The Cleveland Bay is a Warmblood horse, with its sire and dam having a recorded history dating back
to the 16th Century and into which the introduction of other bloodlines has been entirely excluded
The Cleveland Bay is the last and only remaining Pure Breed of Warmblood horse left in the world
What, may you ask, is the basic genetic make-up of this Warmblood breed? The origins date back to
the 16th century with ‘base stock’ being what was then known as the Chapman horse, a cold blooded
horse already fixed in type, bay in colour, and which frequented the Cleveland District in Northern
England. It was a very versatile horse, as much at home under saddle, or packing heavy loads to the
nearest port. The blending of the hot-blood came with the introduction of Barb and Andalusian
stallions to the area, brought home by Officers of the armed services returning to to their estates
following the civil wars of the 1640’s.
By the 18th century there was no other infusion of alien blood and the Cleveland Bay emerged as an
unmistakably fixed type. It was a stylish, powerful coach horse, the only horse capable of working land
and carrying heavy men to hounds. The English Stud Book was established in 1884. It is little wonder
that this type of horse with its strength, quality and prepotency was in demand for export to other
countries for use in their breeding programs. Russian breeders in the Vladmire district imported a
Cleveland Bay in 1887. The German stud at Celle between 1839 and 1889 had almost 50 Cleveland
Bay and Yorkshire Coach horse (CB cross) stallions. In 1844 the stallion Astonishment was imported
to Oldenberg. The Americans imported their first of the breed in 1853 and began their own studbook
in 1889. Even to this day the Imperial household in Japan is still importing Cleveland Bays.
1890’s by Major Phillip Charley who was a very strong advocate of the Cleveland Bay, using its
characteristic longevity and fertility, together with its natural ability for jumping, to improve his cavalry
mounts. It was not until 1975 that the Australasian Cleveland Bay Society was formed and stud book
records have been kept since that time. The introduction of Cleveland Bay blood to our local stock has
produced horses for the competitive arenas in dressage to Grand Prix level, State representatives in
jumping, driving and cross-country as well as horses for the pleasure industry and police force.of our
modern equestrian horse, that is, one with size, good bone, sound, nice even temperament and
straight ground covering movement. Then consider the type of mare generally available in Australia
and New Zealand for breeding, which is a high spirited, fine boned and generally smaller in stature
animal. A blending with the qualities of the pre-potent Cleveland Bay offers the Australasian breeding
program, an excellent cross when aiming to produce an equestrian sporting horse.
Cleveland Bay Horses – Article by Shell Williams – Revised February 2014
Cleveland Bays are the oldest pure breed of Warmblood horse in the world, with a history that goes
back over 400 years. Sadly, the latest census of the breed alarmingly noted that there are less than
400 purebreds in the world today; something that the owners and breeders of these wonderful
animals in conjunction with the Cleveland Bay Horse Society, Cleveland Bay Horse Society of
Australasia and Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America are trying to rectify.
The Cleveland Bay owes its beginnings to the Church in some respects as the Monastic houses were
well known for breeding horses of good bone and substance as pack horses for taking their goods
between Abbeys and Monasteries.
The Cleveland Bays were originally the ‘Chapman’s Horse’ – A ‘Chapman’ being the travelling
salesman of the day back in the 17th Century. They were a horse with clean limbs (no feathering that
you see on the draught breeds), ample bone, and had the ability to plough the fields all day, take the
family to town in the buggy over rough roads and terrain, carry the farmer to church or to town with all
his goods for market, or go hunting all day – a real “jack of all trades”.
The breed, as its name suggests, is believed to have been derived from the Cleveland/Yorkshire area
in England’s north, however the Chapmen were not exclusive to that area – with travelling salesmen
being just that – they travelled all over! It is believed that there was some Barb blood brought in and
used over the Chapman mares, which created what we know today as the Cleveland Bay.
What became known as the Yorkshire Coach Horse was a ¾ Cleveland Bay ¼ Thoroughbred – bred
specifically for, as its name suggests, Carriage work. Faster, taller, more elegant horses were much
sought after by Royalty and the ‘upper classes’ – the Yorkshire Coach Horse fit the bill perfectly. In the
late 18th Century, Yorkshire Coach Horses were exported all over the world to provide ‘matched pairs’
With the invention of the motorcar and tractor, the need for the Cleveland Bay came to an end and saw
a lot of horses exported to other countries. A handful of dedicated breeders in the North of England
thankfully kept breeding them.
They are an established breed and so breed true to type and of course colour. Their characteristics
and traits are passed on to their progeny. This makes them an ideal out-cross to solidify
temperament, bone, trainability etc in other breeds of horses – commonly known as ‘improver
bloodlines’ in the background of many of the modern breeds.
America, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand and many other countries have imported Cleveland
Bays to improve their stock. In the 1880s Cleveland Bays were brought to Australia, at the same time,
Buffalo Bill was using them in his Wild West Show in America.
Many European Warmbloods, particularly the Gelderlander, Oldenburg, Holstein, and Hanoverian owe
much to the Cleveland Bay influence. Some European and Baltic draught horses such as the
Russian Vladimir and Danish Schienswig have the benefit of Cleveland blood. Breeds such as the
Clydesdale, Welsh Cob, Morgan and Standardbred even have the Cleveland Bay to thank for part of
Cleveland Bays are on the Critical Breeds list with only a small amount of purebreds in existence – so
critical in fact that they are using the SPARKS program that the Black Rhinos, Giraffes and other
critically endangered species are using to ensure genetic diversity to keep the breed alive and
hopefully save them from extinction.
Queen Elizabeth II is a breeder of Cleveland Bay Horses, and when numbers were very low (at that
time there were only 4 purebred Cleveland Bay Stallions left in the UK) she purchased a young stallion
named Mulgrave Supreme – who was supposed to go to America, however Her Majesty stepped in.
Her Majesty is the Patron of the Cleveland Bay Horse Society in the UK and without her support over
the years, the Cleveland Bay may not have built back up to the numbers it has now.
You will find Cleveland Bays and Cleveland Bay Sporthorses (which is what Partbred Cleveland Bays
are known as) doing a bit of everything and succeeding in the Olympic Disciplines of Dressage,
Showjumping and Eventing, as well as being fantastic horses for Showing – in hand and under
saddle, Hunting, Stock Work, Adult Rider and Pony Clubs, and even in the Police Force! In the past
Cleveland Bays have been used in Cavalry Horse breeding and work as well.
The CB is a brilliant all round horse, which can turn its hoof to anything you ask of it. They are known
for their even temperament, good sound legs and strong well shaped hooves and can quite often get
away without the need for shoeing even on harder ground. They are easy to train – which also means
that they can pick up a bad habit just as easily as a good one – so you need to teach them the right
way to do something from the beginning. Having said that – they are fairly easy to teach the right way if
they have a habit you wish to break, just keep repeating the ‘right’ thing and they will pick it up pretty
Some famous Cleveland Bays are:
Old Billy – The worlds oldest horse who lived to 62 years of age. He was part Cleveland Bay.
Mazetto – A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse who was bred in New Zealand, competed for the NZ Olympic
Team in Atlanta, and is now living in the USA and evented at the Rolex Kentucky 3DE in 2008.
Sarnia Park Flaunt – A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse who is showjumping in Western Australia, and was
the EFA WA Showjumper of the year in 2007.
Powder Monkey – A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse who competed in the Olympics in Dressage some
Bob Edwards Team – A team of Cleveland Bay Sporthorses who went from Australia (Toowoomba,
QLD) to compete at the World Equestrian Games in 2006 – the team was then sold to a German
Octavius of Neika – A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse who is a Grand Prix Dressage horse here in
Betty Blockbuster – A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse who was a well-known Showjumper here in
Australia and now has offspring doing very well in the sport.
Crown Alliance – A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse who is an eventer in the UK and Europe.
Fanny Drape – Around 1869 at Middlesborough Show (UK) this Partbred Cleveland Bay jumped 7ft 6
inches – a smidge under 2.3m! – while her handler ran underneath the jump!
Peter Simple – who was out of a Partbred Cleveland Bay Mare, ran the Grand National in England
carrying 12 stone – 76.2kg. His jockey could not hold him, was discarded, caught him, remounted
and still came THIRD within 6 lengths of the winner!
North Flight – Competed in the Tokyo Olympics.
Arun Tor – A very successful Dressage horse in the UK, and was on the 1996 British Olympic Team,
however he did not compete.
Octavius of Neika – a half Cleveland Bay mare who has excelled in the Dressage arenas in the
Eastern States of Australia.
Impeccable Unchained Melody – a half Cleveland Bay who has excelled in Western Australia
predominately from 2010 through to 2013 and beyond!