The Gypsy Horse, also called the Gypsy Cob, Irish Cob, or Gypsy Vanner, is a relatively new horse breed to most people, but not to the Romani gypsies (nomadic travelers) of Great Britain.

Following World War II, gypsies in Great Britain wanted to create the perfect horse to draw their caravans, seeking an individual that resembled a small Shire, with more feathering, more colour, and a pretty head. Section D Welsh Cob blood was introduced to create slightly smaller animals with an active trot. They were quietly selectively bred, unknown to the outside world, for over 50 years until they were discovered by a couple of Americans, Dennis and Cindy Thompson, who undertook years of research to learn about the origins of this extraordinary type of horse before they began importing and breeding them. The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society was established by the Thompsons in 1996.

A similar breed, the Drum Horse, is a combination of Shire, Clydesdale, and Gypsy Horse, where the Gypsy blood is at least 6.25% of the make-up of the individual but no more than 50%.

Mare and foal gypsy horses at Burton-on-Trent in the English Midlands. (Bob Langrish photo)

Characteristics

The Gypsy Horse is flashy-looking, with a thick mane and tail, heavily feathered legs, a short back, big hooves, and muscular hindquarters. Their heads are typically more refined than most draught breeds. Heights can range between 13-16.2 hands depending on the type and the part of the world they reside. Although there are no coat colour limitations, Gypsy horses are usually piebald, blagdon (solid colour with a white splash on the belly), or skewbald.

The Gypsy by nature should be tractable, sensible, kind, intelligent, willing, mannerly and manageable, confident and courageous.

Uses

In the United Kingdom, Gypsy Horses are still used to pull gypsy caravans and are shown and traded at large horse fairs. In North America, they are used as show horses, trail mounts, carriage horses, and can be ridden either English or western. In 2004, the United States Dressage Federation began allowing Gypsy Vanners to compete in their dressage events.

For more information, visit:
Gypsy Vanner Horse Society