Due to the lack of written records on the breed, most of what is known of the Gypsy Cob has been passed down from generation to generation through the spoken word. Gypsy Cobs were originally bred by the Romani People of UK and Ireland, who we know as Gypsies. Some historians would trace the Irish travellers and their cobs back in history to 200 AD or even as early as 600 BC when metal-workers travelled the country with their families in horse drawn caravans or "barrel top wagons". Their very day-to-day existence depended on these horses considered to be a part of their family. The Gypsy Cob's unique characteristics of strength, heavy feather, a short back, muscular neck, stocky bone and large feet were especially suited to the task of pulling the Gypsy wagons (called Veardos) from village to village. They also were well known for their well set head and even-tempered character; a plus considering the high people contact in the towns and villages that resulted as part of the Travellers' lifestyle.
It was in the past century though that the breed we now know as Gypsy Cobs came into existence, when Gypsies actively started breeding for particular characteristics. They are in high demand for families from all walks of life now, due their willing disposition, beautiful flowing manes, and performance in many disciplines such as show ring, hunt field, dressage, jumping and even working cattle. The predominant colours are black and white, but they also have been known to branch out into any color known in the horse world. Powerful and yet quiet in nature, they are the ideal breed for pleasure riding or as working horses.
These hardy small-statured horses are seen in trekking centers and riding schools all over Ireland and Britain who have long been famous for their quality horses. Many of the mares and stallions that are now recognized by the travelling Romani people as the great producers were of Irish origin.
Compared to most other horse breeds, there are very few Gypsy Cobs in the US (although it is a a growing breed category) and a small fraction of those numbers here in Canada, having only recently been "discovered" by a few interested breeders in North America and transported here starting in 1997. The term Gypsy Cob is the most commonly used name for this breed of horse in Europe, but other names are also used such as Tinkers, Gypsy Horses and Irish Cobs. In North America they are commonly called Gypsy Vanners. This name was created by the first people to import Gypsy Cobs to the US. Although the different terminology can be confusing to those who don't know much about the breed's origins, rest assured, it is the same horse.
All our horses are eligible with any of the registries, although we presently work with the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society and the Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Association (GCDHA).
Breeding Ideals for Gypsy Cobs
Although it has only been in the last number of years that any standards have been documented for the breed, the following are considered goals:
- Colour - Any
- Height - Usually anywhere from around 13 hands to 15.3 H. Different sizes of Gypsy Cobs are considered most desired in most countries.
- Body - The back is mostly short and in proportion to the rest of the body, with a well rounded wither. Shoulders are usually well-developed (especially helpful in pulling wagons) with heavy and powerful hips.
- Legs - The front legs are set square and very muscular, with broad knees, the rear hocks being broad and clean. Their hooves are usually large and round.
- Hair - Known for their long flowing manes, the ideal mane for Gypsies is straight and silky, although there may be some wave. Heavy feather starting at the knees on the front legs and near the hocks of the rear legs should extend over the front of the hooves. Double manes are also common, and forelock and tail can range anywhere from plentiful to lavishly abundant.
- Head - Possessing a smaller head than a typical draft horse might have, Gypsy Cobs have a more refined head, with a flat and tapered nose. Ears are usually in proportion to the head, and eyes can be any colour.
- Disposition - Gypsy Cobs are a winning combination of strength and gentleness. Very powerful muscles and a sturdy stature team with intelligence and kindness not often found in such an athletic horse. Their willingness to please makes them a pleasure to own and work with.