The Cleveland Bay: Rare & Regal
The Cleveland Bay is England’s oldest native breed of horse and is noted for its athleticism, stamina, intelligence and even temperament. These traits make a very versatile horse that could do just about anything from driving, to dressage, to jumping. They are renowned as carriage horses and are a fixture at England’s Royal Mews pulling the Queen’s coaches. The breed also is renowned for passing these hallmark traits to their offspring, which makes for excellent crosses. Many European Warmblood breeds such as Oldenburgs and Hanoverians can trace a Cleveland Bay influence in their development.
Sadly, despite being a breed that has tremendous athleticism and versatility, and has contributed greatly to the development of many modern breeds, history left the breed behind and almost forgotten. The development of modern machinery in England began the Cleveland’s drop in numbers. This combined with the devastating loss of Cleveland’s highly recruited to serve in the military hauling artillery and munitions during World War I left the breed almost extinct. By 1960, there were only 5 remaining mature stallions, and a handful of breeding age mares. The breed escaped extinction through the intervention of Queen Elizabeth II who stepped in to purchase a stallion slated for export named Mulgrave Supreme. She made him available to the public, and encouraged the growth of the breed.
Today the Cleveland Bay still remains a critically endangered breed, with less than 500 purebreds remaining worldwide. This sadly makes them rarer than giant pandas or snow leopards. Slowly word is spreading about this amazing breed, and more people are getting involved. There are a few part-breds currently competing in top level international competitions in various venues such as combined driving, dressage, and eventing. If you are considering a new horse or breeding one yourself, this is a breed not to be overlooked.