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HorseShowCentral > Horse Breeds > Gypsy Cob

Gypsy Cob - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the Gyspy Cob Gypsy Cob Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

The Gypsy Cob Horse is now considered a breed in the eyes of the world - names change and promotional hype is part of the game and also part of establishing standards for a recognized breed.


The Gypsy Horse has been called Irish Cob, Gypsy Cob, Gypsy Vanner, Tinker horse, Tinker Cob or just Tinker. There are Irish Cob breeding societies and registries and Gypsy Cob and Gypsy Vanner. What is for sure is that a Gypsy Cob Horse has a solid background of Gypsy Cob Horse ancestors and certain genetically well-established traits for which he is known and highly valued.

The original 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, 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 Pibalds. These were the horses 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 owning a 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.

In more recent times, people of the UK called any breed of large Draft horse, a Vanner. To continue the discussion, the word Tinker was a name given the Gypsies by the public because they often worked in tin, repairing pots as they traveled. They never referred to their horses as Tinker horses.

The term cob is used in some countries to denote size of a horse, yet in others refers to a type of stout, short legged riding horse.

So much for names! Regardless of name, these horses are of one breed and come from original Gypsy stock.


While the very ancient breed history of this horse is unknown, because Gypsies did not keep written records and often didn’t even give names to their horses, yet some lines of the breed and their ancestry was well known and passed own through generations.

The origins of the breed were most likely descended from several early draft horse and pony breeds. There is little doubt that the Shire, Clydesdale, Dales Pony, Fell Pony and Galloway and perhaps the Welsh Cob were part of the original mix that established the solid type, now recognized breed. There is also no doubt that the Gypsies practiced selective breeding, so called a breed or not, this horse was standardized and bred true. The Gypsy Cob Horse has been well known and bred by the Gypsies in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland for a hundred years or more.

While Gypsy Cob Horses were bred through the ages, sizes of horses for this or that purpose were desired, and the Gypsies knew their various types of horses by different names (ranging from 13 to 16 hands), but all of the horses had in common those characteristics and attributes prized and desired in the Gypsy communities. The great horses who in turn produced great offspring, were remembered generation after generation and continue to be known. The Travellers took much pride in their horses and competition was placed on marking, type and performance.


While black and white has long been a prized horse color among Gypsies, the Gypsy Cob Horse can be found, and is bred in many colors, including solids.

This breed is a stocky, strong, well built, and in proportion horse. Like all breeds, they can be fiery or calm, but with proper handling and training are known to posses a most lovely temperament with an excellent mental attitude.

The head is straight and handsome with a broad forehead and generous muzzles, jaw and cheek. The eyes are quite bold, open and set well apart. The head is carried proudly, with a powerful and arched neck which carries on through good withers. The back is short and straight and slopes upward to a well muscled croup, then slopes downward to the well set tail. The quarters are well rounded and powerful. The generous second thigh is quite long and well coupled. Knees and hocks are well developed but in balance and proportion. The chest is powerful, well muscled but neither too broad nor narrow.

Shoulders are sloping, ample and powerful. The action is unique in their trot, with high front action involving both the shoulders and the forelegs. Their so called step, which often involves the flicking of the lower front leg a little to each side when trotting offers an extra presence and style with gives even the heavier animals a lighter appearance when in motion and is no way considered a fault as long as the flicking is uniform and not exaggerated.

A 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 generations 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 and silky.

The versatility of the Gypsy Cob Horse is formidable, suitable for competition or the whole family. These horses spread beyond their home grounds not only because of beauty but due to their multiple discipline capabilities.

Their endurance is legendary and they are excellent jumpers. Being willing, often called intuitive with humans, they are highly trainable and intelligent and are used successfully for just about any task a human can devise.

Gypsy Cob pinto Blue Roan Gypsy Cob foal
1) Clononeen Silky Boy 2) Clononeen Blue Bear 3) Foal, Clononeen Sienna
Top of page photo is Clononeed Tumbleweed.

Photos graciously provided and © Clononeen Farm (Northbrook Estate, Farnham, Surrey GU10 5EU of - England), where tradition of an Ancient Breed, meets the experience of Seven Generations.

Article ©HorseShowCentral.com. Reproduction of any portion of this copyrighted website without written permission of the publisher is prohibited and subject to legal action.

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