The Gypsy Cob
Cob type horses have been bred for centuries by the Romany people in Europe. These horses pulled Gypsy Vardos and were an integral part of the Romanys' nomadic lifestyle. Up until the 20th century, they weren't even considered a breed. This was due to the fact that there was no official registry; the gypsies bred them and kept their pedigrees as family secrets.
The Roma's also took great care to ensure that their stock was incredibly calm and even tempered. They wanted their children to be able to hook them up to large carts without fuss. Any horse that did not fit this model was quickly eliminated from the gene pool.
Today, that tradition continues. Not only are they still calm, they are also very willing in attitude and easy to train. I've witnessed with my own eyes, young children, riding a stallion in a demo at the Calgary stampede.
Who doesn't want a horse like that?
Types, Colour and Size
Gypsy Cob, Gypsy Vanner, Tinker horse, Irish Cob, Irish Tinker, Coloured Cob all describe the same breed originating in Great Britain. While some people believe these names refer to different types or sizes of Gypsy Horses, this is not the case. The Roma people only bred a few types of horses, mainly the flashy cob and the swift trotter.
Pinto is the most recognized colour (piebald or skewbald) but Gypsy's come in every colour you can imagine. Some of the more rare colours are grey and creme dilutes (palomino, cremello, etc). However, pinto tends to be the favored pattern, and generally these horses score higher in GVHS grading.
While colour of itself does not determine a horse's quality, it was explained to me that the breeding to obtain other colours sometimes hurt the desired phenotype. In plain language, for a breeder to get a certain colour genetic into his stock, he/she may have had to bring in a different draft type breed to cross against. If they were not careful (or able) to ensure that the outside horse had all the desirable body traits and genetics of the breed, it resulted in the offspring lacking strong traits required to be a good quality Gypsy Cob.
For example, a good quality Gypsy Cob has heavy bone, a thick mane and thicky/heavy feathering. (Just look at the picture above). Unfortunately, some of the solid coloured horses have difficulty fitting this model; they may have thin feathering and thinner bone structures. And because some of these genetic traits are recessive, like feather, it may take many generations to get it to come back, yet still retain the same colour genetics. Basically it is an uphill battle, so they often prefer to stick with horses and lines they know well. The good news however, is that the average lay person would probably not notice these differences, nor should it affect the riding and trainability of their horse. For more info on feather quality, read this great article: Feather
Gypsy's average 14.2hh but they range from 13hh-15.2hh with the occasional outlier. Traditionally the best breeders do not care as much about their height as they do other factors such as temperament, conformation, bone and hair. They tend to look down on breeding only for size or other one factor traits, and they value the mare's genetics equally to the stallion's. [Link] They also highly favor their well known and established bloodlines over horses with vague parentage. This is because the feel the established lines are reliable and pass down desired traits consistently. An unknown may just be a lucky one off.