One of the most honest, hard working and gentle breeds of horse in the world today. Bred for generations solely in the
UK and Ireland by Romany Gypsy/Traveller folk for their temperament, stamina, strength and versatility.
History of the Gypsy Cob
The Traditional Gypsy Cob has a history that is uncertain - no official records were kept and there is no definitive path that its inception took. There are many variations in its background and many elements brought in to make it the current type we know today. Having researched and learnt from the older generations, we have some guide as to the history of the Traditional Gypsy Cob. Known by many names such as Romany Cob, Gypsy Cob, Vanner, Tinker, Irish Tinker, amongst many others across the world, all these terms relate to the same horse, its just the quality that may vary.
During the First World War many horses in the United Kingdom were bought by the Army and taken overseas to work in service. All sizes and shapes of horses were needed and utilized - to pull canons, carry regiments into battle and carry injured from the fronts. The only type of horse the Army did not want to buy and use was the coloured horse - obviously these coloured horses would not be very good in camouflage! The Romany Gypsy, ever resourceful, had available an abundance of cheap, colourful, easily recognizable horses which they utilized and still do in many ways.
The Romany Gypsies had been using horses to travel across Europe for centuries and some settled to travelling in England and Ireland. In England there are native breeds, which used to roam freely across certain parts of the country, such and the Fells and Dales of North England. Romany Gypsies favoured the flashiness and availability of the coloured horse, the feather, hair and steady, hardworking nature of the heavy breeds, and needed the sturdy, compact, sure footed bodies of the Fell and Dales ponies. They continued breeding their horses using this mix of breeds, adapting their preferred size and type to suit their particular needs and likes. This continued and flourished as the Gypsies strived to have the best horse they could, that did the best job it could to fit in with their way of life. The other good thing about the ever popular coloured traditional gypsy cob was that fact that is was easily recognizable with their unique markings. Over time, the travelling way of life has been replaced with motor homes and more permanent brick houses, but the loyal gypsy, ever proud of their horses still to this day have always kept to their horses and have continued their traditions and breeding.
One thing the Gypsies would and will not tolerate was a bad tempered horse. All animals in a Gypsy family have to be totally safe with all the family. This selective breeding gives us the very placid, even tempered cob that we know and eventually diversified the Gypsy Cob into four categories:
The Romany people were, and still are dedicated, knowledgeable and skilful in breeding their own preferred type of horse, despite often severe discrimination against their way of life. Now the Romany has within its own tight knit community one of the most popular and sought after horses in the world, and they are rightly, quietly pleased with themselves.
They have gradually found their way into the hearts of many a horse lover who recognize their practicality and adaptability, coupled with the intelligence suitability for many modern day equine disciplines. Many a traditional cob can be found competing at dressage, pulling a wagon, doing a sponsored ride or at the highest level shows (and pulling in the biggest crowds!).
The Gypsy Cob is used in nearly every aspect of the Gypsies life, from pulling the colourful wagons that were the Gypsy’s homes, to pulling the smaller wagon’s used for work. Travelling the roads and often cared for by children, it was essential that the horses be both strong and kind with a willing disposition. They also had to be of a hardy nature, sound and easily kept, as there were no special provisions made for food or shelter. They lived on the vacant land and grass strips found next to the road. Many are used as safe and sane mounts for the novice and most riding schools and trekking centres use these kind and willing partners
The New Zealand Gypsy Cob Association has been established and a stud book set up to record all pure and partbred gypsy cobs in New Zealand with DNA profiling done to verify parentage. The Association has also become affiliated with the RAS and we are delighted to now have separate gypsy cob classes at A&P Shows and Breeders Shows in New Zealand for the first time this season.