Mongrel Breed

On 9/20/2022 An Irishman posted: 

“No cob is pure blood, a gypsy cob is a mongrel mixed breed.”

When Cindy and I discovered “The Log” in 1996, all horses raised by British and Irish Gypsies were called coloured horses or coloured cobs.  A very high percentage of all coloured horses were of unknown heritage and were raised for the restaurant business in Belgium Holland and France. 

 In the view of the general public all coloured horses/cobs were considered plentiful cheap and as the Irishman confirms, mongrels.  

However, that changed with “The Log” – the first selectively bred horse developed by Gypsy / Roma Travelers to ever be recognized as a definitive breed. 

Cushti Bok – a DNA Verified son of The Old Horse of Wales

Cindy and I discovered Gypsy Vanner Horse GV00001F (AKA Cushti Bok) on a return trip from Northern Wales to England. We had just reentered England when Cindy said “did you see that little black and white horse” We were soon speaking to the farmer caring for him. The farmer explained, “he belongs to a Traveler and he has a band of mares that looks just like him, that he keeps hidden”

The Traveler was Roy Evans, and his horses name was “The Log” pictured with Cindy. 

We spent the remainder of that day with Roy as he showed us babies sired by The Log and told us of mares forty miles away, unknown to even his brother! 

Before we left, Roy said to us: 

“look all you want , you wont find any better and if you do he’s gonna cost you a lot of money” 

  “I’ll tell you a place where you’ll see hundred of coloured horses, but none as good as mine,  you go there, then you call me after you go there and tell me if you found one as good as mine, don’t forget to call me” Roy concluded. 

It was Roys challenge that took us to Appleby Horse Fair in 1996.  Two extreme animals lovers, obsessed with identifying men who bought or sold horses with the quality look of The Log.  (in the world of Travelers only men raise horses)

We didn’t find any better than Roys Log, and yes as the Irishman suggests, we saw plenty of mongrels.

 Our effort to understand what gave The Log his quality look and the knowledge gained from that effort came only from Travelers and one important Englishman.  

That Englishman was Phil Ball. Phil managed a Shire Center near London and  helped us import the first three Vanners to North America and it was Phil who inadvertently helped in giving a new breed it’s perfect name.  Phil sent us the only book in the world with a reference to coloured horses raised by Gypsies.

The author described a horse photographed next to a caravan as :

The traditional gypsy vanner.  

The author was using his English language and describing: a horse suitable to pull a caravan. 

Vanner: a horse suitable to pull a caravan, English Chambers. 

Phil Ball was a professional horseman for thirty years, drove the Courage Brewery Hitch, lived near Travelers his entire life and like the Irishman had no clue they had developed a selectively bred horse worthy of  breed status. 

The worlds most beautiful horse breed was living right under Phils nose, because like The Irishman, Phil was too close to the subject to see it and grew up opinionated about a culture. We were American’s who saw a beautiful horse and  wanted to know what gave him his special look, we had no opinion. 

 Ask yourself,  how can a horse so beautiful go unnoticed for so long and how can the most beautiful horse breed in the world come from mongrels. 

The why is complicated , the how is not….. it can’t !

The Artist’s eye sees only the Vanner … No Mongrels! 

 It was the journey following Appleby Horse Fair that uncovered the vision, the genetics  and the succession of horses responsible for the Vanner’s development. 

In that long process … 

  • We traced ,The Log’s genetic history through three countries. ( no mongrels )
  • We discovered that Sonny Mays and The Coal Horse were the breeds inspiration soon after World War II. ( like the artist, mongrels don’t inspire )
  • We discovered that only hairy legged horses created the Vanner. ( a very high percentage of Gypsies coloured horses have smooth legged genetics – often Connemara or Irish Draught. Those are not the breed. You must breed hair to hair to maintain or increase hair, its science, and hair screams, Vanner. 
  • Historical stallions and mares came in a progression (breeds come from deliberate selection) 
  • The Vanner breeds vision, genetics, standard and name were approved and chosen by,  Gypsy -Roma- Travelers.   
  • The name “Gypsy Vanner” was chosen over Romany Horse. ( although controvercial the word “Gypsy” is inclusive of all people responsible for the breeds development, the word “Vanner” tells of their vision )  
  • The last Traveler/Gypsy to choose maintained the same genetics for 59 years. In the end 100% chose Gypsy Vanner Horse over Romany Horse. 

The word “Gypsy”:  was included (after two years of agony) because it was the only word that identified all people living under its umbrella term.  Its an umbrella term just like the word “American” in American Quarter Horse, and both names can be controversial Internationally – bloody american, you gypped me, think about it, think about it a lot! 

Gypsies are people who desperately need to be better understood (my opinion) and so does the Vanner vision of their breed. 

Today, the Gypsies Vanner Horse, is one of North America’s most, prestigious and valuable horse breeds.  

Like all breeds, the look intended is specific to a standard and like all breeds not all registered Vanners are supreme examples of the look intended.   

Vanner breeders like all breeders are players in the unfolding story of a breed not, in a fable of mongrels

Today, the world’s first registry, has 10,000 registered Vanner Horses with 4,789 having, The Old Horse of Wales name in their pedigrees. The Old Horse of Wales, was the Logs DNA verified sire so there is no speculation.

Little Big Man, Great grandson of The Old Horse of Wales
WR The Big Son of Bok, Grandson of the Old Horse of Wales

Now try to wrap your head around the first photo of day one and “The Log” . That was a horse Cindy noticed in a field as we drove by, crazy but there were forces at play.   

Luck and destiny are central to Gypsy culture and both may have been at play the  day we met, The Good Luck Horse, that said, it’s also been a curse, what a trip !

Although not all accurate, (DNA verified) approximately 8000 + of the 10,000  Vanner horses registered today have the names of stallions or mares that only Travelers knew before the look of The Log and the journey we took to understand him revealed them all.  

More diligence in documenting initial DNA verified heritage with photos of those animals will help in guiding the Worlds First Internet Breed to its promise land. 

The Old Horse of Wales

Tom Price owned The Old Horse of Wales when we found him,  Tom also owned 1,500 horses and his friend owned, 3,500, most were the Irishman’s mongrels. 

As we stood with Tom and The Old Horse of Wales overlooking The Irish Sea, Tom pointed to a clearing under a tree and said, 

“he was born right over there, I will never forget the day he was born, I held him in my arms and knew he was special, he’s the best colt I ever raised” 

A man with 1,500 horses doesn’t  remember the birth of a mongrel , he remembers the birth of a vision that lives in his head

“The log” is up front, in the River Eden at Appleby Horse Fair. (approx 30 years ago)

Tom took us in his caravan that day and gave us a book on Appleby Horse Fair. Tom opened it to a page (above)that showed his son ponying The Log through the River Eden at Appleby as a yearling.  

Tom sold, The Log as a yearling thirty years ago to Roy Evans for 7,000 British Pounds ($12,500.00 US).  The Log was the most prized horse raised by Travelers in Great Britain/ Ireland that year.  In 1996 The Log became, GV00001F, Cushti Bok, the first of his “Vanner” Breed. His name was changed to words that mean, “good luck”.


noun – breed: a stock of animals or plants within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection; 


noun – mongrel; plural noun: mongrels, a dog of no definable type or breed, any animal resulting from the crossing of different breeds or types. 



Is it a breed of distinct appearance developed by deliberate selection? 



Is it a mongrel breed?


But the irishman said, 

“no cob is pure blood, a gypsy cob is a mongrel mixed breed” 


Although common in Britain and Ireland, the word defines an Arabian or Paso Fino product in America, an average  Quarter Horse in Europe, it defines both smooth and hairy legged horses and is often  described, as a cross bred horse in International breed books and to the Irishman, it’s a mongrel.  


The word Vanner is vision specific and holds the promise of a new breeds look. 

    Irish Vanner , English Vanner, Gypsy Vanner,  it’s a Vanner. 


Photo: Day one: Dennis Thompson 

Photo: Traditional gypsy vanner – The Coloured Horse & Pony by Edward Hart 

Artist: unknown ( please contact me at if you know)

All DNA Verified Vanner photos: Mark J Barrett 

Photo: The Old Horse of Wales: Tom Price