The Cleveland Bay is a breed of horse that originated in England during the 17th century, named after its colouring and the Cleveland 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. 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.
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 US American Livestock Breeds Conservancy considers their status to be critical, which means there is an estimated global population of less than 2,000, and fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States. The UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust also considers their status to be critical, with less than 300 breeding females registered worldwide. Currently, there are about 135 purebred horses in the US and Canada recorded with the North American registry. There are also small populations in Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2006, an estimated 550 Cleveland Bay horses existed worldwide, of which about 220 were mares; the 2005 foal crop produced fewer than 50 horses.
Other names: Cleveland Bay — Chapman Horse — Bai de Cleveland — Old Cleveland Bay
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