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New Zealand: Rare
Importation: 2004
Overseas: Rare

Gypsy Cob / Gypsy Vanner

A Rare Breed of British Isles Origin

Historic Gypsy varden
Historic Gypsy vardo or van

The Gypsy Horse, known in New Zealand as the Gypsy Cob or Gypsy Vanner, is a small draft breed best known for its leg feathering and piebald colouring, though in fact it comes in a variety of other coat colours as well.

Although the Gypsies of Europe had been using horses for centuries, in Great Britain they selected a special type of horse to pull their vardoes, the chimneyed living waggons in which they began to live and travel from about the middle of the nineteenth century. Amongst these were a significant number of coloured Shire horses and some Clydesdales which had “feather” – long hair on the lower legs that almost covers the hooves – still a highly valued characteristic of the breed.

Gypsy Cob stallion
Gypsy Cob stallion Brackenhill Dusk

An important addition to the genetic makeup of the Gypsy horses was the Dales Pony. This, and to a lesser extent the Fell Pony, was interbred with the Shire/Clydesdale bloodline to provide the basis of today’s Gypsy horse. There was no stud book or breed registry until American breeders began to import Gypsy horses to that country and created the breedís first registry under the name Gypsy Vanner in 1996. There are now breed registries for Gypsy horses under various names and with minor differences in their respective breed standards in several countries.

Today’s Gypsy horses are bred to have a very calm temperament and are considered to be one of the most honest, hard-working and gentle breeds of horse in the world.

Gypsy Cob mare and foal
Gypsy Magic Nova and foal

New Zealand Gypsy Cob Association. The New Zealand Gypsy Cob Association was established in 2011 to promote and preserve the breed in New Zealand. It maintains a stud book to record pure and partbred Gypsy Cobs (including Gypsy Vanners) with DNA profiling to verify parentage; in many cases lines can be traced back to the United Kingdom. The Association is affiliated with the Royal Agricultural Society in New Zealand and is actively involved in promoting the breed with several shows (mostly regional A&P shows) throughout the country. Careful selection of horses for importation by New Zealand based breeders has ensured that lines originating in the United Kingdom have been brought to this country, whether they were imported from Australia, the USA or from the UK. The first purebred horse was imported into New Zealand in 2004 and by July 2015 there were 100 purebred Gypsy Cobs and 227 partbred Gypsy Cobs registered with the Association. Of these, 27 were imported from the United Kingdom, three from Australia, and 13 from the USA.

Vanner stallion
Vanner stallion Mr Beau Jangles

Gypsy Vanner Horse Society New Zealand. The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society of New Zealand was formed in 2014 and is affiliated with the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society of America which established the world’s first registry to recognize a breed of horse developed by the Gypsies of Great Britain and Ireland and the only such registry founded on an in-depth study of British/Irish Gypsies and their horses. The purpose of the New Zealand branch is to promote the breed in this country and to help preserve it through strict registration and certification. It does not register any part- or cross-bred horses and all must be DNA verified back to the specific group that started the breed in 1996 – otherwise they can go on a pre-stud book pending inspection.

Thanks to Charlotte Hviid of Chatto Creek Gypsy Cobs and to Kathryn Louise
Andrus of Brightwater Gypsy Vanners for assistance with photographs.
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