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Use and characteristics of the Cleveland Bay
Cleveland Bays are famed for their glossy bay coats with black points (that is, black legs and a black mane and tail). Only a tiny amount of white is permissible, usually as a faint star. They do not have feather on their legs. They are large horses, generally between 16 hands (64 inches/163 cm) and 16.2 hands (66 inches/168 cm) in height, though vendors sometimes sell a Cleveland Bay stallion that is even taller. They are “good doers”, which means they thrive on grazing that is not rich and so they are easy to keep. This is one of the reasons that purchasers who want a large horse buy a Cleveland Bay, since they offer the benefits of size and strength without some of the disadvantages. Their trot is active with good flexing of the knee but is not elevated or showy.
Origin and history of breeding Cleveland Bays
The origins of the Cleveland Bay probably lie, in part at least, in the famous religious houses of North Yorkshire in England, which were the sources of some of the finest horses until the Reformation. By late medieval and early modern times, a type of pack horse known as the Yorkshire Chapman horse existed. The horse was particularly associated with the northern coast of Yorkshire as far south as Whitby. This area, known as Cleveland, eventually gave its name to these powerful and distinctive bay horses. The animals were used in trade of all kinds, carrying lime, alum, coal and iron up to 600 pounds in weight. From the sixteenth century onwards, the horses of north Yorkshire were influenced by imported Barbs, Turkomans and some Andalusians, most of which were brought to the county by young men during or after their grand tours or careers overseas. Although it was always believed that the Cleveland Bay was free from the influence of both carthorses and Thoroughbreds, the breed actually did share common ancestry with the TB through these imports. By the nineteenth century, the Cleveland Bay was a handsome all-rounder that was capable of anything, including harness work, hunting and farm work. The famed Cleveland Bays were very influential on many continental breeds. In the late nineteenth century, Thoroughbred input would lead to controversy when the Yorkshire Coach Horse, a lighter, showier animal for private coaching, was created by crossing Cleveland Bays with Thoroughbreds. Purebred Clevelands survived, though many died in WWI.
Cleveland Bays in equestrianism
Cleveland Bays are now a breed in danger due to low numbers, although there are specialist breeders across the world. Buffalo Bill Cody was a huge fan of the breed, using them for stagecoach work in his shows, as well as for farm work. In the 1970s, the British royal family came to the rescue when the Queen became the Patron of the breed.