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History of the Gypsy Horse


     For hundreds of years, the nomadic people known as gypsies have traveled the roads of Europe and England in beautifully carved and decorated living wagons. To maintain this way of life, they created an extraordinary breed of horse with the endurance and strength to pull a heavy wagon all day, be hardy and easy keepers so they could live outside, and have an extremely calm temperament, since a moment's panic could result in the destruction of its owner’s home. The result, after hundreds of years of selective breeding, is a beautiful, powerful and supremely gentle animal, the Gypsy Horse. 

     Today we are introducing you to 11 Gypsy horses, ranging in age from five months to nine years. The Gypsy people have been known by a variety of names, including Travelers or Romany. The names for their horses reflect this - Gypsy Cobs, Gypsy Horse, Travelers Horses, Irish Cobs and Tinkers. Gypsies still travel the roads of England, Ireland and Europe today. For centuries, their way of life has been the stuff of legend and romance. The most magnificent part of their heritage lives, breathes and trots, proud necks arched and feather flying. A source of great pride, these horses are still a tradition in many Gypsy families. They reflect the families’ wealth and are considered their children’s inheritance. 


     These days, the gypsy men are breeding small, pretty horses. However, Americans have been able to import older stock for breeding here, which is why we have horses like Teddy, the old style wagon type, and now the classic, mid-size cobs bringing down the size to 11 to 12-hand horses. The Teddy blood dominates Lise’s herd and breeding program and runs through all the horses we are presenting today. Over the years, the Gypsy horse has evolved from the draft mix needed to pull the caravans to a more all-around, family-type cob to meet the needs of its owners. This evolution of the breed is a classic form to function development: as the roads improved, the gypsy caravans could travel longer distances -- hence the development of a horse with greater endurance. 

     To illustrate further difference between the draft and cob, the draft horses generally have low withers and upright shoulders needed for leaning weight into a collar. A cob has more prominent withers and a more open shoulder, plus a neck with more length and flexibility for balance at faster gaits. The Gypsy was influenced over the years by the blood of England’s many pony breeds. Its size now ranges from 14.2 to 15.2 hands with variations on both ends. They are powerfully-built, heavily-boned, relatively short-legged horses, but with conformation more like a riding horse and with the ability to both pull heavy loads and carry a rider with speed and agility. Gypsy Cobs are legendary for their ground-covering trot. Gypsy horses come in all colors, but are most commonly thought of as black-and-white pintos. Their individual markings are used by their breeders and owners as a means of identification.

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