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Where is the Gypsy Vanner horse from? History and Info about the Gypsy Vanner horse breed!

In the Islands of Great Britain and Ireland, a small, solidly-built, and often “piebald” colored horse was developed by the Romanichal Travellers to pull the Vardoes in which they lived and traveled. This horse came to be known as the Gypsy Cob, Irish Cob, Gypsy Horse, or the Gypsy Vanner. The Romanichal people arrived in the British Isles around 1500 AD, but did not start living in the vardo wagons until around 1850. Peak usage of the caravan wagon occurred in the late 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th. 

Pulling a vardo takes some unique training and management of horses, and requires a horse with specific characteristics. Vardo horses are trained not to stop until they get to the top of a hill, because otherwise it may not be able to get the wagon started again. Training begins at an early age, with the young horse tied to the offside of the trace ring on the collar of the horse pulling the wagon. To keep a fearful horse from seeing over the top of his blinkers, an old hat is sometimes placed on top of the horse’s head. Vardo horses were usually in great body condition due to the combination of exercise, grazing a variety of vegetation, and good quality care. The horse was considered part of the family, and lived in close proximity with its owners. 

The Gypsy horse as we know it today began taking shape shortly after World War II. When the British Roma began using animals to pull wagons, they used mules and any unwanted horses of a suitable breed to do the job. Later, these included horses that had fallen out of fashion in mainstream society, including a significant number of Shire horses. Many spotted horses ended up with the Romanichal breeders and were considered a valuable status symbol within the culture. The initial greater height of the Gypsy Vanner breed is derived from the influence of Clydesdale and Shire horses. The Romani people who developed the Gypsy Vanner horse communicated pedigree and breed information orally, so information on the foundation stock is mostly anecdotal. 

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The Gypsy Vanner horse for my Horses Of The World Series is one of the few where I was able to take the reference photo for the drawing myself. I met this Gypsy horse at a local event I was selling my art at and instantly fell in love. I asked permission of the owner to take a photo of the horse and use it as a reference for the image. It was a joy to meet this sweet guy, and to draw his likeness for this illustration!

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What is the Misaki Horse? Meet a Japanese National Natural Treasure!

The Misaki horse is a small, dark-colored horse breed in Japan that is critically endangered. It is one of eight native Japanese horse breeds, and is a feral horse that lives in a designated National Monument on Cape Toi (Toimisaki), on the island of Kyushu. 

Japanese horses are thought to descend from stock brought and different times from various parts of the mainland of Asia. The first of these importations took place, at the latest, in the 6th century. Horses were used as pack animals for farming, not draft power. They were also used in warfare. The horses were not large, as evidenced by 130 horse remains that have been excavated from battlefields dating back to 1185-1333 AD. The Misaki breed was first identified in the historical record in 1697 when the Akizuki family rounded up feral horses and developed a breeding stock.

The horses are a popular draw for tourists in the area where they live. Both the Misaki and the Cape Toi are were declared a Natural Monument in 1953. The Misaki is also a Japanese National Natural Treasure, which puts it under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.

In 2007, the Misaki was classified as “critically maintained”. The population is approximately 120 animals, up from a low of 53 recorded in 1973. 

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I absolutely love Japan and so the chance to illustrate a Japanese breed could not be passed up! After doing research on several of the Japanese breeds, I decided on the Misaki because I was touched by their classification of critically endangered and that they are one of the rarest horse breeds in the world. I imagine the Misaki horse in my illustration to be looking at a human tourist, curious but also full of wild beauty.

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What Makes a Thoroughbred Horse? Meet a Horse Breed Known for Speed, Agility, and Spirit

Sometimes the word “Thoroughbred” is used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, but it technically only refers to the actual Thoroughbred breed. The breed was developed in 17th and 18th century England by cross-breeding native mares with imported Arabian, Barb, and Turkoman stallions. All Thoroughbred horses can trace their pedigrees to three stallions imported to England. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the breed spread throughout the world. They were imported to North America, Australia, Japan, and South America. 

Millions of Thoroughbreds exist today, with around 100,000 new foals being registered each year across the globe. Unlike a large number of registered breeds today, a Thoroughbred cannot be registered with the Jockey Club registry unless the foal was conceived by “live cover”, which is the witnessed natural mating of a mare and a stallion. Artificial insemination and other modern methods of breeding, though accepted in many other breed registries, are not useable with Thoroughbreds. This could be because there is a larger possibility of error with assigning parentage in artificial insemination, but it could also be for economic reasons. A stallion can only cover so many mares per year, which prevents an oversupply of Thoroughbreds. 

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Thoroughbreds are considered a “hot-blooded” type of horse. They are bred for agility and speed and are considered generally to be spirited and bold. They are used primarily for horse racing under saddle at the gallop. Thoroughbreds also compete in dressage, show jumping, eventing, polo, steeplechase, and fox-hunting. They have been influential to many other breeds as well, influencing the traits of the breeds they are introduced tt. The American Quarter Horse, Standardbred, and potentially the Morgan are just some of the breeds where the Thoroughbred was influential. 

Because of their world-wide fame, appeal, and influence, I decided to do something a little different for the map for the Thoroughbred piece in my Horses Of The World series. I used a map of the Northern Hemisphere to both invoke their breeding of both English and Oriental breeds and to illustrate their influence beyond their own breed. I wanted to illustrate the Thoroughbred doing what it’s most famous for – racing. The drawing for this piece was done in a digital drawing program, then printed out. I transferred the sketch to the map using a lightbox and a brush ink pen. Then the colors were added with Copic alcohol markers and colored pencils.

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What is the American Quarter Horse? A Versatile Breed Who Excels At Sprinting!

The Quarter horse is famous, to the point where it seems like even people who don’t know anything about horses knows about Quarter horses. The American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world. Because of their versatility for use in quarter horse racing, reining, showing, jumping, and more, they are an insanely well-known breed of horse! That’s why the Quarter Horse was one of the first 6 designs in the Horses Of The World series. I knew that I would have to have a Quarter horse in the line-up. When I think of the Quarter Horse, I think of a palomino with a cowboy on her back, heading out across the American plains. This is the only piece in this series that I added extra designs to. At the time, I felt like the water area of the map was just so empty, so I added some Western-style flowers. 

This piece was done with India Ink, Copic markers, and colored pencils. A small amount of watered-down white acrylic paint was added for the white markings and mane on the horse. After doing the Arabian and Appaloosa, I realized that I needed to water down any paint that I used on these so that the paint wouldn’t completely cover the map areas. 

Keep reading to learn more about the history of the Quarter Horse!

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The American Quarter Horse gets its name from its ability to sprint short distances. This breed gets its name from its ability to outrun other horses in a race of a quarter-mile or less. Some Quarter horses have been clocked at running speeds of up to 55 mph! The Quarter horse breed began in the 1600s, when colonists on the Eastern seaboard of North America started breeding imported Thoroughbreds horses with breeds like the Chickasaw horse, a breed that was developed by Native Americans from horses brought to the Americas by Conquistadors. One of the most famous of the imported Thoroughbreds that contributed to the Quarter Horse breed was Janus, who was foaled in 1746 and moved to Colonial Virginia in 1756. Janus’ genes were crucial to the development of the small, hardy, and quick “Famous American Quarter Running Horse.”

Flat racing became popular with colonists, leading to the growing popularity of the Quarter Horse. The courses in the colonial races were shorter than classic racecourses in England, and were often just a flat, straight stretch of road or open land. Put up against a Thoroughbred, the sprinting Quarter Horse often won in these short, fast races!

The American Quarter horse is the most popular breed in the United States today and has the largest breed registry in the world. Almost three-million American Quarter Horses were living and registered in 2014. Next to the American Quarter Horse Association, the second-largest registry of Quarters is in Brazil. The third-largest is in Australia.

Because of the compact body of the Quarter Horse, it is well suited for the quick and intricate maneuvers required of a horse involved in cutting, reining, calf roping, barrel racing, and other western riding events. Their athleticism is also useful in many English riding events, such as show jumping, dressage, and hunting. Quarter horses come in two types – the “stock” type and the “hunter” type. The stock horse is compact, shorter, stocky, and well-muscled but still agile. The hunter/racing type more closely resembles the Thoroughbred, with taller stature and smoother muscling.

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Breed Spotlight – Appaloosa

In North America, a horse with a colorful spotted coat pattern was developed in the Pacific Northwest by the Nez Perce people. Settlers referred to this horse as the “Palouse Horse”, after the Palouse River in the area. Gradually, this breed’s name evolved into “Appaloosa”.

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Artwork depicting prehistoric horses with leopard spotting exists in cave paintings in Europe. Images of domesticated horses with the same coloring patterns appear in artwork from Ancient Greece and Han dynasty China through to modern times. The Nez Perce people of the Pacific Northwest United States lost most of their horses after the Nez Perce War in the year 1877. The Appaloosa breed fell into decline for several decades after this. Because of the dedication of a small number of breeders, the Appaloosa was preserved as a distinct breed until the Appaloosa Horse Club (known as the ApHC) was formed in 1938 and acted as a breed registry. The modern breed maintains bloodlines tracing back to the foundation stock of the registry. The breed registry allows some addition of Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Arabian blood. 

Ancient art depicting Leopard spotted horses

Today, the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. It was named the official state horse of Idaho in 1975. Appaloosas have been used in movies, as sports team mascots, and as influence to other horse breeds. They are a versatile breed, suitable as a stock horse in western riding disciplines as well as other equestrian activities. 

The Appaloosa is best known for its leopard spotted coat, which is the preference in the breed. Aside from spotting, there are three other distinctive core characteristics of the Appaloosa: mottled skin, striped hooves, and white sclera in the eyes. Though all horses show white around the eye if the eye is rolled back, white sclera showing while the eye is in a normal position is a distinctive characteristic seen more in Appaloosas than in other breeds. Occasionally, an Appaloosa horse is born with little or no visible spotting pattern. The ApHC allows for the “regular” registration of horses with mottled skin plus at least one other common characteristic of the breed. There is also a “non-characteristic” registration for horses with two ApHC parents who show no identifiable Appaloosa characteristics. 

It is not always easy to predict the color a grown Appaloosa will be when it is born. Patterns sometimes change over the course of the horse’s lifetime, and foals do not always show classic leopard spotting characteristics. Horses with the varnish roan and the snowflake patterns usually show very little of the color pattern at birth, but develop more visible spotting as they age. Appaloosa horses come in several base colors, including bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, cremello, perlino, roan, gray, dun, and grulla. There are ten different recognized spotting patterns, including spotted, blanket, leopard, snowflake, and mottled markings.

Domestic horses with spotted patterns in artwork have been seen as far back as Ancient Greece, Ancient Persia, and China. Eleventh century France and Twelfth century England paintings also depicted spotted horses. Records indicate that spotted horses were used as coach horses at the court of Louis XIV of France, and in the mid-18th-century there was a huge demand for spotted horses among the nobility and royalty. These horses were used in schools, parades, and other displays. The Spanish obtained spotted horses, likely from trade with Austria and Hungary. These horses then traveled with the Conquistadors and Spanish settlers to the Americas in the early 16th century. A snowflake patterned horse was listed among the 16 horses brought to Mexico by Cortez. 

Spotted horses went out of style in Europe in the late 18th century. This caused these horses to be shipped to Mexico, California, and Oregon.

The Nez Perce were living in what is today eastern Washington, Oregon, and north central Idaho. They engaged in horse breeding as well as agriculture. Horses were first obtained by the Nez Perce people in 1730, and they received them from the Shoshone. Because the Nez Perce lived in excellent horse breeding country, and were relatively protected from raids, they took advantage of this and developed strict breeding selection practices. They were one of the few tribes that actively gelded inferior male horses and traded away poor stock to remove unsuitable animals from the gene pool. They were notable horse breeders by the early 19th century.

Nez Perce horses were known to be of the highest quality, and even Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition wrote in his journal about the excellence of their horses. He also mentioned the horses being “pied”, noting the spotted patterns of the modern Appaloosa horse. At this time, however, many of the Nez Perce horses were solid colored, as they had not yet begun to breed for color until after Lewis and Clark’s visit. As settlers moved into the Nez Perce lands, the successful trade of their horses enriched the tribe. In 1861, the Nez Perce horses were said to be “elegant chargers, fit to mount a prince.” Ordinary horses at the time could be purchased for $15. Settlers and non-Natives who owned Appaloosa horses from the Nez Perce turned down offers as high as $600 for their animals.

The encroachment of gold miners in the 1860’s and settlers in the 1870’s put pressure on the Nez Perce people. A treaty in 1863 reduced the lands allotted to the Nez Perce people by ninety percent. Some of the Nez Perce refused to give up their lands under this treaty, including a band living in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon. Tensions rose, and in May of 1877, General Oliver Otis Howard called a council and ordered the bands to move to the reservation. The leader of the bands, known as Chief Joseph, felt that military resistance would ultimately be futile. But, on the day that the Chief had gathered 600 people in Idaho, a small group of warriors staged an attack on nearby settlers. After several small battles in Idaho, 800 Nez Perce took 2000 head of livestock and fled into Montana before heading southeast and into Yellowstone National Park. 

A small number of the Nez Perce warriors held off larger U.S. Army forces in several skirmishes, including a two-day battle in southwestern Montana. After being rebuffed by the Crow Nation when they sought safety there, the Nez Perce headed for Canada. The journey was around 1,400 miles, and all throughout it, the Nez Perce relied on their fast, agile, and hard Appaloosa horses. They stopped to rest near the Bears Paw Mountains in Montana, around 40 miles from the Canadian border. Unknown to them, Colonel Nelson A. Miles had led an infantry-cavalry from Fort Keough in pursuit. After a five day fight, Chief Joseph surrendered. The Nez Perce war was over on October 5, 1877. Most of the war chiefs were dead, and the noncombatants were cold and starving. 

A Nez Perce warrior on horseback.

The U.S. 7th Cavalry immediately took more than 1,000 of the tribe’s horses when they accepted Chief Joseph’s surrender. They sold what they could and then shot the rest. A significant population of horses were left behind in the Wallowa Valley when the Nez Perce began their retreat, and additional horses escaped or were abandoned on the way. When the Nez Perce were relocated to reservations in north central Idaho, they were allowed to keep few horses and were forced to crossbreed with draft horses in an attempt to create farm horses. 

A remnant population of the Appaloosa horses remained after 1877, but they were nearly forgotten as a distinct breed for nearly 60 years. A few of the best horses continued to be bred and used as working ranch horses. Others were used in circuses and shows, such as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The name “Appaloosa” came from the Palouse River that ran through the Nez Perce territories. There were several other spellings of the breed’s name, including “Appalucy”, “Opelousa”, and “Apalousey”. By the 1950’s, “Appaloosa” was considered the correct spelling of the name. 

Western Horseman magazine published an article in 1937 describing the Appaloosa breed’s history and urging the preservation of the horses. This was when the Appaloosa came to the attention of the general public. The author of the article, Francis D. Haines, had performed extensive research, including traveling with a friend to various Nez Perce villages to collect history and take photographs. The article generated interest in the breed, and was responsible for the founding of the Appaloosa Horse Club by Claude Thompson in 1938. The Appaloosa Museum Foundation was formed in 1975 to preserve the history of the Nez Perce horse. Western Horseman magazine continued to support and promote the breed in subsequent issues. 

The Arabian horse played a huge part in the revitalization of the Appaloosa horse, as evidenced by early registration lists that show Arabian-Appaloosa crossbreeds as ten of the first fifteen horses registered with the ApHC. Later, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse lines were added, as well as crosses from breeds such as the Morgan and Standardbreds. In 1983 the ApHC reduced the number of allowable crosses to three main breeds: Arabian, American Quarter Horse, and the Thoroughbred. 

By 1978, the ApHC was the third largest horse registry of light horse breeds. By 2007, more than 670,000 Appaloosas were registered. They are an international organization, with affiliates in Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and Israel. The ApHC has 33,000 members as of 2010. 

The American Appaloosa Association was founded in 1983 by members of the ApHC who opposed the registration of solid colored horses. Based in Missouri, the AAA had a membership of more than 2,000 as of 2008. Other registries have been created for horses with leopard complex genetics that are not affiliated with ApHC. The ApHC is, by far, the largest Appaloosa horse registry, and it hosts one of the largest breed shows in the world.

The ApHC does not accept horses with draft, pony, Pinto, or Paint breeding. Mature horses must stand at least 14hh while unshod. If a horse has excessive white markings that are not associated with the recognized Appaloosa patterns, it cannot be registered unless a DNA test reveals that both the horse’s parents have ApHC registration. 

Unfortunately, Appaloosas have an eightfold greater risk of developing Equine Recurrent Uveitis than all other breeds combined. Up to 25 percent of all horses with ERU may be Appaloosas. If not treated, ERU can lead to blindness. Appaloosas with roan or light colored patterns, little pigment around the eyelids and sparse hair in the mane and tail mark the most at-risk horses for this condition. Researchers believe they have identified a gene region in the Appaloosa that makes the breed more susceptible to the disease.

Some Appaloosas are also at risk for congenital stationary night blindness. CSNB is a disorder that causes a lack of night vision, though day vision is normal. It is an inherited disorder, present from birth, and does not progress over time. 

Appaloosas are a versatile and hardy breed. They are used for both Western and English riding disciplines. Western competitors use the Appaloosa for cutting, reining, roping, barrel racing, and pole bending. Barrel racing is known as the Camas Prairie Stump Race in Appaloosa-only competitions, and pole bending is called Nez Perce Stake Race at breed shows. English riding disciplines use Appaloosas for competitions such as eventing, show jumping, and fox hunting. They are common in endurance riding competitions and casual trail riding. Appaloosas are also bred for horse racing and have an active breed racing association promoting the sport. Generally, they are used for middle-distance racing. An Appaloosa holds the all-breed record for the 4.5 furlongs distance, which was set in 1989.

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To learn more about the Appaloosa horse, go to the ApHC Official Website.

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Breed Spotlight: Australian Brumby

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 Recently, I completed a new horse breed design of the Brumby horse. 

A Brumby is a free-roaming wild horse in Australia. They are mostly found in the Australian Alps region and the Northern Territory, with the second largest population in Queensland. 

The first recorded use of the term “Brumby” in print was in 1871, and had the connotation of an inferior or worthless animal. Several other origins of the term have also been cited, including the Once A Month magazine suggesting that it came from a South Wales term, “rumbies”. The poet Banjo Paterson stated in the introduction of his poem “Brumby’s Run” that the word is of an Aboriginal origin and means “Wild Horse”. It’s derivation is obscure, and may have come from a number of different sources. This includes being named after Sergeant James Brumby, an Aboriginal word “baroomby” which means wild, and the name of the Baramba creek and station in the Queensland district of Burnett. 

Brumbies are the descendants of escaped or lost horses that in some cases date back to those belonging to the early European settlers, including the “Capers” from South Africa. Timor ponies from Indonesia, British ponies and draft breeds, and Thoroughbreds and Arabians have likely made up a large amount of the Brumby breed. Horses first arrived in Australia in 1788. They were imported for utility and farm work, for recreational riding, and for racing. Only 200 horses had made their way to Australia by the year 1800. An influx in Thoroughbreds came when horse racing became popular around 1810. By 1820, roughly 3500 horses were living in Australia. This number had increased to 160,000 horses in just thirty years. Because of the long journey by sea from England, Europ, and Asia, only the strongest and heartiest horses could survive. This made for a healthy and strong Australian stock and contributed to their ability to flourish. 

The first report of an escaped horse was in 1804. By the 1840’s, some horses had escaped from the settled regions of the country. Some likely escaped from improperly installed and repaired fences. But it is believed that many of the feral horses came from horses released into the wild and left to fend for themselves when pastoralists abandoned their settlements. After World War I, the number of unwanted animals who were set free increased due to a decreased demand for horses and an increase in mechanization. Throughout the 20th century, demand was further decreased thanks to the replacement of horses in farming with machines like tractors. This likely increased the population of wild bands of horses even more. 

Currently, there are around 400,000 horses roaming the continent of Australia. It is estimated that in non-drought conditions the population increases by 20% each year. Drought conditions and brushfires are natural threats to the horses. Despite their high population numbers, the Brumby horse is considered a moderate pest. The impact on the environment can be detrimental in areas where the horses are allowed to damage vegetation and cause erosion. Because the horses also have cultural and economic value, the management of the Brumby bands is a complex issue. 

Today, the Brumby bands live in many places, including some National Parks, such as Alpine National Park in Victoria, Barrington National Park in NSW, and Carnarvon National Park in Queensland. Occasionally they are rounded up and domesticated for use as stock horses, trail horses, show horses, Pony Club mounts, and pleasure horses. 

The Brumby horse is at the center of some controversy. Some people regard them as a pest or threat to native ecosystems. Others value them as part of Australia’s heritage. Supporters work to prevent inhumane treatment and extermination of the Brumby, and also rehome horses who have been captured. Wild Brumbies are used in Brumby training camps by organisations that promote positive interaction between troubled, high-risk youths. These camps usually last several weeks, allowing youths to train a wild Brumby to become a quiet, willing saddle horse while improving the youths’ self-esteem.

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