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Black Forest Shires & Gypsy Horses used the photo of The Rose above as its example of the correct conformation of a Gypsy Horse. Photo ©BFS&GH.

Below we've covered a few of the high points of Gypsy conformation. At some later point, we'd like to go into some of the more abstruse angles and points of conformation.

BFS&GH Conformation Drawing

Please click on the drawing to the left to view a larger version.

This drawing was produced by Black Forest Shires & Gypsy Horses and is still one of the best presentations of a breed standard that we've seen.

Below we look at the specific characteristics that make the breed illustrated by photos of Gypsies.

The GH was primarily bred, by anecdote, from the Shire, the Clydesdale, and the Dales Pony. The first two are, of course, draft horses, and the latter is a draft pony. All are feathered breeds. A relative young breed, the GH has not yet become homogenized, and one aspect of the breed where this is most noticeable is the head, which can vary from a refined, pony head to a somewhat coarser Shire or Clyde head. Also, different breeders overseas have different styles, and these styles themselves are still evolving. Black Forest Shires & Gypsy Horses imported from three sourxes overseas--Michael Vine, Stevie Downs, and Sid Harker. These three and their families bred horses which came to this country and acquired horses from other breeders in their areas.

The Vine horses, of which Silver Belle, Christmas Beau, Padparadshah, Silver Pearl, Silver Noelle, and Victor Tango ("Tizer") are all examples, come from the south of England in Kent. With particularly refined heads, these horses are toward the "pony" end of the spectrum and, at the time of their importation, were among the smaller Gypsies. The Vine family and the breeders in southeast England seem to be breeding smaller and smaller. Belle, at 14 hands, would now be considered one of the larger Gypsies; 10-hand horses are not unheard of nowa days, and this trend does not seem to have yet exhausted itself.

Part of what makes good conformation on a Gypsy Horse applies to all horses. We'll touch on some of that but for the most part stick to GH specifics.


Feathering is the profuse hair starting at the knee and hock and growing down to flow over the front of the hooves. Feather is always referred to in the singular, never as "feathers." More feather is considered superior to less, and nonkinky hair is considered inferior to straight, silky hair. The feather in this photo is SFG's Drum Horse Harley's; although a Drum Horse, his feathering is comparable to a Gypsy's.


Heavy, Flat Bone

An important characteristic of Gypsies is heavy, flat bone. The photo below displays this in Silver Belle. Note the flat bone in the leg. Her heaviness of bone is also obvious.

Rose's headWide variability in head shape exist within the breed. The Gypsy Horse is bred from draft horses (the Shire and Clydesdale) and draft ponies (the Dales Pony in particular). The influence of the Shire and Clyde are evident in Rose's head, shown to the left. Roman noses, which Rose's in not, are considered a fault, but a less refined draft horse head like Rose's is accepted and preferred by some.

In addition, other breeds are almost certainly in the breed's background. In his book, Coloured Horse and Pony, Edward Hart also reports that the Romanichal breeders initially introduced Hackney breeding to increase action at the trot. However, feather and bone were lost with the lighter Hackney, and so the breeders turned to the Section D Welsh Pony. The refined head found on some Gypsies, including SFG's Silver Belle and Silver Pearl in the photo below, could have originated there, although any sort of breeding, including Arabian, could be the GH's background.

Silver Belle and Silver Pearl


The short back is evident in Rose's photo above and in the photo of Declan below. We've seen some Gypsies whose backs were so short that we doubt a saddle could comfortably fit on it. We consider that a fault, although the overseas breeders might breed such a horse to others with somewhat longer backs.


Declan Apple Rump

The Gypsy is famed for its "apple rump;" The derivation of the name is obvious from the photo above.

Hock Set

Example of HocksetThe hock set of a Gypsy is one of its most distinctive characteristics. In the photo to the left, note how the hind legs appear to be turned out slightly. This is the horse's hock set. It's not equivalent to being cow hocked, where not only do the hooves point outward but the hocks point inward. A cow hocked horse's hind legs move outward and upward, and the cannon bones don't appear parallel.

Instead, with the horse to the left, the entire leg is set such that it's set turned outward. The cannon bones appear parallel on this horse.

We commented that this degree of hock set is the distinguishing feature of the Gypsy. This degree is not as extreme as that found in other drafts, the Shire for instance, but is more extreme than that found in such nondrafts as Arabians or Quarter Horses.

Color & Pattern

Any equine color is acceptable in the Gypsy Horse, and Silver Feather Gypsies has had horses representing many of them. Black-based horses are the best known and seem to be the most requested, especially by new owners. Rose, Bria, and Declan, among others, possess black-based coloring. In addition, some Gypsies seem more resistant to lightening by exposure to sun. Rose and her daughter Cordelia seem to be resistant, as does Declan. Bria's hair, however, is not, and she appears bay during the summer.

These three horses also display a tobiano pattern. This is also referred to as paint or spotted. In tobiano, white crosses the spine, and it's been compared to white paint's being dribbled over the horse's back to run down his sides. Below is a photo of Keikoe, one of the more dramatically colored Gypsies we've owned. Keiko is a wonderful example of a black and white tobiano.

TizerThe horse in the photo to the left is also a tobiano but a bay tobiano, as evidenced by the copper color of his nonwhite areas and the black tips of his ears.




The horse below is also a bay but is either a solid or blagdon Gypsy. A blagdon has a small amount of white on the underside of his body, chin, head, etc. Such a spot need not be obvious.


PearlAny color of horse can display a tobiano pattern. The horse on the left, Silver Pearl, is a gray and white tobiano. Unlike blue roans, true grays fade with age. The photo below is of Silver Belle and Silver Pearl. Belle, the older horse, was once as dark as Pearl, the younger but has faded with age. Pearl has since faded to the almost white that Belle is in this picture.


The Gypsy is marked by his wonderful personality. Gypsies are less prone to spook than such breeds as Arabians or Thoroughbreds. They are, nonetheless, horses and so are as unpredictable as horses of any other breed.

The photo below was taken at the Florida Equestrian Celebration. it is of SFG Storm King as a yearling.

Florida Equestrian Celebration


Like the Arabian, the Gypsy Horse is something of a jack of all trades. Unlike the Thoroughbred, which was bred to race, he is good at almost any equestrian sport but doesn't excel at any one.