The Cleveland Bay is a carriage-type horse, and is almost always true to its color: bay. This uniform color is desired in carriage horses because a team is more easily matched. The recessive chestnut colour has not been eliminated entirely, and on rare occasions still occurs in pure-bred Cleveland Bays. In Britain, they are still used to pull carriages on state occasions.
They are generally 16-16.2 hands high (160-165cm), and have a good temperament. They have a long, sloping shoulder, strong limbs with plenty of bone, a strong back and hindquarters, and a large head with a fairly straight face. The legs are 'clean' (long hair on the legs would not have suited the heavy clay soil of the region). The stud book has been closed since 1883.
The now-extinct Galloway pony was thought to have been added to give the Cleveland Bay more surefootedness, while Barb blood was added for refinement (Barbs came to the region as a result of work to create a harbour at Tangier in Morocco by Yorkshire contractors). Andalusian stallions present in north-east England after the Civil War may also have contributed to the breed.
These big, strong horses were used for a variety of purposes, from working the land, to carrying goods, to fox hunting and carriage work. As roads improved, there was a need for a faster carriage horse and Thoroughbred blood was introduced to create a tall, elegant animal known as the Yorkshire Coach Horse. They were very popular and exported to countries including South Africa, India, Russia and the United States of America.
After the Second World War, the car made the Cleveland Bay all but disappear. Because pure-bred Cleveland Bays were more versatile, they remained as hunters, carriage, and farm horses. By 1962, only four stallions were left in Britain.
Luckily, there was a revival in the 1960s, due mainly to Queen Elizabeth II, who bred many top-quality Cleveland Bays for the royal stables. Today, they are very popular for crossing with other breeds for their size, substance, and docility. A number of warmblood breeds, especially from Germany, have benefited from their blood.