CBHSNA Society and Breed History

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The Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America was founded in 1885 and by 1907 had registered 2000 stallions and mares. Imported as superb coach horses, interest in the breed waned as the world became more mechanized but was briefly revived in the 1930’s when Alexander Mackay-Smith imported founding stock for hunters. 

Cleveland Bay horses compete in all disciplines of horsemanship and can be registered with many breed and performance organizations around the world.  The CBHSNA recognizes Cleveland Bays with at least 1/8th blood and with papers indicating CB ancestry.  

The Society maintains a census of all Cleveland Bay horses in North America which include both purebred and part-bred/sport horses Cleveland Bay horses.   This census data includes birth information, sire/dam, percentage CB,  and geographic location.  The census also records and lists any and all breed registrations of each horse as applicable.  

It is the mission of the Society to promote the Cleveland Bay Horse, preserve its heritage and ensure its future.  We wish to extend a sincere thank you for visiting our site!


As its name suggests, the Cleveland Bay emanates from the Cleveland Vale area of northeast England. Without doubt it is Britain’s oldest standardized breed of horse and has been fixed in type much longer than the official UK’s breed registry foundation date suggests.

The church played a very large role in their breeding. Throughout the middle ages the Monastic houses in England’s northeast were the principal breeders of horses. Pack horses were needed for the trading of goods between the various Abbeys and Monasteries.

Most certainly the ancestors of today’s Cleveland Bays, particularly on the female side, were such pack horses bred in the Yorkshire Dales. Locally they were known as Chapman horses, the name being derived from the name given to packmen and itinerant peddlers of those days i.e. “Chapmen”.

There was an influx of barb horses into the port of Whitby. These refined stallions were used on Chapman mares. Before the end of the 17th Century the main ingredient of the Cleveland Bay, the Chapman, and the Barb had come together to form the type of powerful horse whose popularity as a pack/harness horse was beginning to spread beyond the northeast English countryside. Recent research may link the Cleveland Bay to the Turk-omen horse ancestor to the modern Akhal-Teke. Research from the late 20th century indicates many of the foundation stallions had more thoroughbred blood than originally considered.

The next century saw an increase in weight and size of these horses – better feeding being one of the reasons. The result was a quality versatile horse which found many uses away from the Monasteries as agricultural horses drawing carts and wagons of various types. A demand for faster carriage horses resulted in some breeders crossing their Cleveland Bays with strong Thoroughbreds. This off-spring became known as the Yorkshire Coach Horse, a tall elegant carriage horse, much in demand by the rich and royal.

The late 18th Century was the golden age of carriage driving. Yorkshire Coach Horses were exported all over the world to provide matched pairs and teams. During the height of the London season, hundreds of pairs of Yorkshire Coach Horses could be seen in Hyde Park every afternoon. To this day one may still detect the two types of Cleveland – the smaller, resembling the Chapman, and the taller resembling the Yorkshire Coach Horses. Both nevertheless retain the bone and substance of their ancestors. The coming of the automobile and tractor put an end to the need for Cleveland Bays. Their breeding went into decline. Many were sold abroad (central and eastern Europe, South Africa, Australia, and North America), but a few dedicated breeders in the northeast of England kept the breed alive.

Currently the breed is still critically rare.  There are approximately 220 pure breds in North America (including mares, stallions and geldings).  It is expected that the worldwide population is approximately 1,000 purebreds spread throughout North America, Australasia, Europe, Japan and Pakistan. The dedicated breeders and members belonging to the Cleveland Bay Horse Association of North America endeavor to increase the number of these unique horses and promote the breed in many disciplines.

A Quality Breed

The Pure-Bred Cleveland Bay is a very intelligent horse with a sensible temperament. They have plenty of bone and substance, are hardy, long lived and have tremendous stamina.

Characteristically the breed is very bold and honest. They are always bay in color, their action is level, free and long striding. They are an established breed and so breed true to type. They are extremely prepotent, meaning their quality and traits are passed on to their progeny. This makes them an ideal out-cross with many breeds with the Thoroughbred as the most popular outcross.

An unusually high percentage of these part bred sport horses excel in many disciplines, including driving, hunting, jumping, dressage, endurance and recreational trail riding. America, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand and many other countries have imported Cleveland Bays to improve their native stock and to help preserve the breed. 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 Irish Draught, Russian Vladimir and Danish Schienswig have the benefit of Cleveland blood.

Known for its Versatility

Perhaps the Cleveland’s greatest advantage is its versatility. Early Cleveland Bays were versatile pack and harness horses. The present day Cleveland is equally versatile in relation to the modern equine disciplines. As carriage and driving horses they remain unsurpassed. For this purpose a good number are kept at the Royal Mews in the U.K.. Teams of Cleveland Bays have competed in FEI driving trials. Many are driven as singles and in pairs purely for pleasure.

They make ideal heavy weight hunters, but also possess the necessary quickness for eventing, and can be exhibited in the show ring either as in-hand, ridden or working hunters. As sound active horses with substance, stamina and a good, sane temperament they make excellent police horses. The ability to break a Cleveland Bay to saddle and harness makes this breed invaluable to all round enthusiast to whom quality and versatility are important!

Interested in a Cleveland Bay?

Occasionally, Cleveland Bays can be found through ads placed in various equine publications or online equine classifieds websites.  Some breeders prefer to sell their stock privately. However, the CBHSNA will be pleased to supply you with the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of members who breed Pure Bred Cleveland Bays and Cleveland Bay Sport Horses, and please take note the horses for sale, breeders and stallions listed on this site. Breeding your mare to a Cleveland Bay stallion will most likely improve the quality of her offspring. Never seen a pure or part bred/sport horse Cleveland Bay? Farms listed on this site are available for visits with prior arrangements.

Even if you do not own a Cleveland Bay you can support this wonderful breed by becoming a member of the Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America. Further information about this remarkable breed and resources are available on this site. Write info@clevelandbay.org