Great British Horse Breeds: Cleveland Bay

In a previous entry earlier this year, we provided an introduction to Great British native horse and pony breeds. With a total of 13 breeds, 5 of which are horse breeds, in Britain we may have few to choose from but quality most definitely outweighs quantity! Welcome characteristics of British horse breeds include a gentle temperament and a willingness to undertake a variety of tasks. We take a look at our oldest breed of horse, the Cleveland Bay.

A Brief History

Cleveland Bay MareDating back to a time before records began, the Cleveland Bay breed has had many purposes over the years.

The Middle Ages in Yorkshire is when the breed first came to be recognised where they would carry the goods of Chapmen (Travelling Salesmen) and were known as Chapman horses. The development of the name by which they are recognised now came later from their colour (bay) and the Cleveland district of North Yorkshire from where they originate.

By the time of the reign of Elizabeth I, the Cleveland Bay was in use by the people of Yorkshire to plough the land, hunting and pulling carts. Their natural strength and endurance was soon recognised and they were used to pull the first coaches in Britain.

Reaching a peak in popularity due to improved roads, the Cleveland Bay continued to develop as a coach horse but the development of railways lead to a dramatic decline in use and the breed was soon under threat of extinction. Following two World Wars, the breed was in threat of disappearance altogether and only a handful of stallions and mares were in existence.

Fortunately, the purchase of a pure Cleveland Bay colt by the Queen saw a rise in popularity of the breed and numbers began to rise once again. Following a number of further fluctuations in numbers, the breed still remains under threat today.


As the name suggests, the Cleveland Bay is recognised for its bay colour. Some may have a white star shape on their forehead and black points such as black legs, mane and tail.

The Cleveland Bay breed has a large head with a convex face, long strong neck and a deep body with powerful hindquarters. These characteristics make the breed popular for jumping and their intelligent and calm temperament makes them ideal as competition horses.
Today the Cleveland Bay continues to be listed as Critical on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Register but is continually supported by many associations such as the Cleveland Bay Horse Society.


At Great British Tack Shop we are passionate about Britain, our horses and ponies and sourcing British products. For all your requirements from rider wear through to yard and stable supplies, buying British ensures quality, long term value and supporting home-grown companies. Browse our full range of products here.