The Traditional Gypsy Cob should be a strong, sturdy and powerful cob coupled with an abundance of luxuriant flowing mane, forelock, tail, and leg hair which is known as feather.
Traditional Gypsy Cobs should always have plenty of heart room, and should have a deep girth to match. They should display ample bone and be well muscled within a broad compact body with powerful hindquarters.
They should have a kind, willing, intelligent and gentle disposition. They are renowned for their patient, kind and sensible nature. Traditional Gypsy Cobs make a versatile all round animal, most suitable for driving, riding and are ideal family horses.
The Traditional Gypsy Cob has a history that is uncertain as no official records were kept and there is no definitve path to it's inception. There were many breeding variations in it's ancestry with different equine elements having been brought in to make it the breed which is established today. However through research and learnings from our older generations, we do have a good guide as to the history of todays Traditional Gypsy Cob.
Romany Gypsies had been using horses to travel across Europe for centuries, and some settled within the British Isles. During the First World War many horses in the British Isles were bought by the Army and taken overseas to work in service. All sizes and shapes of horses were needed and utilised to pull canons, carry regiments into battle and carry injured from the fronts. The only type of horse the Army did not want was the COLOURED horse as of course these could not easily be camouflaged! The Romany Gypsy, ever resourceful, seized on the opportunity to breed an abundance of cheap, colourful horses to utilise for their wagons and work at home.
In the UK we had our own native breeds which roamed freely across the highlands, moors, mountains, fells and dales of the country. The Romany Gypsies favoured the flashiness and availability of the coloured horse; the feather, hair and steady hardworking nature of the heavy breeds; and the sure footed, sturdy, compact bodies of the Fell and Dales ponies. They continued breeding their horses using this mix of breeds, adapting their preferred size and type to suit their particular work needs and personal likes. This continued and flourished over time as the Gypsies strived for the best horse they could have, that did the best possible job to fit in with their way of life. The other merit of the ever popular coloured traditional gypsy cob was that each one was so easily recognisable given their unique markings.
One thing the Gypsies would not tolerate was a bad tempered horse. All animals in a Gypsy family had to be totally trustworthy and safe with all members of the family. This selective breeding over time is what gives us the very placid, even tempered cob that we now know.
Eventually the Gypsy Cob diversified into four main categories depending on use:
- Up to 14.2hh short, stocky, compact ponies used for pulling working flat carts.
- Up to 15hh big, powerful cobs used for pulling the living wagons and heavier loads
- Over 15hh cobs with more Shire/Clydesdale blood used for heavy loads and agricultural work
- The Trotter cobs usually crossed with standard bred horses, used for road racing in Sulky traps or sulkies
Over time, the travelling way of life has been replaced with motor homes and more permanent brick houses. The loyal gypsy, ever proud of their horses, still to this day have continued with their traditions and with their breeding of these horses. The Romany people were, and still are dedicated, knowledgeable and skilful in breeding their own preferred type of horse, despite often severe discrimination against their way of life. Now the Romany has within its own tight knit community some of the most popular and sought after horses in the world, and they are rightly, quietly pleased with themselves.
True Romany folk have always loved their horses and still today the Gypsy Cob is highly prized and sought after amongst Romany Gypsies. It was, and still is in some areas, almost a currency. A man's wealth and importance would be measured by how many and what quality horses he has. Some say a gypsy is not be complete without his horses.