Gypsy horse facts

Updated April 17, 2017

Gypsy horses, also known as Gypsy Vanners, Gypsy Cobs, Colored Cobs, Irish Cobs or Tinker Horses, are majestic and strong horses bred mostly in the United Kingdom. For a while, the horse's popularity rested in the UK. In 1996, the breed was introduced to the United States and is now considered exotic in North America. The gypsy horse is known not only for its great beauty, but also for its versatility.


The gypsy horse was originally bred in the 19th century by gypsies, or the Romani people of the United Kingdom. The Traveling People, as they are also known, bred the horses for work purposes, as well as beauty and gentleness. Even in today's gypsy culture, the measure of a family's success is determined by the quality and size of its horses. Gypsy horses are a result of mixing Shires, Clydesdales, Friesians, Dales and other native British horse breeds.


Gypsy horses have piebald or skewbald colouring. Piebald is black and white; skewbald is red and white, brown and white or tricolour. They have an arched back, small ears that curve inward and strong legs with feathers (feathered hair) that begin at the knee in front and at the hock in the back. They also have round, heavy chests. The horse is often recognised by its beautiful, flowing hair. The hair is very thick, sometimes curly and sometimes straight. Kinky hair is considered a defect. The tail is set low. If allowed to grow without cutting, the horse's tail will drag the ground.


These horses range in size from 12 to 15 hands. A standard hand, the measurement to determine a horse's height, is equal to four inches. They weigh between 499 and 771 Kilogram.

Gypsy horses are small compared to other work horses. Clydesdales and Percherons are taller than 16 hands. Quarter horses and Arabians, which are usually show horses, are closer to the height of gypsy horses at 14 to 16 hands.


While they are small in stature, Gypsy horses are muscular and strong. They are used as draft, or work horses. The Romani people use them for pulling heavy carts filled with wares and possessions. These horses can also be used for showing in western and driving competitions, as well as dressage. They make fine companion horses as they are docile, kind, intelligent and deal well with children.


Look for a horse that has more white than any other colour. Hair is also an important factor. Look for a horse with a long mane, tail and feathers. A well-bred gypsy horse will have feathers that drag the ground. Manes can be either single or double.

Since gypsy horses are considered exotic in North America, they are extremely pricey. In the United Kingdom they are common and sell for much less than those in North America.

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About the Author

Meg Mulvaney has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has been published in several newspapers, magazines, online and most recently in an inspirational book as a contributor. She graduated from a publishing course through the Institute of Children's Literature in 2007.