Gypsy vanner horses, also known as gypsy cobs, Irish cobs, coloured cobs and tinker horses, are a colourful and very popular new breed of horse. These horses are very recent to the United States and have only lately been recognised as a registered breed. Their temperament, strength and longevity are helping their popularity grow as performance horses and pets.
Gypsy vanners are small, very compact horses that are considered to be a small draft breed. They have heavy, dense bone structures, large feet and heavily feathered legs. They are known for their strength, intelligence and docility. Gypsy vanners are usually either black and white or brown and white, and stand between 13 and 15 hands tall.
Gypsy vanners were developed by the Gypsies living in Britain and Ireland during World War II. These horses were bred to be small and easy to maintain while keeping the strong, sturdy body needed to pull heavy carts. The Gypsies also bred them to have a lot of "action," or to move in a fancy manner. This breed has come to international attention within the last century.
Gypsy vanner mares generally give birth to one foal at a time, for the safety of both mother and offspring. Because the breed is not yet set but is very specific in its qualifications, breedings for the foals are closely monitored and restricted. Foals are tested at a young age to make sure that they satisfy breed standards. They generally stay with their mothers for four to six months and are then weaned and taken away to start their training.
Horses are considered to be adults at 3 to 4 years of age. Adult gypsy vanners have attained their full height and can be safely used for performance. These horses are gentle and willing, and so are used in a wide variety of disciplines, including riding, driving and parades. They can live for up to 20 years with adequate care.
Gypsy vanners and "drum" horses, which are half gypsy vanner, are used in parades and official ceremonies in the United Kingdom.
There are only about 200 gypsy vanner horses in the United States at this time.