Gypsy Cob Conformation

Gypsy Cob conformation describes the physical characteristics that are considered ideal for the breed.

Gypsy Cob Conformation

Definition of conformation – The shape, outline, or form of something, determined by the way in which its parts are arranged. The symmetrical arrangement of its parts or elements. A bringing of one thing into accord with another.

It is important to note that understanding the correct conformation and type of another breed of horse may not be relevant to Gypsy Cobs. The breed is quite unique. Although most equine conformation traits are desirable in any horse, nevertheless, ideal Gypsy Cob conformation encompasses subtle breed characteristics that make our much loved breed instantly recognisable.

Newcomers to the breed may well have developed an excellent eye for another type of horse but will need to train their eye to the finer points of this breed of horse.

The breed was developed to pull the living wagons of the Romany people, to work alongside their owners in the various occupations of those people, to be safe around babies and toddlers and after a full days work, were often required to participate in the riding and jumping games of the children. It's characteristics have evolved to suit those purposes. The Gypsy Cob conformation is the result of form following function with the extra bling of hair and feather.

The flashy looks for which the breed is now well known were not developed till the 60's when increasing wealth amongst the Gypsy community enabled the breeders to invest more into their herds and perfect the look that they were after.

Of course there are some basic rules of conformation that apply to ALL breeds, no matter what.

It is true to say that a Gypsy Cob is not a "proper Cob" if lacking in correct conformation no matter how pronounced the breed characteristics and conversely, a Cob with outstanding conformation but lacking type would be considered unacceptable as a breeding animal.

Mature breeding stallions should exhibit marked masculine sex-linked characteristics, there should be no doubt that the animal is a stallion. Mares are more feminine and can be finer in hair than males.
Gypsy Cob conformation excellence the stallion Tonto ~ excellent conformatio

Mr Alfie Kerry's Tonto ~ a great example of a "Proper Cob"

Physical attributes to look for in a Cob to judge correct Gypsy Cob conformation


Gypsy Cob conformation beautiful head and neck


Correct Gypsy Cob conformation gives a very harmonious line to the horse. The Gypsy Cob’s head should be in proportion to the body. Neither too large nor too small, the head should have a broad forehead, generous, well rounded jaw with ample width for the airways, large soft nostrils, a square muzzle and even bite.
The ears should be neat and well set on. The eyes should be large and set well apart with an intelligent, kind expression. Blue eyes and parti-coloured eyes are not uncommon within the breed and quite acceptable. Green eyes may indicate the presence of the rare pearl dilution gene.

While a straight profile is considered ideal for the Gypsy Cob breed, a moderately convex curve is acceptable and often present in the larger horses.

Some of the smaller pony sized Gypsy Cobs may have a “sweet head”, smaller in size and can display a slightly concave profile.

Stallions should be masculine in appearance. A coarse, too large head, eyes set too high or close together, small piggy eyes and very pronounced Roman noses are considered undesirable in Gypsy Cobs.

The neck should be muscular, of moderate length, arched, clean through the throat, not too short and and tie in well at the shoulder and withers.

Gypsy Cob Stallions should display a strong rainbow arched crest. Mares should generally display an arched crest also which is not usually as strong as a stallion.

As with most horse breeds, Gypsy Cobs should fit well together. A harmonious line from ears to dock with no abrupt transitions from head to neck, neck to withers, withers to back or back to croup is ideal. Very long, weak, straight or ewe necks are considered faulty.


The body: The body is deep with well sprung ribs and ample heart and lung room. Gypsy Cobs are also relatively deep through the loins. Long, well laid back shoulders and the corresponding good length and lay of the croup enables them to stand over a lot of ground.

The chest: The chest should be broad with ample muscle. The muscle along the bottom of the chest should appear as an inverted ‘V’ where it ties into the forearm with front legs well placed under the shoulders.

Shoulders: The shoulders should be deep, powerful and well laid back. They should tie into well muscled withers of moderate height. The upper arm should be of adequate length and ideally mirror and balance the hindquarter angulation.

Back: The back should be short, flexible with well defined muscles along the spine and tie in strongly at the loin. The loins are short and strong with great muscular strength. Mares tend to be slightly longer than stallions to allow room for carrying foals.

Hindquarters: Hindquarters: The hindquarters are smooth and rounded across the croup, with a long hip, wide pelvis and well muscled buttocks. This gives the Gypsy Cob’s hindquarters the “apple bum” shape so typical of the breed when viewed from the rear. A steep croup, or goose rump is considered a serious fault. The tail set should be not too high, nor too low. A Low tail set is considered a serious fault.


Gypsy Cob Conformation legs clean bone

Clean Joints and "flinty" bone

Gypsy Cob Conformation legs coarse bone

Coarse Joints and Round Bone

The bones are typically those of a draft horse, balanced to the size of the horse and are medium to heavy with large clean joints that are well let down, displaying flat bone in front of short cannons with clean attachment of ligaments and tendons. Coarse bone with round joints and poorly defined tendons are a common fault in the breed.

Clean bone and joints is often described as "flinty"​

The muscles of the forearm and the gaskins should be large and well defined giving the appearance of great strength. Pasterns should be of moderate length and match the angle of the shoulder. Short, upright or long, weak pasterns are a serious faults as they adversely affect the long term soundness and working capabilities of the horse.

The legs should be well placed under the body, and be low to the ground. Back at the knee is not acceptable but is a common fault as are straight hind legs.

Cow hocks and sickle hocks are a fault and should not be confused with the desired hind leg conformation. Horses that are too wide behind are not correct and will lack pulling power and endurance. Gypsy Cobs should however, not be as close set and extreme as some Clydesdales and Shires. Viewed from the side, the back of the cannons should be at right angles to the ground and a plumb line will run from the point of the buttocks along the back of the cannons with the hocks well placed under the hip joint.

The feet should be open and large for their height, typical of the heavier native British working Cobs, well shaped, concave and not splayed with open heels and strong hoof walls. The hooves are not however, generally overlarge as is the case with Clydesdales which were developed to work on uneven and soft ground for agricultural purposes.

The University of Missouri has an excellent article about unsoundness and blemishes of the horse's legs and feet. Just click this text to read it.

Wikipedia has quite a detailed article about conformation too.


Gypsy Cob Conformtion abundant silky feather

Abundant Silky Feather

The feather should be abundant and start at the height of the knee and hock and cover the whole of the hoof. In some horses, hair will grow from the front of the cannon bones and provide a skirt like appearance of feather from the knee down which is very desirable. Ideally the feather should be silky in texture. In some individuals the feather may tend to fall in ringlets and this generally happens more frequently in more mature cobs, The correct texture is more important than an over abundance of coarse feather.

The mane and tail should be thick, long and luxurious. Forelocks are commonly down to the nostrils in mature stallions and their manes may well come past the point of their shoulders. Stallions tend to have more feather and thicker manes and tails than mares. Double manes are quite common in stallions. less so in mares and highly desirable to the Gypsy breeders.

Many cobs have moustaches and beards especially in the winter, although, they are unlikely to be present in the warmer parts of Australia.
Our tougher, harder grasses in Australia tend to cut the feather making it difficult in some regions to maintain the desired fall of feather to the ground.


A gypsy cob should move with lively steps and cover the ground well moving freely and willingly forward. You will often hear the expression “moves for fun” to describe a Cob with outstanding paces.

The natural canter is slow, powerful and cadenced offering the rider a smooth comfortable gait.

The powerful hindquarters of the Cob makes them very capable jumpers and enable them to perform some of the high school movements requiring well developed muscle strength in the hindquarters with relative ease.

The heavy stepping Cobs being developed by a dedicated group of enthusiastic breeders in the UK display a flamboyant, energetic elevated trot ideally with a great deal of flexion in the stifle and hock “moves front and back”. They are highly prized and desired for their high knee action. These Cobs would be an ideal type for competing in the show ring in harness classes.


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