Reference Horses

dejablueOne of the most exciting things about the Gypsy Vanners is the history of each horse.  The Gypsy people rarely, if ever, kept written records of their horses.  Instead, the pedigree and breeding information was passed down from father to son and so forth.  Horses were sold and then imported to the United States without any verification on bloodlines or even age for that matter. Today all the registries for the Gypsy horse require DNA to be tested and on file with the University of Kentucky.  If you have a young horse with unverifiable DNA then that horse usually has to wait until it is 3-5 before it can become "registered".  The reason is that a young fuzzy baby might not be a Gypsy horse.  But, it could be a cross bred horse with abundant feather.  Once a horse reaches 3 years of age the conformation and size is easier to determine.  Therefore, it is easier to see if it is, in fact, a Gypsy horse or not per the breed specifications of a registry. 

Today there is no plausible reason that any horse you purchase in the US shouldn't have DNA on file for one if not both of its parents.  There are many people that have made it their mission to collect DNA from horses still in Europe. All registered Gypsy horses in the US have their DNA on file.  If a seller tells you that there is DNA to back up the parentage of a certain horse, do not take their word for it unless you can back it up with the reports from UK or the paperwork from one of the Gypsy horse registries or both.  If someone tells you a horse is homozygous, make sure there is a report from the UK or another equine specialist that says so.  If you want to breed color and spots you want to look for a homozygous horse.  Heterozygous horses produce color only 50% of the time.  That makes quite a difference if you have a breeding program based on color!

With all that being said there are numerous Gypsy horses registered with parents unknown.  This is the foundation stock of the United States that has been imported and passed the requirements for registration based on matching the breed standard.  All breeds are originally made up of cross-bred horses.  *However, the definition of a "breed" in a genetic sense is based on a concept put forward by Jiliet Clutton-Brock: "a breed is a group of animals selected to have a uniform appearance that distinguishes them from other groups of animals within the same species.  When mated together, members of a breed consistently reproduce this same type."  In other words, a Gypsy horse bred to a Gypsy horse will always produce a Gypsy horse.  The original Gypsy horses were made up of a cross between the draft type horses and ponies.  The Gypsy people selectively bred these docile horses and now you see the result of those years of breeding:  The Gypsy Vanner Horse.

This section on reference horses refers to horses that are not owned by Stillwater Farm.  But, these horses are in the background of our horses.  The closest generations are the most important when making breeding decisions; sire and dam, grandsire and grand dam, great grand sire and great grand dam. 

*A Conservation Breeding Handbook - The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy