The Gypsy Cob is a much older breed than most people realize. While most Europeans were familiar with the breed, it was not held in high regard due to the prejudice against the Gypsy community. In the late 90’s the equine community in America discovered the breed. As the horse grew in popularity in America, The Gypsy Cob finally began to receive the recognition it deserved. Now horse lovers worldwide really understand what an amazing creature the Gypsy Horse breeders have created.
It is a breed born of purpose fueled by necessity. It was not some romantic idyllic lifestyle that drove the Romany Gypsy community to create this horse…it was simply a matter of survival. The Traveller family needed a kind, willing and dependable horse to pull their wagon essentially their home on wheels. The wagon was not necessarily a fancy bowtop, as they were the culmination of a lifetime of hard work, but rather a simple utilitarian wagon that provided shelter for the family as they travelled from place to place. This hardy dependable horse was never idle.
When the family was camped, the stallion was put to work to help the family earn their living. Most frequently hauling logs or scrap, the stallion worked all day. At night, if he was lucky, he would be put out to pasture with the broodmares, if not he was put on his tether and left to graze. His tether was an ingenious invention; the chain was hooked to an ibolt that rotated so he could graze in a complete circle. The next night the chain was moved and he had a whole new circle to graze.
Function dictated form. The proper shoulder set was critical since the horse would frequently have to pull the wagon or dray 20 – 40 miles per day. The neck should tie in well at the shoulder and the withers. A properly bred Gypsy should have a short back and good bone with nice flat joints. A Gypsy Mare may have a slightly longer back to accommodate the foal during pregnancy. The chest is broad with well sprung ribs. A properly bred Gypsy Horse should never have a coarse head but instead should have a “sweet head” in proportion to the body. A Gypsy Cob should have an “apple butt” with a tail set that is not to low.
Typically Gypsy Cobs are between 14h and 15h. This horse comes in all colors but the black and white “pinto” pattern commonly referred to as piebald is most common.
The icing on the cake is the feather. It should be silky and extend from the knee and the hocks completely covering the hoof. Curly feather is a fault. The mane, forelock and tail should be abundant. The mane may extend below the shoulder.
Last but not least is temperament. A properly bred Gypsy Cob is easy going. The stallions are kept with mares and foals. Never aggressive toward the babies, the stallion is frequently seen in the company of youngsters. It is not uncommon for more than one stallion and his mares to share a pasture with another stallion and his mares.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding this horse, but the most troubling is the idea that most Gypsy Horse’s lineage is unknown. A true Gypsy breeder always knows the back breeding on his horses. All the information regarding which stallion was bred to each mare as well as the resulting offspring has always been documented. It is not only an oral tradition but a written one as well. While it is true that Romany boys did not attend school since they had to work to help support the family, the girls did attend school until they were ten years old, so it fell to the women in the family to keep the book which details all the information on the herd.
The Gypsy Cob is an amazing animal. Well suited for many disciplines you will find Gypsy Horses out on the trail, in the show ring and hitched to a cart. If you are looking for the perfect equine companion you need look no further.
In America there are four registries; The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society, The Gypsy Horse Registry of America, Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Association and The Gypsy Horse Association. In Australia there is the Gypsy Vanner and Cob Society.