BREED SPOTLIGHT: The Gypsy Vanner Horse

Story by:  Larissa Cox 

When I was a child, I dreamt of a magical stallion.  A stallion with a long, flowing mane covering all of his neck and face.  His tail was long and thick and seemed to wave at me when he galloped along the hilled countryside.  He was magic in motion and seemed to float on air when he moved.  This horse was colorful.  He was kind and gentle and had the strength to carry a 100 on his back.  To me, this was my magical horse…others call him THE GYPSY VANNER. 

The Gypsy King at


 Where exactly did this magical horse come from and who bred him? 

The Gypsies, Rom, Romany or Travelers as they were known, were as colorful as the horses that they bred.  Years ago, when the Gypsies were a traveling population throughout the U.K., they used colorful horses to pull their wagons, or Vardo’s.  It was this Gypsy Horse that was initially bred to pull their wagons. In addition to being easy keepers, as many times they were to eat whatever forage they could find often being tethered on the side of roads or in fields, they had to be very hardy to live without shelter and survive the cold, damp England winters.  Not only that, but after their days work was done, these beautiful horses had to be gentle and docile to teach the Gypsy children how to ride.  Any horse that showed aggression or ill temper was immediately banished from the family and not bred.  

Typical Gypsy Vardo


Horses raised by Gypsies are known by many names, gypsy horse, cob, colored horse, or tinkers, to name just a few of them. Until recently, the selectively bred Gypsy horse did not have a name to distinguish them from the general population of horses raised by Gypsies. They of course were not a registered breed and 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. 

However, as the interest in this special horse grew, several breed registries developed.  In 1996, Dennis and Cindy Thompson imported two fillies to North American and established the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society.  It is through their hard work that this breed now exists in North America.  In 2004, the breed became recognized by the United States Dressage Federation All Breeds Program and was able to win breed specific awards. 

 The sheer beauty of the Gypsy Vanner Horse will captivate both young and old alike. Bred from a combination of feathered draft and pony breeds, they range in size from 13 hands to 16 hands. They are very sturdy horses with heavy bone, flat knee and a short back. They come in a variety of colors, the most common is piebald (black/white), and a wide variety of solid colors. All colors are highly prized! Gypsy Vanner's have an abundance of mane, tail and feather. The feather should begin at the knee/hock and fully cover the hooves. Manes and tails are long, thick and flowing. The Gypsy Vanner is truly magic in motion!  


The Gypsy Vanner: "British Sterling" Lake Ridge Gypsies

Enchanting, incredibly versatile and with a temperament that is unequaled, they will quickly become your dream of the magical horse. 

Happy dreaming, Larissa  🙂

1 Response

  1. Deborah C,

    One of GOD’s most beautiful and breath-taking creations. An amazing animal.

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