Cleveland Bay Horse Facts And Information – Breed Profile

The Cleveland Bay Horse is an English horse that got its name from the district of Cleveland in Yorkshire. These bay horses are so named as they are always bay in color. It is one of the oldest breed of horses in England.

Cleveland Bay Horse

This breed of horses were preferred by the royal family. Even now they can be seen in royal processions. It is a versatile horse used for riding, driving, and on the farm for heavy work. The horse is rare and there are very few horses in the world today.

This is why the horse is considered at risk and efforts are being made to prevent its extinction.


They are considered to be the oldest native breed that originated in North Yorkshire, England in the middle ages. This horse was initially bred in the monasteries since they needed a strong horse to carry goods between churches and monasteries.

They were known as Chapman horses because they were used by chapmen or the people who traveled to sell goods. The Chapman pure breds were crossed with Andalusians. The pure bred Cleveland Bay was also infused with Barb blood. The end result was the modern Cleveland Bay stallion.

The British Cleveland Bay Horse Society was formed in the year 1883. The stud book was first published in 1884. The horses were exported to many other countries. The Cleveland Bay Society Of North America was formed in 1885. The early horses registered in United States were actually the Yorkshire coach horse.

The decline of this horse started after the Great Depression. The numbers reduced drastically on completion of world war two. It was Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain who saved the horse by purchasing a stallion bred to pure and part breds. This ensured the purebred Cleveland Bay was revived. By 2006, there were 550 horses. The number is still low, which is why it is considered at a critical level.


The bay color of the coat is the most distinctive feature of this horse. Another characteristic that defines this breed is its strength. The horse is known for its versatility.

It has been used for various purposes. Intended originally for use as a driving horse, it has been used for hunting and show jumping.


Cleveland horses are not too difficult to maintain and do not have too many special dietary requirements. They are strong horses and hence need a diet to ensure their weight is under control. Grazing at the pasture should be sufficient for the horse to get the nutrition its needs.

In case the horse is used for heavy work, then it would need hay and also grain so it has the nutrients needed for balanced growth. Sufficient water is needed for the horse to keep hydrated.

Breeding And Uses

This breed gained attention in the US thanks to the effort of the Cleveland Bay horse society of North America. In the UK, the queen is the patron of the society and played an active role in stemming its decline. She purchased a stallion named Mulgrave Supreme. This led to 36 purebred horses bred in 15 years.

The majority of bay horses in the British royal mews are Cleveland Bay horses. The horse is used as a carriage horse and seen in ceremonial processions in the UK. It is used in show jumping. When this event was first introduced, it was two Cleveland bay mares that were the initial stars.

The horse has competed in many events including the Olympics. It is an athletic horse and is used for hunting.


The height of the Cleveland Bay is between 16 hands (64 inches or 163 cm) to 16.2 hands (66 inches or 168 cm).

Being a muscular and strong horse, it is heavily built. It weighs around 1,200 to 1,500 pounds.

What Breeds Make Up The Cleveland Bay Horse?

The Cleveland Bay horses originated from the stocky Chapman horses. They were crossed with the Andalusian horse and the Barb horse. Subsequently, Arabian bloodlines and thoroughbred bloodlines, were added. This has helped to improve the speed of this horse, making it suitable for hunting and show jumping.


As the name itself suggests, this horse is always bay in color. There are variations of bay with the bright colored ones most preferred. Ordinary bay horses and preferred next, followed by dark bay horses, with light bay horses getting the least preference.

Any white markings result in non-admission to the registry’s stud book. Black points are expected in this horse with lower legs black. Grayish hairs can be seen in the tail and mane, which are characteristic.

What Do They Look Like?

This horse breed is slightly convex in appearance. Its neck is long and muscular. The chest of the horse is broad. It has muscled withers. Its strength comes from its powerful shoulders. The croup is a little sloped.

The legs are short when you compare to the rest of the body. However, they are muscular giving the horse agility. 

What Are They Used For?

They are mainly used for show jumping and for hunting. The horse is used for driving and is commonly used as a carriage horse by the royals. The horse can also be used for riding. These horses are even used on the farm since they are quite strong.

One of the key uses of this horse is to create and also improve other breeds. Some of the European horses like the Oldenburg and the Groningen have been bred from this horse.

Where Do They Live?

The Cleveland Bay horse was initially bred in the UK. It was later exported to many countries like the US, Australia, New Zealand, India, Russia, and European countries.

The horses have declined in number over the years. They are now found more in the US and the UK. It is estimated that there are around 500 to 800 horses living today.

How Long Do They Live?

The Cleveland Bay horse has an average life expectancy of 25 years. This is a normal life span, in line with most horses. Its full life span and its strength make it a valued horse. 

This horse is strong and mostly healthy. It is an easy horse to maintain and unlikely to face serious health issues. One common health problem this horse is likely to face is arthritis, which can commonly occur in horses. It is unlikely to suffer from any other common equine diseases.

How Fast Are They?

The Cleveland Bay horse is powerful. It is well-built and muscular. This gives it strength and agility, making it a fast horse. This is why it is used in riding, show jumping, and hunting. It can run at a top speed of around 30 miles per hour.

How Much Do They Cost?

These horses are fewer in number. They are considered a species under risk as their numbers are reaching a critical level. The horses can be bought from the breeders or through society.

The cost of the horse varies depending on age, gender, training, and experience. On average, the horse costs around $5,000. Good horses can cost $14,000 or more.

Are They Good For Beginners?

They are suited for all types of horse riders, from beginners to those moderately experienced and the most experienced. It is a strong and powerful horse. At the same time, it has a calm temperament and is fairly docile. It is a hard-working horse that is willing to be trained.

It is a trustworthy horse. A beginner can depend on this horse and ride it. They co-operate with riders and hence can be used by beginners.

Conclusion / Summary

These horses originated in England. Originally bred for use as a driving horse to carry goods, the horse is a versatile one. It has been used for various purposes over the years. It is a strong and muscular horse that can be used for heavy work like farm work.

It is most commonly used in show jumping and hunting. The horse declined in numbers rapidly in the 20th century. It is thanks to the effort of its patron, Queen Elizabeth II that the horse saw a rise in numbers. It is considered a horse at critical risk because of its low numbers.

It is a strong horse but at the same time has a pleasant temperament. It is easy to ride and train, making it suitable even for beginners. The horse is easy to maintain and does not require a special diet. It lives for up to 25 years and is unlikely to have any health issues.

The horse is unique in its colors. It has got its name from the fact that it originated in the Cleveland district in Yorkshire. It is always found in bay color in different shades. Proper grooming of this horse ensures it serves its purpose well and for a long time.

There’s a whole world of horse breeds out there to explore! Discover and find out more information by checking out our horse breed guides.