Whereas cob is a generic term used to describe a short legged type of horse or pony with a compact powerful stocky build and large joints, the Traditional Cob is distinctive breed of cob originally bred and kept by nomadic Traveller / Gypsy community of the British Isles (Ireland and the UK) to pull their Traveller barrel top / Gypsy wagons.
Although the Traditional Cob has a compact powerful stocky build and large joints the same as the 'generic cob', what makes the Traditional Cob a distinctive breed of cob is its ample leg feathering and abundance of flowing mane and tail and unlimited variety of colours. However, because Traditional Cobs can be any size and can be from medium to very heavy boned and can have varying frames and conformation 'Traditional Cob' is used as a generic term for the breed rather than as the registration name for the breed.
Traditional Cobs are registered in their native lands of Ireland and the UK under the names Irish Cob (or Traditional Irish Cob) and Gypsy Cob (or Traditional Gypsy Cob). Outside of its native lands of Ireland and the UK Traditional Cobs are also registered under other names such as Tinker (or Irish Tinker) and Gypsy Vanner etc.
The Irish Cob (aka Traditional Irish Cob) evolved because Traditional Cobs were mostly been bred bigger (taller and leggier) and usually hairier in Ireland than in the UK. Because the Irish Cob was bred bigger (taller and leggier) and has more of a riding type shoulder than the Gypsy Cob, it is the bigger (taller & leggier) and athletically built and versatile dual-purpose (ride and drive) up to 170cms Irish Cob originally from Ireland (and therefore with Irish ancestral pedigree) that from the mid-1990s made the Traditional Cob breed so popular as a leisure horse not just in Ireland and the UK but also in countries such as Germany, Holland, France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy and also the USA and Australia, etc.
In addition be being ridden and shown worldwide in their full 'traditional splendor' of abundant leg feathering and long thick flowing mane and tail, clipped out and hogged the Irish Cob remains a common sight on the hunting fields of Ireland and the UK as well as in Riding Cob jumping and showing classes both in Ireland and the UK. This is because the original versatile dual-purpose (ride and drive) Irish Cob with Irish ancestral pedigree has remained unchanged. The Irish Cob should have a head that is straight and handsome and in proportion to the body.
Although the dual purpose (ride and drive) Irish Cob has Irish ancestral pedigree, because the Irish Cob was used by the nomadic Traveller / Gypsy community of Ireland and the UK to pull their Traveller barrel top / Gypsy wagons, the dual purpose (ride and drive) Irish Cob can for cultural reasons be registered in the UK (or elsewhere) under the name Gypsy Cob. Some of the most renowned Irish bred stallions that contributed Traditional Cob (Irish and Gypsy) breeding are The Lion King, The Road Sweeper, The Coal Horse, The Lob and The Henry Horse.
Although surprisingly athletic for its build, the Gypsy Cob can be shorter-legged and stockier than the Irish Cob and can have an exceptionally broad and powerful front (chest and shoulders) built for pulling power. For this reason, the power-packed Gypsy Cob is often described as ‘built like a tank’. Although the original Gypsy Cob could be as big as 160cms, the modern Gypsy Cob is usually bred smaller with most Gypsy Cobs now being bred under 140cms. Some of the most prized Gypsy Cobs are now under 120cms.
Having been bred for pulling power the modern Gypsy Cob tends to have an exceptionally broad and powerful front (chest and shoulders) and to have front legs that can be set more forward (to have a more upright humerus) than the front legs of the Irish Cob and also to have a wither that tends to be set further back and to be flatter and broader than the wither of the Irish Cob.
Because the build of the Gypsy Cob front (chest and shoulders) contributes to 'step' (high knee action at trot), 'step' (high knee action at trot) is more akin to the Gypsy Cob than the Irish Cob. Because a Gypsy Cob can have a more upright shoulder and 'set back' wither than the Irish Cob, the Gypsy Cob tends to have a shorter back than the Irish Cob and to have an an 'underline' that can be longer than the Irish Cob. The Gypsy Cob croup can also be shorter than the croup of the Irish Cob and have a steeper slope to the tail than the Irish Cob. The modern Gypsy Cob should have a 'sweet’ head with a neat muzzle and small ears.
Because a Gypsy Cob with UK ancestral pedigree would tend to be smaller and to have a frame and conformation more suited to pulling (driving) than a dual purpose (ride and drive) Irish Cob or a Gypsy Cob with Irish ancestral pedigree, a Gypsy Cob with UK ancestral pedigree would usually only be registered in Ireland and the UK under the breed name Gypsy Cob.