There’s an old saying, which goes “Gypsy Gold does not chink and glitter, it gleams in the sun, and neighs in the dark”.
This proverb is believed to be from the Claddaugh Gypsies of Galway and refers to the magical relationship between gypsies and their most treasured objects, their horses. The Gypsy Cob was developed by the Romany people,Gypsy Cobs better known as Gypsies, of Great Britain and Ireland and, as one Gypsy said, is the horse born from “the dream inside my head”. The Gypsy people have had horses for as long as their culture has been in existence but the horse we recognize today, as the Gypsy’s Cob, has only emerged within the past century.
The Gypsy Horse has been called Irish Cob, Gypsy Cob, Gypsy Vanner, Tinker horse, Tinker Cob or just Tinker. There are Irish Cob breeding societies and registries and Gypsy Cob and Gypsy Vanner. What is for sure is that a Gypsy Cob Horse has a solid background of Gypsy Cob Horse ancestors and certain genetically well-established traits for which he is known and highly valued.
The original Gypsies didn't refer to themselves as gypsies, nor did they call their horses, gypsy horses. The Travellers of Ireland called their horses Coloured Cobs, Cobs, Coloured Horses or sometimes just Piebalds since over time that color pattern became prized. Like all horse breeders, they had terms to denote the better equine individuals: Proper Cobs, Good Cobs, Proper Horses, Proper Pibalds. These were the individual animals who would be used as breeding stock. For horses of lesser quality within the breed ( though it was not an official breed recognized as such by the world), horses that were to be sold, such terms as Vanners, Carters or Bogies were used. In olden days, Vanners or Carters were names given to those who drove delivery wagons. The name of a particular kind of cart was Bogey. The men who carted or vanned goods, from village to village, or within a village were not interested in owninga prized horse, only a horse who would remain sound and get the job done, so the Travellers had horses to sell them to acquire money to use to purchase needed goods, while retaining the better breeding animals.
Older Romany Travellers recall the days when the horse was virtually a member of the family and when life was led at the steady slow pace reflected by the sound of hooves echoing along country lanes.
On the day before hitching up and moving on, the caravan would be washed down, harness cleaned, brasses polished and horses groomed. No one who saw this proud cavalcade pass by would dare whisper the words 'Dirty Gypsies' under their breath. The word Tinker was a name given the Gypsies by the public because they often worked in tin, repairing pots as they travelled. They never referred to their horses as Tinker horses.While Gypsy Cob Horses were bred through the ages , sizes of horses for this or that purpose were desired, and the Bypsies knew their various types of horses by different names ( ranging from 13 to 16 hands), but all of the horses had in common those characteristics and attributes prized and desired in the Gypsy communities. The great horses who in turn produced great offspring, were remembered generation after generation and continue to be known. The Travellers took much pride in their horses and competition was placed on marking, type and performance.
While black and white has long been a prized horse color among Gypsies, the Gypsy Cob Horse can be found, and is bred in many colors, including solids . This breed is a stocky, strong, well built, and in proportion horse. Like all breeds, they can be fiery or calm, but with proper handling and training are known to posses a most lovely temperament with an excellent mental attitude.
The head is straight and handsome with a broad forehead and generous muzzles, jaw and cheek. The eyes are quite bold, open and set well apart. The head is carried proudly, with a powerful and arched neck which carries on through good withers. The back is short and straight and slopes upward to a well muscled croup, then slopes downward to the well set tail. The quarters are well rounded and powerful. The generous second thigh is quite long and well coupled. Knees and hocks are well developed but in balance and proportion. The chest is powerful, well muscled but neither too broad nor narrow.
Shoulders are sloping, ample and powerful. The action is unique in their trot, with high front action involving both the shoulders and the forelegs. Their so called step , which often involves the flicking of the lower front leg a little to each side when trotting offers an extra presence and style with gives even the heavier animals a lighter appearance when in motion and is no way considered a fault as long as the flicking is uniform and not exaggerated.
A most obvious characteristic of the Gypsy Cob Horse is Hair . If well kept the manes and tails are very thick and drag the ground. The forelock too is long and thick. Horses that are really heavy with hair will also have a beard of long hairs under the jaw. Feathering is an inherited trait passed down through careful generation and the amount and quality of feather separated the Gypsy Cob Horse from others. There is full, thick hair beginning behind the knee or hock that continues to the ground, often also growing down the front of the leg as well. This feathering is fine, straight and silky.
A Gypsy without a horse is not a Gypsy...