From the Cleveland district of Yorkshire, England, the Cleveland Bay is said to be the oldest established English horse breed, and the only non-draught horse developed in Great Britain.
They have been associated with the Royal Family throughout their history and are still used to pull carriages in royal processions today. The Cleveland Bay is a rare breed, with approximately only 550 horses reported worldwide as of 2006. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK and the United States-based Livestock Conservancy consider the population to be at critical limits for extinction.
They are particularly popular for hunting and show jumping, both pure blooded and when crossed with Thoroughbreds.
The Cleveland Bay stands between 16.0hh and 16.2hh. They are hardy horses with a docile nature.
Cleveland Bays must be bay with black points - black legs, black mane and black tail. Grey hairs in the mane and tail have been recognised as a feature in certain strains of pure Cleveland blood.
White markings, beyond a very small star on the forehead, is not permitted. Legs which are bay or red below the knees and hocks do not disqualify but are faulty as to colour, according to the Cleveland Bay Horse Society. Eyes should be large, well set and kindly in expression, while ears tend to be large and fine.
The body of the Cleveland Bay should be wide and deep. Their withers are well-muscled, which often makes them less pronounced. The breed has a large head and a long, well-muscled neck. Their legs are short in relation to the body but strong and well-muscled. They have little or no feather, as the breed was developed partially for working in the heavy clay soils of Yorkshire.
The Cleveland Bay is a versatile horse and is used today in many equine disciplines.
It can be useful for breeding show jumpers, eventers and steeplechasers. When crossed with Thoroughbreds, the resulting progeny are lighter and faster, but still strong and heavy of bone. The English breed is also used as heavy hunters because of their power.
Cleveland Bays are one of the two types of horses used to pull the carriages at the Royal Mews, along with Windsor Greys. They are used to pick up high commissioners and ambassadors presenting their credentials to The Queen. When show jumping first began during the mid-19th century, Cleveland Bays were among the initial stars. Two mares, Star and Fanny Drape, were two of the top performers. Fanny Drape was known to have cleared a 6ft (1.8 m) stone wall with a rider on her back, and a 7.5ft (2.3 m) bar while being jumped in-hand.
The breed has been used to develop and improve several warmblood and draught horse breeds, including the Oldenburg breed, the Holstein, the Hanoverian, the short-lived Yorkshire Coach Horse and the Russian Vladimir Heavy Draft.
More information on the breed can be found on the Cleveland Bay Horse Society website.