulder. Although powerful, this horse is remarkably active. The bone measurement below the knee is 9 inches (22cm) or more. When mature, at 6 or 7 years old, the measurement from wither to elbow equals or exceeds that from elbow to the ground. Clean legs, without feather, are an essential feature of the Cleveland Bay. They allowed the breed to work in the heavy clay of Northeast England and to jump out of some of the deepest going to be found in any hunting country. Quarter big enough to carry a heavy weight over a house with second thighs, hocks and fetlock joints to match are common attributes to what is probably as good a heavy weight hunter as any in the world.


The Cleveland Bay remains an important cross with the Thoroughbred to produce jumpers, hunters and of course superb carriage horses. The Clevelands transmit to all of these, size, bone, a hard constitution, stamina and strength. Clevelands are among the longest lived breeds and they are particularly fertile.

Cleveland Bays have always featured at the Royal Mews, and great encouragement was given to the breed when the Duke of Edinburg succeeded with Cleveland Bay teams and part-bred Cleveland Bays in international competition driving. There are currently only about 125 purebred Cleveland Bays in the United States and Canada, yet many Cleveland part bred horses are competing in all disciplines of horsemanship.

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