The Gypsy Draft Horses are a breed of horses developed by the Gypsies of Great Britain/Ireland. After World War II, a vision was born by the Gypsies of Great Britain to create the perfect caravan horse; “a small Shire, with more feather, more color and a sweeter head” was the goal. Selective breeding continued virtually unknown to the outside world for over half a century 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).
What is a Shire?
The largest of all the draft horse breeds! The Shire horse traces back to the “English Great Horse”, and the Great Horse in turn to Flemish horses brought to England during the 12th century. These Flemish horses were noted both for their size and for colors and markings similar to what we think of as typical for the Shire. Such horses had been used both on the Continent and in the British Isles as war horses, but as England became a world power whose wars, when they occurred, took place far from the island, the Shire was used more in farming and commercial trade. During the 1800’s, vast quantities of goods were shipped both to and from English ports, and the Shire contributed dramatically to the movement of these goods. At the same time, farming developed a need for strong, docile horses which could work the fields of either the flat marshy “fen” counties or drier Yorkshire and Lancashire. The stockmen of Britain selected the Shire to fill these needs, as well as those of the markets of Liverpool and London. With the ever increasing mechanization of the twentieth century, the Shire and other heavy breeds, could easily have been allowed to die out, but fortunately there has in recent times been a great revival of interest in these magnificent animals. No show classes are more popular with spectators than those for the 'heavies'. Shires still work the land in some parts of the country and several brewers use them to pull drays in the city streets. As of today, there are about 3000 ASHA-registered Shires in the world.
Today, the Shire horse is enjoyed in all types of riding, driving, and draft work. It is making its mark as a competitor in all levels of dressage and carriage driving events across North America