Having existed in relative isolation until it was ‘discovered’ by Cindy and Dennis Thompson sometime before 1996; the Gypsy Vanner Horse was only recently registered, but likely has a history dating back centuries.
Prevalent in gypsy communities, the breed first came into use when the Romanichals began travelling in vardo wagons in the 1850s.
Relying upon horses to pull their ornate homes over great distances every day, the Romanichals came to depend on the unrivalled strength and endurance of the Gypsy Vanner. Their friendly docility also meant they could be trusted around children, which was essential considering the proximity in which they lived.
Development of the breed gathered speed following the Second World War, when the conformity of Vanner horses became more uniform. Shire horses and Clydesdales are credited with giving the horse its height, robust physique and colouring.
Today, Gypsy Vanners are selectively bred and remain in high esteem with modern-day travellers. The oldest gypsy horse fair, Appleby, sees many Vanners sold off for exceptionally high prices to those wanting a dependable draught animal.
Whilst these horses are rare across the Atlantic, their association with ancient Romani gypsies grants them a certain exoticism, making them both desirable and expensive.