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Gypsy Vanner Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Gypsy Vanner Horse?

The Gypsy Vanner Horse is a breed of small draft horse first envisioned by the gypsies of England, Ireland and Wales around WWII. They wanted a smaller, more colorful Shire with a sweeter head – something to compliment their colorful caravans.

Where can I find a Gypsy Vanner Horse?

Gypsy Vanner mare Kuchi galloping in a green field

Gypsy Vanner mare Kuchi, photo by Mark J. Barrett

Gypsy Vanners were first bred by the gypsies of the United Kingdom.  You can now also find them in the United States and Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina & other parts of central and south America; France, Belgium, Germany and parts of Europe, and in Australia and New Zealand.

How many Gypsy Vanner Horses are in the US?

There are currently over 11,000 horses registered with the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society.  The registry started in 1998 with just 16 horses.

Is the Gypsy Vanner the same as the Gypsy Cob, Irish Cob, Irish Tinker, or the Drum Horse?

The Gypsy Vanner Horse is the first name used to officially recognize these horses as a breed.  Generally, in the U.S., Gypsy Horse, Gypsy Cob and Gypsy Vanner all refer to the same horse.  They are sometimes called Irish Cob or Irish Tinker in Europe.  It should be noted that not all horses raised by gypsies are selectively bred or part of the breed.  They also breed trotter horses and horses for the European meat market.  Although those would be gypsy horses as they are owned by gypsies, they are not part of the breed we call the Gypsy Vanner. The Drum Horse is not a Gypsy Vanner or Gypsy Horse; it is generally a cross between a Gypsy Horse and a Shire or Clydesdale.

Why do you use the term Gypsy?

Gypsy was used as an umbrella term to cover various people groups who live a nomadic lifestyle.  To use only the title of Romany, or only Traveller, would have dishonored the other group(s) that were all involved in the creation of the breed. The word gypsy was chosen because it included all of the people responsible for the breed.  The name was also chosen by several gypsies whom it was run past.  One of them said, “It’s perfect, that’s what they are, a gypsy’s vanner (caravan) horse!”

GG Latcho's Shadow participating in cross-country jumping

Stallion GG Latcho’s Shadow competing in cross-country

What can a Gypsy Vanner do?

The Gypsy Vanner was bred by the Gypsies to pull their caravans, so they excel at driving. They ride English and Western, including ranch riding.  We know several who sort cattle and a few who enjoy running barrels! (although they probably won’t win you a speed ribbon at that!).  Many Gypsy Vanners are taking on the dressage world and doing really quite well at regional levels at USDF shows.  A few have joined the professional jump circuit.  They are excellent trail horses, children’s mounts, therapy horses, and all-around horses.

What kind of temperament does the Gypsy Vanner Horse have?

Most Gypsy Vanners are extremely gentle.  These horses were bred by the Gypsies only partially for looks – the other part was for gentleness.  Gypsy children are often found crawling over and around the Gypsy Vanners.  It was frequently the children’s job to take care of the horses at the end of the day’s drive, so that easy-going nature was paramount.  Although they are still horses and should be respected as such, they are ideal for therapy and children’s mounts, and have often been compared to Golden Retrievers with hooves.

How big is the Gypsy Vanner Horse?

The average height of this breed is probably 13.3 to 15.1hh.  However, it is not a height based breed, and individuals range from around 11hh to 16hh.  The unofficial but often-used designations for the different sizes are the Classic Vanner (13.3 to 15.1hh), the Mini Vanner (13.2hh and under) and the Grand Vanner (15.2hh and over).

What colors do Gypsy Vanners come in?

Buckskin Gypsy Vanner stallion being ridden in front of a crowd

Buckskin stallion Taskin, photo by Mammano Photography

The core colors of the breed come from the primary breeds used to create the Gypsy Vanner – Shire, Clydesdale, Dales and Fell ponies.  The primary (most often seen colors) are black, bay, grey and chestnut, and any variety of these with either tobiano or sabino.  Other colors were introduced later.  Nearly all colors and markings are permissible at this time.  About the only patterns you won’t see are frame and splash overo, as these are new world mutations and are not present in the breed.

Is the Gypsy Vanner Horse a registered breed?

Yes!  The first registry to recognize these horses as breed, The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society, was created in 1996 by Dennis and Cindy Thompson.  It is currently the oldest and largest registry in the U.S.  Horses from two GVHS registered parents are automatically eligible for registration.  Registration can be approved for other purebred Gypsy Vanners as well; see the registry site at vanners.org for more details!

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