In 2009 we started breeding Gypsy Cobs, also known as Gypsy Vanners, which are beautiful gentle horses that were originally breed to pull caravans by the Romani people, a nomadic people of Europe otherwise known as Gypsies.
The history of the gypsy horse can be complicated and confusing with many verbal accounts of the history of the breed and no formal records until recent times. However, it is known the breed originating in the UK, and the use of this type of horse began in the Bronze age. By some accounts, it is thought that the selective breeding of the gypsy horses we know today, originally emerged some time in the 1600s. The goal was a horse which had to be sound, strong, intelligent, docile, athletic, gentle, kind, colorful and possessed exceptional stamina and endurance, as well as, a willingness to learn. According to some historians, the forerunner of today’s gypsy horse came into existence around 600 B.C., when metalworkers were traveling the countryside with their families in barrel top wagons. The Gypsy Vanner or Gypsy Cob Horse we know today was not recognized by those outsider of Romani communities until after World War II. They just reached the United States in the 1990s.
The breed we know today was developed over hundreds of years by selectively cross-breeding the Clydesdale, the Shire, the Frisian, the Fells Pony and the Dales Pony, and their respective offspring. The resulting horses today most popularly known as the Gypsy Vanner or Cob, is akin to a miniature draft horse. A hardy compact animal that stands 13.2-15.2h typically, sturdily built with lots of hair and feathering. It’s neck and back are short, heavy bone with flat knees and large hooves, broad chest and heavy hip all suited for an impressive magical look and a horse suited for pulling caravans or being ridden. Gypsy caravans were often so heavy and full of the family possessions, that only the driver would ride in the wagon. The rest of the family would commonly walk along side as they traveled through the country side and new villages. As a result Gypsy horses had to be not only strong but also very gentle and calm so as not to harm anyone walking with the caravan or cause a ruckus in a new town. Gypsy horses should have a nice friendly personality that reflects a calm manner, respect for it’s environment and a willingness to work with people on a variety of tasks and should be capable to preform a variety of riding and driving tasks. Since the gypsy lifestyle could not accommodate an animal that might endanger lives, any horse displaying an ill-temper or jumpiness or an aggressive nature was immediately banished. At May Day Acres we continue to select our horses for the sweet willing temper and excellent conformation.
Gypsy horses come in many colors and patterns. The traditional “preferred” horses were flashy Pinto patterns, usually Piebald (black-and-white) however Skewbald (any other color with white) is also common. One more unusual and highly-prized pattern is the Blagdon, being any solid color with white splashed under the belly and legs. These horses are prized for many reasons not only for their physical beauty, strength and conformation but also for their versatile, athletic yet friendly, gentle, and willing temperament. The head should be pleasant with intelligent eyes and reflect gender, the neck is high well muscled with an arched neck. At May Day Acres we breed for horses and ponies in the 13-14.2h hand range. The traditional color is piebald (black and white pinto patterns) but all colors are accepted, we love our bays and buckskins but we have a wide variety of colors and patterns within our herd and temperament and conformation are our focus in breeding.
The unique look and wonderful temperament of these animals combined with our own Gypsy spirit drew us to and made us fall in love with these wonderful animals. We work with SPURS Therapeutic Riding Center, in Aberdeen by volunteering our time and services, as well as, offering free leases to them with some of our trust gypsy mares. We are proud to own Lake Ridge Juliet who has carried several riders in the South Dakota Special Olympics and with her riders brought home Gold, Silver and Bronze metals in a variety of events. The calm demeanor of these horses makes them excellent horses for working with therapeutic riders.
Please enjoy our website and feel free to contact us to learn more about the breed or our herd.