Known as the Gypsy, Gypsy Cob, or Irish Tinker, the Gypsy Vanner is a breed of horse which comes from the islands of the United Kingdom. It is a popular breed of horse because of its unique look, high-stepping style, and ability to work as a driving or sporting horse. The breed itself was originally bred by Gypsy populations, which was what led Americans to begin calling the breed by this name.
Although there are around 10,000 Gypsy Vanner horses in the world today, about 20% of them are selectively bred to maintain the breed. About 20% of the global population of the Gypsy Vanner breed resides in the United States.
Why Are Gypsy Vanner Horses So Popular?
The Gypsy Vanner excels as a family horse because of its exceptionally gentle nature. The horses may have been bred originally for their abilities to work and their look, but the other part was to breed in a temperament of willingness and tranquility. Gypsy populations used these horses to help pull their caravans. They were amongst people very day and sometimes in very packed environments.
This required the horse to not be spooked easily. It needed to be a willing horse who could work throughout the day and then get up the next day to do it all once again.
Since there is less of a demand for driving horses today thanks to mechanization, you’ll find the temperament of the Gypsy Vanner horses makes it a suitable breed for recreational riding, children’s lessons, experiential therapies, and some show jumping.
There Is a Certain Hardiness to the Gypsy Vanner Breed
Because of the nomadic lifestyle that is associated with the Gypsies, the horses that came along with them needed to have a strong stamina and an ability to endure. Their physical strength was required to pull heavy wagons and carts, but the areas where the people lived would often offer sparse pastures at best. There would be days of little water, less food, and shelter for the horse would be a luxury.
This helped the Gypsy Vanner horse to develop into a breed that has a temperament which is very even. Since World War II, more cold-blooded tendencies have been introduced into the breed as well, making it an even more stable and gentle personality that is highly trainable and sociable with humans.
Bloodlines that have been brought into the Gypsy Vanner breed in the last century include Clydesdales, Shires, and Friesians.
Personality Differences Between “Work” and “Vision” Horses
Within the Gypsy Vanner breed, there are two different types of horses that are sought out. They can be classified as “work” horses and “vision” horses.
The work horses for the Gypsy Vanners tend to be strong-willed, but still willing to put in a hard day’s work. There is a certain stubbornness to the work horses, but there is also more general athleticism to the horse as well. From a Gypsy standpoint, they are bred specifically for export to Europe or are used during their travels as a general work horse.
Gypsy Vanner work horses are not a purebred line of horse. They are infused with multiple bloodlines from multiple breeds, so the temperament of these horses can be quite varied. The work horses that have more warm-blooded genetics tend to have a greater level of stubbornness, but can also be highly trainable and enjoy having a good day of work to do. Those with cold-blooded genetics tend to be calmer and gentler, but may take some extra care to maintain their health.
The vision horses within the Gypsy Vanner breed are those that are used to create the striking looks which are associated with the breed. These horses tend to have a Paint-like look to them from a coat standpoint, which large patches of color throughout. The main and tail are long and striking, often with variations of the coat color throughout, creating a highlighted look. The cold-blooded genetics have also encouraged extensive feathering on vision horses.
Some vision horses will also sport a solid coat color, which can vary from a deep and striking black to a chestnut color.
Vision Gypsy Vanners tend to be very mild-mannered and follow the known temperament profile for the breed. Some may be stubborn or aggressive, depending on the lineage of that specific horse. For the average horse, however, it is a calm, even-keeled horse that works extremely well with children.
Gypsy Vanner Horses Love People
If there’s one thing that all Gypsy Vanner horses have in common, it is a mutual love for people. Though they are extremely loyal to their owners, trainers, and handlers to a protective extent, they are also open to forming new relationships with others virtually all the time. This is a breed that is intelligent, willing, and wanting to please those with whom they are working.
The combination of intelligence and willingness within this breed has created a unique type of versatility within the equine world. Many Gypsy Vanners excel in multiple disciplines and often require less in the way of repetitive training than other breeds.
What gets in the way of the Gypsy Vanner exceling as a sporting horse is the influence of the cold-blooded genetics from the larger draft horses. The temperament of the Gypsy Vanner has these horses willing to give almost anything a try at least once. Their physique is not always suited for jumping, but they’ll give it their all anyway and not become discouraged if they do not succeed.
They’ll simply move onto the next discipline and give that one an honest try as well. Each Gypsy Vanner has a specific strength that sets it apart from the rest of the breed. You’ll find this breed in everything from dressage to endurance racing because there is such a varied set of genetics available within it.
In the United States, there are currently 4 different registries that accept Gypsy Vanner horses. Like with the separation of working and vision horses within the breed, each registry has a specific outcome they are hoping to achieve through breeding. The same can be said of the global registries for this horse as well, no matter what the actual name of the horse might be.
If you want to have a friendly and willing horse, then a Gypsy Vanner is an excellent choice.