The Cleveland Bay is a breed of horse that originated in England during the 17th century, named after its colouring and theCleveland district of Yorkshire. It is a well-muscled horse, with legs that are strong but short in relation to the body. The horses are always bay in colour, although a few light hairs in the mane and tail are characteristic of some breed lines. It is the oldest established horse breed in England, and the only non-draught horse developed in Great Britain.
The ancestors of the breed were developed during the Middle Ages for use as pack horses, when they gained their nickname of “Chapman Horses”. These pack horses were crossbred with Andalusian and Barb blood, and later with Arabians and Thoroughbreds, to create the Cleveland Bay of today. Over the years, the breed became lighter in frame as they were employed more as carriage and riding horses.
The popularity of the Cleveland Bay has greatly fluctuated since it was first imported to the United States in the early 19th century. Despite serious declines in the population after the Second World War, the breed has experienced a resurgence in popularity since the 1970s, although only around 550 horses existed worldwide as of 2006.
They have been patronized by members of the British Royal Family throughout their history, and they are still used to pull carriagesin royal processions today. The breed has also been used to develop and improve several warmblood and draught horse breeds.
Today they are used for farm work and driving, as well as under-saddle work. They are particularly popular for fox hunting and show jumping, both pure blooded and when crossed with Thoroughbreds. The Cleveland Bay is a rare breed, and both the United Kingdom-based Rare Breeds Survival Trust and the United States-based Livestock Conservancy consider the population to be at critical limits for extinction.
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