[ Excerpted from vanners.org and ghra.us]
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BREED
For hundreds of years, the nomadic people known as gypsies have traveled the roads of Europe and the U.K. in beautifully carved and decorated living wagons. To maintain this wandering way of life, they created an extraordinary breed of horse, with enough endurance and strength to pull a heavy wagon all day, the ability to subsist on whatever grazing it could find on the side of the road, and an extremely calm temperament, since a moment’s panic could quite literally result in the destruction of its master’s home. The result, after hundreds of years of selective breeding, is a beautiful, powerful and supremely gentle animal – the Gypsy Horse.
A MYSTERIOUS BREED
Selective breeding continued by the gypsies virtually unknown to the outside world until two Americans, Dennis and Cindy Thompson, while traveling through the English countryside, noticed a magical looking horse standing in a field. It was that very horse who became the key to unlocking the heretofore-unknown vision and genetics that created the Gypsies’ “vanner” breed (a horse suitable to pull a caravan).
A passion was born in the Thompsons to understand the little stallion that captured their attention and stole their hearts. It would take years of research – without the help of the internet – to learn about this special horse and, just as importantly, the colorful culture, which had created it. As wildly improbable as it seemed, consequent research confirmed that, in fact, one of the most magnificent breeds of horse the world has ever seen was not recognized, did not have a name and was not understood outside the world of Gypsies. – Dennis Thompson, GYPSY VANNER HORSE SOCIETY Co-Founder
Gypsies, traveling in their caravans or vardos, have been known by a variety of names, including Travelers, Roma or Romany. The names for their horses reflect this – Gypsy Cobs, Gypsy Horse, Travelers Horses, Irish Cobs, Tinkers. In 2003 the title chosen by a newly created organization to preserve these horses’ unique characteristics and promote their abilities as both harness and riding animals was the Gypsy Cob Society of America. In 2008, the membership voted a name change to the Gypsy Horse Registry of America, Inc. Additionally, in the U.S. within the past two decades, this magnificent horse has also become to be known by the name of Gypsy Vanner.
The research of Cindy and Dennis Thompson (founders of Gypsy Vanner Horse Society) resulted in the following:
- Uncovering the post World War II vision from which the breed was born.
- Identifying “Sonny Mays” and “The Coal Horse” – the two foundation stallions that inspired the Vanner breed – as well as much of the influential stock originating from those two.
- Identifying the genetics that created the breed: The Shire, Clydesdale, Dales Pony and Friesian.
- Tracing the genetic heritage of “Cushti Bok” (the stallion they had discovered) through three countries.
- Discovering that, as a yearling, Cushti Bok had been “the most highly prized colt in all of Great Britain” at the same 300-year-old horse fair where their quest for knowledge began.
- Naming the unnamed breed “Gypsy Vanner Horse”.
- Documenting the Vanner breed standard based on years of listening to the spoken words of dedicated Gypsy breeders. Respecting the spoken words of Gypsies who have dedicated lifetimes in the pursuit of their dream is a commitment of the GVHS mission contained in its by-laws. Breed Standard
- Importing the first two Vanner fillies (Bat and Dolly) November 24th 1996.
- Importing the first two Vanner stallions (Cushti Bok and The Gypsy King) Easter Sunday 1997 and Easter Sunday 1998.
- Importing a total of fourteen mares and two stallions for the breed’s introduction in June of 1998 at Equitana USA in Louisville Kentucky and on the Internet. All other names and efforts to recognize a breed of horse developed by Gypsies throughout the world came after.