All About Gypsy Vanner Horses


Conjuring up picturesque images of the British and Irish countryside, Gypsy Vanner Horses are a striking and desirable breed, steeped in history.

Flowing manes, piebald coloring, and a stout stature are the hallmarks of the Gypsy Vanner Horse. As they’re relatively new to North America, you may not know much else about the breed. This is why we’ve put together everything you need to know about Gyspy Vanner horses.

Gypsy Vanner Horses Go by Many Names

While the most frequent name the breed goes by over here is the Gypsy Vanner, this isn’t the case for the rest of the world. 

The breed was first known as an Irish Cob or even just Cob in some instances. If you’ve not heard the term before, Cob is used to refer to any kind of non-specific stout working horse as opposed to a particular breed.

Other popular names for the Gypsy Vanner horse now include a Gypsy Cob, The Galineers Cob, the Traditional Gypsy Cob, and a Tinker Cob. As you can tell, all these various names allude to the Gypsy Vanner breed’s rich history.

Gypsy Vanner Breed History

Once known as the humble Gypsy horse, this breed’s roots lie with the Romanichal Traveller Community in Great Britain beginning in the latter 19th century. These powerful horses pulled the Romani Wagons, or Vardoes, which they lived and traveled the country in.

The breed we recognize today wasn’t commonplace until after World War II. Colored horses were unfashionable in mainstream equine uses and were often culled. There were many colored shire horses in particular, which the British Roma Community gladly took on. 

From here the breed proved their value through their strength, stamina, and temperament. By the 1950s, the breed was very desirable within traveling communities. Breeders within these communities began mixing with other breeds, trying to improve the speed for driving, while keeping the signature feathering and color. 

The breed became smaller over the years. This was mostly for economic reasons as smaller horses cost less to house and feed. But this change in the breed’s stature alongside its stunning appearance is what made the Gypsy Vanner desirable outside of traveling communities.

Across the UK, the horse became more commonplace as a riding horse as opposed to a driving horse. Breed associations cropped up in the mid-1990s to preserve and promote the breed across Europe and North America. The North American Gypsy Vanner Society was established by Dennis and Cindy Thompson, who imported the first Gypsy Horses to America in 1996.

Since then, the breed has continued to steadily grow in popularity across North America and Europe.

Gypsy Vanner Breed Specifics

Nowadays, Gypsy Vanner horses weigh between 1,000 pounds to 1,700 pounds and most often stand at a height between 12 hands to 16 hands.

Despite their smaller stature, they’ve kept the broad, draft-type build from their past and are a breed with few associated health problems. Their life expectancy is around 25 years.

Color-wise, though the breed is most associated with black and white piebald markings, Gypsy Vanners come in many colors. This includes solid coats, as well as:

  • Tobiano
  • Skewbald
  • Blagdon

The breed has some beautiful aesthetic characteristics. This includes heavy feathering that begins at their knees and hocks. Though some owners prefer to keep the mane short, the breed is often associated with a long, full mane as well.

Gypsy Vanner Diet

Gypsy Vanner horses are best fed a high fat, low sugar diet. This is because they have a slower metabolism than other lightweight riding breeds, so if your horse is a riding horse they will gain weight fast if this isn’t kept in check.

On the other hand, if you’re using your Gypsy Vanner as a driving horse, the extra calories burned should allow for more flexibility in their diet.

Gypsy Vanner Health Problems

As we said above, this breed is quite a healthy breed in general, but they are prone to a couple of health problems. 

This includes mallenders and sallenders from hyperkeratosis. This is where a horse’s body creates too much keratin. This can cause thick growth on the front and hind legs.

The good news is it’s very manageable. But it must be managed or you put your horse at risk for bacterial and fungal infections. 

The breed may also be prone to chronic progressive lymphedema. This condition causes leg swelling from lymph fluid build-up. There is no cure for this condition, but it’s believed to be linked to genetic factors.

Gypsy Vanner Grooming

Due to their beautiful coats and manes, this breed needs more grooming than most to stay comfortable and happy. 

Manes and tails need attention often, especially if they’re living in muddy fields. Braids can help manage this and keep the knots at bay!

Their signature feathering will also need regular brushing. Many Gypsy Vanner horses have white lower legs, which will need even more attention to avoid becoming discolored or stained. 

Gypsy Vanner Temperament

This breed is renowned for an excellent temperament. They have a calm and easy-going nature, which makes them ideal for beginner riders and children. 

They have a good reputation for being steady and sensible. This said, as with all younger horses, some may be quite sharp and forward. 

Gypsy Vanner Uses

A Gypsy Vanner is still capable of being a great driving horse for pulling caravans or carriages but also makes for great riding horses for all experience levels. In particular, they can be a great option for heavier riders.

Is a Gypsy Vanner Horse Right for You?

Gypsy Vanner horses are a beautiful breed with a great temperament which can make them an excellent option for many riders. However, they come with unique grooming and diet needs which owners should consider before purchasing or adopting a Gyspy Vanner horse.

If you’re on the hunt for the perfect horse for you, you can carry on researching with our horse breeds guide.

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