12 Cool Gypsy Horse Facts

The Gypsy Horse in the United States is actually an Irish Cob or a Colored Cob. It’s a domestic horse that originally came from the British Isles. It’s often piebald or skewbald, small in stature, but solidly built. The nickname for the breed comes from the fact that it is the only broken-colored horse breed of the British Isles and has been particularly associated with the Roman and Pavee traveling people of Ireland and Britain.

These Gypsy Horse facts will help you get to know this fairly recently recognized breed a little bit better.

#1. The first studbook for the Gypsy Horse was not established until 1996. 

Before 1996, it was not officially considered to be a breed. Today, however, it can be registered through a number of different breed associations. Sometimes it may be referred to as a Tinker Horse or a Gypsy Cob, depending on the region where the horse is kept. Even when looking at official breeding patterns, the horse only has about 300 years of total history, primarily being used for draft and mount work. 

#2. The United States received its first imports of the Gypsy Horse in 1996 as well. 

The first Gypsy Horses entered the US in the same year that the first studbook was established for the breed. From about 1850 until the Second World War, there were really no breed standards at all for this horse. They were simply bred in order to help pull caravans and carry supplies so that the traveling people could maintain a certain quality of life.

#3. The Gypsy Horse has feathering on its legs. 

Just like the larger Clydesdales and Shires, the Gypsy Horse is known for having feathering on its lower legs. Some Gypsy Horses, however, can compete in the size category with the other feathered breeds. In the US, there are two sectional classifications for purebred horses: one for those under 14.2 hands and the other for horses taller than that. In The Netherlands, there is a third category, the “vanner,” that registers horses which are 15.1-16.2 hands tall. 

#4. Feathering is not a breed requirement. 

What is interesting about the Irish Cob Society’s classification of breed standards is that the feathering commonly seen on this breed is not actually considered to be a breed standard. It is instead considered to be a decorative characteristic of the breed. There are standards for how the feathering should look if it is present on the horse.

#5. Some people don’t consider the Gypsy Horse a true horse breed. 

This is because there are variations in the characteristics that are considered to be acceptable. All colors are even considered to be accepted – the only exception would be a horse that is a pure white color. Not everyone agrees on this point, which is why discussing Gypsy Horse facts can be an entertaining conversation. 

#6. Gypsy Horses are good family horses. 

This breed is known for having a disposition that is rather sweet. When you see the horses with the traveling peoples who still use them, it is often the children in that group who are caring for them. They are strong enough to pull a cart that is full-loaded, yet mild-mannered enough that children can lead or ride them. This makes the breed a good horse to own for anyone, but especially for those who may have never owned a horse before.

#7. Historians argue about the true purpose of the Gypsy Horse. 

Some historians believe that this breed of horse was developed for food. Some traveling groups may have traded some horses for food if they had extra animals with their group, but there is limited available evidence that shows the horses were specifically bred for butchering.

#8. Gypsy Horses are highly receptive to training. 

When you look at organizations which provide pony rides, trail rides, or similar horseback riding experiences, there is a good chance that there are at least a couple of Gypsy Horses being used. This is because they bear weight extremely well and are hardy at whatever they do. As a competitive horse, there do an excellent job of driving and riding as well. This is also why so many seek this breed out if they are looking for a leisure horse.

#9. A Gypsy Horse can be an Irish Cob, but most Irish Cobs by registry definition cannot be a Gypsy Horse. 

Irish Cobs are generally horses that do not have a past, even if many people have taken to calling the Cob a Gypsy Horse. Many Gypsy Horses have a long lineage that has been documented by those who have been breeding the horse. Some may call “trade horses” a Gypsy Horse or a Cob as well, but that is also inaccurate. You can tell a Gypsy Horse from trade horses because they have a heavier set, defined muscular capabilities, and have a verified lineage.

#10. Gypsy Vanner horses are not actually Gypsy Horses. 

The name “Gypsy Vanner” is actually a trademarked name that was awarded in 2003 to an individual in Florida. The association for this type of horse is individually run and has no elected board of directors. Unlike other associations, it does not have a non-profit status either. It is an interesting fact because the term “vanner” refers to a light-boned and legged horse, often cross-bred, and only used for riding or perhaps light driving. A true Gypsy Horse does not fit this description whatsoever.

#11. Eye color has become a factor for some Gypsy Horse associations. 

New registries for Gypsy Horses have begun to look for horses to registered that do not have blue eyes. Although most horses in this breed have silver eyes if they are a proper piebald, most breeders are not going to frown on an eye color. Most traveling peoples are not going to register their horses anyway, so some of the conformation and standards tend to be based on politics instead of what is really desired.

#12. The Gypsy Horse is ultimately a draft horse. 

Although the breed is versatile, it is important to remember that the Gypsy Horse is ultimately meant to be a draft horse. That means it will be a stout horse who is going to have a pretty good appetite. It also means that the pastern must be kept at the same angle as the shoulder so the leg has proper movement. Short pasterns are known to create lameness issues within this breed. 

The Gypsy Horse is often considered to be one of the most beautiful and easy-going breeds that exists today. There are friendly and adorable, yet compact and strong. Often seen at their best when in motion, these Gypsy Horse facts will let you know if this breed of horse is right for you.