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Irish Cob - Horse Breed & Info

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

Although its recognition as an official breed is rather recent, the Irish Cob is one of the oldest recognized breeds in Ireland, along with two other Irish breeds.


The Irish Cob was established over many generations in Ireland by the Travellers (gypsies), and world wide has been called by many names like the Gypsy Cob, or Gypsy Vanner, although this is not what the Gypsies called their horses. Travellers in Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland, who bred their horses very selectively for a hundred years or more, did not keep written records, but have passed lineages on to proceeding generations verbally. Now the Irish Cob Society maintains the stud book.

The Irish Cob was created by the Travellers to fulfill their needs in a useable horse and these horses have long been prized by their intelligent, willing temperament, their athletic ability and their capabilities of endurance are the stuff of legend

Although shrouded in time, it is thought that local draft and pony breeds were first used to create the Irish Cob -- the Shire and Clydesdale, the Dales and Fell ponies and the Galloway. Sizes varied and became types within the breed, but it was and is one breed with characteristics breeding true throughout the generations. The modern day registry still divides the horses according to height (ponies, small horses to horses).

The Irish Cob Society in Ireland is the only organization approved to name a horse an Irish Cob. Ireland and England have been famous for their quality horse and ponies for centuries and the Irish Cob is but another example of such fine breeding. Many of the great breeding horses, were of Irish origin, like The Cob -- The Banks Mare, The Henry Horse, the Checkity Stallion and old Roadsweeper, were foaled on Irish soil.


A purebred traditional Irish Cob exhibits specific traits. The breed is ample both in muscle and bone, being both compact and powerful, but possesses a wide range of ability in various disciplines. Their appearance is rather imposing as the stout, powerful body is carried with great pride and agility and there are noted for their high action, incredible almost intuitive temperament and lots of long flowing hair. If maintained properly their tails drag the ground and their manes and forelocks are also exceedingly long. They also carry a grand feathering , also to the ground, all around the leg. It is also often the case that there is long hair under the jaw, giving the face a look of ancient wisdom.

In earlier times the extensive feathering was not as popular as it is today, since in a horse working in certain terrain this was not a characteristic particularly bred for. Today it is one of the crowing glories of the breed, although the lighter weight, smaller Irish Cob may not display as much feathering as the larger, heavier horse.

The Irish Cob’s very bold, open eyes, set nicely apart, neat ears, and the always arched neck, with high knee action and all that hair flowing is a sight of beauty. Although there are many Irish Cobs with black and white coloring, all colors except albino are accepted. Colored cobs are the delight of many countries and breeders now and these horses are either piebald or skewbald. Of course color is not judged higher than quality. The breed also displays a friendly disposition toward other animals as well as humankind.

From a neck that is compact but not too short, that is well set into the withers and the beginning of the back, the short back slopes upward to a high and generous croup. The hip bones and spine should not be apparent. The top line slopes downward again to the tail. The shoulders are powerful and sloping

All conformational parts of this breed are powerful and muscular, yet the action gives the overall look one of lightness. Often the Irish cob sticks its lower front legs to each side when trotting and if done uniformly and without exaggeration, this is acceptable. The general movement and knee action should be level in height with a good length of stride which is straight. The Irish Cob does display high front action.

With an outstanding mental outlook the Irish Cob is ideal for children and pony clubs. It’s kindness and its extreme versatility give this breed great usability for either show or family, or both. A good bearer of weight, hardy in whatever size, the Irish Cob is a competitive horse (riding, driving or in hand) or a horse of leisure.

Irish Cob Gypsy Horse Irish Cob foal

1) Clononeen Celestial
2) Clononeen Godiva
3) Foal, Clononeen Sienna
Top of page photo is Clononeed Mull of Kintyre.

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

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Visit also our Gypsy Cob, breed page (Yes, same breed, different registries)

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