As a breeder of Gypsy Vanner Horses we feel that it is important to understand and appreciate the history of the people that created this amazing breed. The Gypsy folk are a private people and don't often welcome outside intrusion, nor do they keep written records. Therefore much of their history and customs remain a mystery. The following information has been gathered from a variety of sources, and serves as a brief introduction.

Gypsy Caravan
Date Unknown

The People...

The following is a brief summary of the information that I have found or heard regarding the people known as Gypsies or Travellers from which we get our horses:

Originally the Gypsy folk didn't call themselves Gypsies, they had names that reflected their area of origin. Encarta tells us that the Roma are divided into groups sometimes referred to as nations or tribes. These divisions generally reflect historical patterns of settlement in different geographic areas. The European tribes include the Calé of Spain, Finland, and Wales; the Sinti of Germany and central Europe; the Manouche of France; the Romanichals of the United Kingdom; the Boyash of Romania; and the Roma, a subgroup of the larger Roma population, of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Although historically renowned as wanderers, the vast majority of modern Roma live in settled communities. Today they are often referred to as Gypsies, Travellers, or Romany folk, or the more derogatory Tinker.

Sadly, history has seen the Gypsies persecuted for many reasons. Their roaming lifestyle caused them to always be the outsiders, belonging to no country. They were often viewed as vagabonds roaming the countryside looking to make a quick buck. Additionally their close knit, secretive behavior often caused fear and misunderstanding in those not of the Gypsies. Generations of Gypsies have endured persecution by the gaje (not of the Rom/Gypsies) as a result of their aura of strangeness.

Political leaders have historically branded Gypsies as undesirables, making them scapegoats for local problems. In the past it was common place for anyone who gave them refuge to be punished, anyone who killed a Gypsy could keep his property, any local authority who did not arrest the Gypsies in his area would have to pay for any damage they did.

Today while many families have settled in communities, many gypsies still live the traditional life of a traveller living in their bow-topped wagons and moving from place to place. Local people still regard Gypsies with curiosity and suspicion. Understandably, the Gypsies are very reluctant about sharing their secrets and rarely allow non-gypsies access to their families. They maintain a very private life rich with culture and tradition. They often do not read or write, and therefore much of their culture is a mystery to those of us who are outsiders. It is possible to get a small glimpse of their lifestyle at a large gathering such as the Appleby Fair.


The Finney Family On The Way to Appleby Fair
Photo courtesy of Barrie Law


Origins of the Breed ...
The brightly-colored heavily-feathered horse gets it's name due to the simple fact that it is a horse bred and owned by the gypsies. It is called Gypsy Horse, Gypsy Cob, Gypsy Vanner, Irish Cob, Coloured Cob, Tinker Horse, and Romany Horse to name a few.

There is much speculation as to the origins of the "Gypsy Horse" and there are varying opinions as to what breeds were used to create the horse of today. Most agree that the ancestors of the Gypsy Horse were cold-blooded. Often you will hear that Shire and Clydesdale provided the bone and feather and Dales Pony or Fells Pony provided the smaller stature. Some suggest that there is Trotting Horse influence as well, improving upon the endurance of the draft breeds. It has also been said that the Friesian breed and a pacing breed known as the Gallower may well be involved in the make-up of the Gypsy Horse.

What is known is that the Travellers have developed and maintained this breed of horses over hundreds of years. Through selective breeding they have created a breed of horse that is not duplicated anywhere else in the world. Theirs is a small, hardy draft horse with flamboyant color and feather, and a calm and intelligent personality. Thanks to their rich tradition of oral history the owners of these horses can often trace their pedigree back through the years.

Possible Background Breeds Of The Gypsy Horse...

Dales Pony
Photo courtesy of Dales Pony Society

Old Photo of Dales Pony in Harness
Photo courtesy of Dales Pony Society

Fell Pony Stallion
Lunesdale Mountain Mist
Photo courtesy of Fell Pony Society

Fell Pony Mare and Foal
Photo courtesy of Fell Pony Society

Shire Stallion

Clydesdale Stallion

Development of the Breed...

The following information from the folks at Harlequin Farms does a nice job of explaining the early development of the breed:

"Early Gypsies soon discovered what was necessary in the horses they owned and used. They had to be strong enough to pull their caravans and caravans weighed an enormous amount. Just imagine the weight, not only of the caravan itself, but the fact that it carried everything the entire family owned. All clothing, pots and pans, dishes, linens and most even had pot belly and/or cooking stoves. Most caravans weighed so much, that everyone except the very young and elderly, walked beside them as they journeyed from one place to another. Often, just the women actually "drove" and the men walked alongside to their next possible source of income or campsite for the night. So to be able to pull all this, their horses had to have solid, weighty bodies, huge bone, thick necks and a great layback of shoulder. They had to have strong legs and large feet. They had to be unflappable in any situation and absolutely solid and reliable in their interaction with humans, including children. They had to be tough enough to exist in the harshest of weather and often on meager food sources. They had to be able to pull a caravan all day if necessary covering sometimes 40 miles or more on hard roads or muddy lanes. They had to have a willing "work ethic" and always do what was required of them. In the past, most existed on what was found growing along country roads when the family camped for the night so they had to be what we refer to today, as "easy keepers".

The following piece is from the site explaining the effects of WW War I on the development of Gypsy Horses:

"During the First World War a lot of the horses in the Uk were bought by the Army and taken overseas, all sizes and shape of horse were utilized to pull canons, carry regiments into battle and carry injured from the fronts. The only type of horse the Army did not want to buy was the COLOURED horse, obviously these would not be very good in camouflage ! The Romany Gypsy, ever resourceful, had available an abundance of cheap, colorful, easily recognizable horses.  They had been using horses to travel across Europe for centuries and some settled  to traveling in England and Ireland. In England we have our own native breeds, which  used to roam freely across certain parts of the country, such and the Fells and Dales  of North England." 

"Romany Gypsy's favored the flashiness and  availability of the colored horse, the feather, hair and steady, hardworking nature of the heavy breeds, and needed the sturdy, compact, sure footed bodies of the Fell and Dales ponies. They continued breeding their horses using this mix of breeds, adapting their preferred size and build to suit their particular needs and likes. This continued and flourished as the Gypsies strived to have the best horse they could, that did the best job it could to fit in with their way of life. The Gypsy also liked the fact that the colored horse is easily recognized and could not be 'swapped' as easily as some solid colored horses!"

"One thing they will not tolerate was a bad tempered horse. All animals in a Gypsy family have to be totally safe with all the family." 

"This selective breeding eventually diversified the Gypsy Cob into four categories. Up to 14.2hh, short, stocky, compact ponies used for pulling working flat carts. Up to 15hh big, powerful cobs used for pulling the living wagons and heavier loads. Over 15hh cobs with more Shire/Clydesdale blood, used for heavy loads and agricultural work.  The Trotter, cobs usually crossed with Standardbred horses, used for road racing in Sulkie traps." 

"The Romany people were, and still are dedicated, knowledgeable and skilful in breeding their own type of horse, even though they came up against severe discrimination against there way of life,  their horses were almost expelled from the  equine world."

 "But, now the Romany has within its own tight knit community one of the most popular and sought after horses in the world, and they are rightly, quietly pleased with themselves."

For more related information please visit our friends at:

Hoof Care In Camp
Photo Compliments of Barrie Law

Views: 709

Replies to This Discussion


The Gypsy dream was to breed the perfect horse to pull their colorful vardos or living wagons through the hillsides of England and Ireland. The Gypsy Vanner had to be  strong and athletic so that they could manage the heavy vardos with the Gypsy family and his belongings. The horses had to be hardy and easy to keep,  as they were often tethered on the side of the road or in fields, eating whatever grass they could find and living  without shelter in the cold winters.   And when the days work was done, the beautiful Gypsy Vanner, had to be gentle and docile enough to teach Gypsy children how to ride. 

While most Gypsies do not live in vardos any longer, they still keep and breed quality Gypsy Vanner horses.   Now, as in the traveling days, the Gypsy Vanner is a symbol of status, and a source of great pride among the Romany Gypsies.


Until now, the Gypsy Vanner was not a registered breed.  While the breeding of these magical horses was careful and deliberate,  the detailed history of the breed bloodlines, was kept in the collective memory of the families who bred them for  many generations.  Due to the recent interest and importation of  Gypsy horses, registries are being established here and abroad to protect and continue the established bloodlines.  Many names are associated with a gypsy type horse; Cob, Coloured Horse or Tinker.  Gypsy families often own many gypsy type horses, but there are only a few that possess the potential to reproduce the quality of horse that is most sought for breeding purposes.  Enter the Gypsy Vanner - The word Vanner simply means "caravan" and is a registered trademarked name for the  promotion of Gypsy Vanner Horses by The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society .  The Gypsy Vanner Horse must possess a certain look and meet a clear conformation standard, ensuring that we may reproduce the same quality horse that the ancient Romany Gypsy dreamed of.

The sheer beauty of the Gypsy Vanner will captivate both young and old alike.  Bred from a combination of draft and pony breeds they range in size from 13-15 hands.  They are sturdy horses with heavy bone, flat knees and a short back.  They come in a variety of colors;  bay/white, red/white, blue and tri-colored.  The most common color is black/white and occasionally you will find a solid color, however, all colors are prized!  Gypsy Vanners have an abundance of mane and feather.  The feathers should begin at the knee/hock and fully cover the hooves.  Manes and tails are long, thick and flowing.  The Gypsy horse is truly magic in motion, appearing to float as they move!

The Gypsy Vanner has many wonderful qualities.  Their beauty is immediately noticed, but time spent with a Gypsy Vanner and their warm, gregarious nature, is a true blessing!     Years of selective breeding has developed a personality that is likely the most gentle and docile in the world.  They are extremely social and eager to participate in your activities and will do so with beauty and style!

Highly admired, the Gypsy Vanner is still extremely rare in the United States, numbering around 200 at this time.  Due to their increasing popularity, we expect to see many more in the very near future.  Traditionally used for driving, they also excel at dressage, hunter jumper and both english  & western riding. 

Enchanting,  incredibly versatile and with temperament that is unequaled, they will quickly become your dream of the perfect horse! 



Important (read & understand)

How to Contact us:Preferred Contact point

Skype: Travelingraggyman


Email and Instant Messenger:

TravelerinBDFSM @ aol/aim;  hotmail;; live & yahoo


Travelingraggyman @ gmail and icq ***


Find us on Google+

Please vote for Our Site. You can vote once a day. Thank you for your support. just click on the badge below


10,000 votes - Platinum Award
5,000 votes - Gold Award
2,500 votes - Silver Award
1,000 votes - Bronze Award
300 votes - Pewter Award
100 votes - Copper Award

Member of the Associated  Posting System {APS}

This allows members on various sites to share information between sites and by providing a by line with the original source it credits the author with the creation.

Legal Disclaimer

***************We here at Traveling within the World are not responsible for anything posted by individual members. While the actions of one member do not reflect the intentions of the entire social network or the Network Creator, we do ask that you use good judgment when posting. If something is considered to be inappropriate it will be removed


This site is strictly an artist operational fan publication, no copyright infringement intended

Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries had its humble beginnings as an idea of a few artisans and craftsmen who enjoy performing with live steel fighting. As well as a patchwork quilt tent canvas. Most had prior military experience hence the name.


Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries.


Vendertainers that brought many things to a show and are know for helping out where ever they can.

As well as being a place where the older hand made items could be found made by them and enjoyed by all.

We expanded over the years to become well known at what we do. Now we represent over 100 artisans and craftsman that are well known in their venues and some just starting out. Some of their works have been premiered in TV, stage and movies on a regular basis.

Specializing in Medieval, Goth , Stage Film, BDFSM and Practitioner.

Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

Likewise, it is typical for these history-lovers to peruse the tent (aka mobile store front) and, upon finding something that pleases the eye, ask "Is this period?"

A deceitful query!! This is not a yes or no question. One must have a damn good understanding of European history (at least) from the fall of Rome to the mid-1600's to properly answer. Taking into account, also, the culture in which the querent is dressed is vitally important. You see, though it may be well within medieval period, it would be strange to see a Viking wearing a Caftan...or is it?

After a festival's time of answering weighty questions such as these, I'd sleep like a log! Only a mad man could possibly remember the place and time for each piece of kitchen ware, weaponry, cloth, and chain within a span of 1,000 years!! Surely there must be an easier way, a place where he could post all this knowledge...

Traveling Within The World is meant to be such a place. A place for all of these artists to keep in touch and directly interact with their fellow geeks and re-enactment hobbyists, their clientele.

© 2024   Created by Rev. Allen M. Drago ~ Traveler.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service