Romany Gypsies in Canterbury Kent 1939
and raised by Gypsy's are known by many names - Gypsy Horse, Cob, Tinker,
Gypsy Vanner, Coloured Horse, Traditional Cob to name a few.
For almost 100 years, the Gypsies have bred these magnificent colourful
draft like horses for a variety of purpose. The horses were bred to pull
their ornately decorated vardos and living wagons containing their worldly
possessions through country lanes and hillsides of England and Ireland. Full
of colour, heavily boned and feathered these horses were expected to work
extremely hard in all kinds of rugged extremities. After their days work was
done they also had to be quiet enough to entrust in the care of the gypsy
children to ride and handle yet also possess a sound sensibility factor.
Often tethered roadside or in fields to forage for their feed and sustain
the extremely cold winters, often without shelter.
travelling was the Gypsy lifestyle, most could not read or write. Thus their
pedigrees and the breed’s history were kept in the oral tradition passed
down within families. The Gypsies are elegant story tellers as well as
shrewd bargainers. No written contracts or transfer were signed with the
sale of a Gypsy Horse. Bargain for a horse is done with the slap of a hand.
This tradition is still in practice and can be seen regularly at the Gypsy
Horse Fairs such as Appleby, England and Ballinsloe, Ireland today.
bred these horses for temperament, to maintain a steady pace and not spook
at the roaring of a passing truck or unexpected happenstance on the side of
the road. The Gypsy Horse had the ultimate responsibility of protecting the
family and Caravan home in the pursuit of a new campsite, and at days end
the same Gypsy horse was expected to tolerate the antics of the gypsy
children and often they would be seen with little ones, climbing over , and
under their bodies, and the horses would not move a foot, or turn an hair.
Tough enough to
endure the athletic endurance associated with pulling heavy gypsy vardos yet
quiet enough to be safe around children sets this breed well apart from
others, depending on what you are looking for. They are well known for being
one of the most docile and gentle horses in the world today.
A perfect caravan horse is strong, intelligent,
docile, athletic, colorful and with excellent endurance.
The foundation breeds
utilised to achieve the Gypsy horse of today, was Fell, Dale Shire,
Clydesdale and Friesian and the result of a dedicated breeding program
founded and cultivated by discerning Gypsy’s. They are the originator of the
breed. This are a breed that was produced for a purpose and a way of life,
hence the outstanding temperament, type and conformation for pulling. These
horse are a sign of the Gypsy families wealth, social standing and status
within the gypsy fraternity. The biggest best quality top breeding herd is
an open statement that they are a high ranking family.
They are sometimes
referred to as "golden retrievers with hooves". Because of this, they make
good riding and show horses
Gypsy Vanner demonstration, Western States Horse
Expo, 2003 Photo by: Becki Bell
Gypsies didn't refer to themselves as gypsies, nor did they call their
horses, gypsy horses. The Travellers of Ireland called their horses Coloured
Cobs, Cobs, Coloured Horses or sometimes just Piebalds since over time that
color pattern became prized. Like all horse breeders, they had terms to
denote the better equine individuals:
Proper Cobs, Good Cobs, Proper Horses, Proper Pibalds. These were the individual animals
who would be used as breeding stock. For horses of lesser quality within the
breed ( though it was not an official breed recognized as such by the
world), horses that were to be sold, such terms as Vanners, Carters or
Bogies were used. In olden days, Vanners or Carters were names given to
those who drove delivery wagons. The name of a particular kind of cart was
Bogey. The men who carted or vanned goods, from village to village, or
within a village were not interested in owninga prized horse, only a horse
who would remain sound and get the job done, so the Travellers had horses to
sell them to acquire money to use to purchase needed goods, while retaining
the better breeding animals.
The most obvious characteristic of the Gypsy Cob Horse is Hair . If well
kept the manes and tails are very thick and drag the ground. The forelock
too is long and thick. Horses that are really heavy with hair will also have
a beard of long hairs under the jaw. Feathering is an inherited trait passed
down through careful generation and the amount and quality of feather
separated the Gypsy Cob Horse from others. There is full, thick hair
beginning behind the knee or hock that continues to the ground, often also
growing down the front of the leg as well. This feathering is fine, straight
The intelligence and human bond is
present within this breed, right from the moment of birth, they are bred to
interact with their human family, are willing to please, and are very
Until recently the Gypsy Horse was not a registered breed. The careful and
deliberate breeding of these magical horses including all details and
history were kept in the collective memory of the families who bred them
for many generations. Gypsy families of the UK have been selectively
breeding these horses, with known lineage for many years, although it has
not been recorded, but only passed down through the spoken word.
Gypsy families often own many gypsy horses, but there are only a few that
possess the potential to reproduce the quality of horse that is most sought
for breeding purposes.
These are the horses kept away from prying eyes and only bought out on
special occasions to suitably impress others symbolic of wealth and
Due to the recent interest and importation of Gypsy horses, registries are
being established in England, Australia, USA and in New Zealand to protect
and continue the established bloodlines.
The Gypsy Horse must possess a certain look and meet a clear conformation
standard, ensuring that we may reproduce the same quality horse that the
ancient Romany Gypsy dreamed of.
The sheer beauty
of the Gypsy Horse will captivate both young and old alike. Bred from a
combination of draft and pony breeds they range in size from 13-15 hands.
They are sturdy horses with heavy bone, flat knees and a short back. They
come in a variety of colors; bay/white, red/white, black/white, blue and
tri-colored. The most common color is black/white and occasionally you will
find a solid color, however, all colors are prized! Gypsy horses have an
abundance of mane and feather. The feathers should begin at the knee/hock
and fully cover the hooves. Manes and tails are long, thick and flowing.
The Gypsy horse is truly magic in motion, appearing to float as they move!
The Gypsy Horse has
many wonderful qualities. Their beauty is immediately noticed, but time
spent with a Gypsy Horse and their warm, gregarious nature, is a true
used for driving, they also excel at dressage, hunting, show jumping and
both English & Western riding. Years of selective breeding
has developed a personality that is likely the most gentle and docile in the
world. They are extremely social and eager to participate in your
activities and will do so with beauty and style