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New Zealand: Rare
Importation: 2005

Gypsy Vanner Horses

A Rare Breed of British Origin

Early 20th century Gypsy waggon

Traditionally, the travelling Gypsies of Great Britain used larger, heavy horses than today’s Gypsy Vanner to pull their weighty covered wagons during the nineteenth and the early half of the twentieth century. Historic pictures of these times show that the Gypsy horse was much taller in statue with less feathering or mane than the Gypsy Vanner of today, and if anything resembled more of a Clydesdale, with the traditional larger head and size.

However, with the advent of motor vehicles, certain families in the past 50 years began selectively crossbreeding their horses with smaller pony breeds to bring down the size and increase the feather. The results of this careful breeding has resulted in a pony size cob between 13-15 hands, with a small refined head, petite ears, heavy bone, coupled with a short, compact body, a long flowing mane and tail, and most importantly, profuse feathering starting from the knees down and covering the hooves. What they have created is very distinct from the gypsy horse of the past and the trend now with the Gypsies is to breed down to 12-13 hands

Gypsy Cob
Stallion, Mr Beau Jangles   (Brightwater Gypsy Vanners photo)

The most common colour of the Gypsy Vanner is the traditional black and white piebald, although they come in all colours ranging from appaloosa to bay, chestnut, silver dapple and even the rarer colour genes such as champagne and pearl. Like many of the larger draught breeds they are slow developers and do not stop growing until 5-7 years of age. They are extremely hardy and easy to care for and have proven to excel at every discipline imaginable in the equine world.

There are still several types of Gypsy horses being bred in Great Britain, Europe and now the United States, and these have been given several different names such as Irish Tinker, Trade Cob, Traditional Cob, Gypsy Cob, Irish Cob and Romany Horse. All these names have been used to describe the type of horse which the Gypsies have bred and used in the British Isles for generations. One of the first American importers trade-marked the name “Gypsy Vanner” to differentiate between the traditional trade cob from the past and today’s markedly redefined Gypsy Vanner. The name Gypsy Vanner has caught on with much popularity in the United States and the world over, and while causing some confusion as to what is what, it is fast becoming the preferred name worldwide.

Falcon - phenomenal buckskin Gypsy Vanner   (Courtesy of Irish Tinker Stables)

The first Gypsy Vanners were imported from Great Britain into New Zealand in 2005 and as of May 2010 there were only 21 of these horses in New Zealand and about 100 in Australia, with a few studs establishing the breed down under.

Gypsy Vanners are particularly a great breed for the learner or for people who have lost their confidence, as they have the most amazing temperament and are one of the most honest, hard working and “gentle” breeds of horses in the world today. If you are looking for a horse that is known for soundness and sanity with exquisite beauty, that will be a faithful, versatile companion to your family, then the Gypsy Vanner may just be the perfect horse for you.

Thanks to Kathryn Louise Andrus of Brightwater Gypsy Vanners for the above information and photographs.

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