Romany horses have been around for many generations. As they have evolved they have settled into four main types, each distinctive to the knowing eye of the Rom. The Gypsies or Romanies/ Travellers as they prefer to be known, do not register these horses as such. As in all matters were Gypsies are concerned nothing is written down or recorded. Much editorial has appeared recently on the horses of the Romanies.

Many experts seem to have come out of no where to be the acknowledged experts in their respective countries. None are Romany, none are English even! Our people do not feel the need to keep records or have papers but with this growing popularity and misinformation spread particularly on the internet, it has become prudent to have some input. At first I offered to sell good horses but after repeated requests I have decided to try and explain to those with an interest what these horses are all about. Indeed I am now asked to preside over a register for these horses in the country of origin. Already Ireland is thought by many to be the home of the Romanies Horses. Hopefully this will clarify things for buyers, breeders and enthusiasts of these beautiful colourful horses.
Registering these breeds also ensures their survival in the form that they were created. Gypsies, Romanies, travellers, call them what you will, cannot stand idly by while people who know little or nothing about the horses create registries and start new dynasties with little or no input from the Travelling people. Thankfully and with great credit to them, some societies like the Netherlands are extremely interested in doing things the right way and having input from those who know about the horses and have kept them for generations. With people like this then I am confident the breed will prosper around the world and go from strength to strength.
It worries me that already there are two names being used, both seemingly describing the same horses.
To say that these Gypsy Vanners or Irish Tinkers encompass all colours, and sizes ranging from 13-16 hands is selling short the time and effort spent making these Cobs what they are today. I am very happy that some caring people do want to do what is best for the horses and not just see a way to make a quick profit. I will help anyone as best I can but only if they desire my help. It’s a shame that many cheap horses have already been exported from Ireland and England. Quality does not come cheap. Top examples of these horses can sell for thousands of pounds, I just hope people will buy from honest horse lovers and not unscrupulous dealers. These horses can be anything you want them to be. They will excel in any sphere or event. I personally would like to see them shown and worked as they are meant to be with Romany Harness and colourful Romany carts and wagons.
The Romany Horses are the last link with the old days for many Travellers, Romanies/ Gypsies. They must play a part in their future.

The horse in Gypsy Society.

It is almost an impossible task to put into a brief article the whole story of horses and Gypsies over the years. However I must briefly mention the part the horse plays in Romany society.
First lets clear up the name of these people. Gypsy is in reality a derogatory name. Romany is what the people call themselves but Travellers is also used. There are few, very few who can say that there blood is 100% pure Romany in this day and age. However it’s fare to say that anyone with some Romany blood in their veins and still carrying on the traditions and ways of horse dealing etc can be referred to as a Romany or Traveller. Tinker was the name given to the Irish itinerants that came over to England and lived the life of the Gypsy hundreds of years ago.
These Tinkers are not related in any way to Romanies. Indeed they were mortal enemies for a great many years. Tinkers were for the most part forced by poverty to travel the nomadic lifestyle. Travelling around the country does not make you a Romany. There are people settled now for two generations who are far more Romany than some of the people travelling the roads still. However this is not the time or the article to go into that in any depth.
The horse has always been far more than a means of transport to the Romany even in the days before cars and wagons. Dealing is in the blood, buying, selling and swapping horses and harness carts etc is what really makes the Rom come alive.
The horse has always been their bank balance on the hoof so to speak. In good times a man might have 5 horses ever changing and trying to extract a profit to supplement the family income or in hard times sold or traded for a lesser beast to bring in money again.
The Romanies reputation as horsemen goes back many hundred years when their skills as herbal doctors, trainers etc were very much their main income in many cases. They also had and still have a reputation for being able to make a sick or lame horse look perfectly healthy for the duration of a sale! There are many tricks to every trade and there is no trade trickier than dealing in horses.
The traditions of Romanies are still the same as they have always been. Wealth is displayed openly in many traditional forms and non traditional such as the big cars etc. The traditional way to show wealth is by the amount and quality of your horses and carts and harness etc. Also the wearing of gold by both men and women also displaying top quality china in their caravans and houses to name a few. There is a saying that a Gypsy/Rom without a horse is not a true Romany!
Very few Romanies, especially the older generation would see the need for a studbook. After all they have managed quite well without such things for many generations. These people will buy and sell 5 or 6 very good cobs, often worth thousands of pounds and seal the deal in the traditional manner, a slap of the hand. This is as binding as any contract. There are no bill of sale, no vets certificate, no pedigree. No cheque book and pen either, cash and cash only!!

Romany Horses.

For over 150 years the colourful cobs of the Romanies have been seen around the country lanes of England pulling the colourful carts and Vardos. That’s the romantic notion of the Romany Horses and it’s true but also they were plentiful in the towns and cities of England. This was because they were the ideal horse to carry out the work of the door to door sales people, scrap, rag collectors, ice cream sellers, coal men, etc. They were the ideal work horses for anyone who didn’t have for whatever reason, a motorcar or wagon.
The horses were strong, sensible, docile and hard working. Their beautiful colours were not just pleasing to the eye but also made them instantly recognizable which went a long way to preventing them being stolen or swapped discreetly for inferior horses.
The Romanies developed these horses over 150 years ago. Lack of written evidence makes any attempt at pinning down exact dates with anything Romany very hard indeed.
There is much speculation about what breeds went into the makeup of the horses. Again no written evidence is available. Romanies are a resourceful bunch and for the most part not of great wealth around the time of living exclusively on the roads. Papers and pedigrees meant nothing to them. Strong horses were needed and sensible so they would breed whatever was available to them, that took their eye. When the Romanies started to live in caravans rather than tents a bigger horse was needed so the big Draught breeds such as Shires and Clydesdales were used. Dales ponies would definitely have been used due to their temperament and strength and of course there very fast trot! So many breeds were used but breeding good Romany owned cobs to each other became cheaper, easier and of course you then knew the outcome of the mating.
Breeding then was the same as today in principal. They would try to breed to the best available stallion. A stallion or any horse for that matter earned it’s reputation by many things. Looks, colour, speed, temperament and generally how good a driver and rider it was. The Romanies knew what they wanted from a horse and sought to breed something that was valuable amongst their own people and useful for them and their family.
The horses have always been for the main ignored and even looked down upon, until recent times by many equestrians in this country. Romanies were quite happy to keep the horses to themselves and still are for that matter.
However, times are changing as all around the world the Romany horses are being discovered and embraced. Popularity of the beautiful coloured Romany Cobs, so beloved of the Romany and for so long ignored by the equestrian aristocracy are now one of the most sought after type of horses in Holland, Germany, USA, Sweden, Norway and more countries are tuning in to these marvellous all-rounders.
Do these countries know of the history of these cobs or what makes a good one bad one tec? Surely some would say, they are much too much of a mishmash to create a credible breed standard? We are just as likely to see a 13 hands pony as we are to see a 16 hands giant! To the people who have kept these cobs for many many years, they know the good and bad and what each type are capable of. Types? Yes types, although studbooks exists no attempt has yet been made to split the horses into distinct sections. There are four types of Romany horses. The continued interbreeding of them blurs the line still further, but the time is here to show the types how they came about and why they came about.
The next article will deal with each type and why they were bred and for what purpose.

( This information is taken from the Dutch Studbook of Tinkers)TINKER……….THE BEST HORSE IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pension Jaskółka in de zomer
  • Nederlands
  • Deutsch
(c) 2011, Jaskółka. All rights reserved.