Cob horse

What Is A Cob Horse?

About the Cob Horse

A Cob horse is not a specific breed, but rather refers to the body type of the horse that is found in many different breeds. A Cob horse is typically a short-legged animal, with a sturdy build.

At first glance, a Cob horse can resemble a stocky pony, but many different breeds fall under the classification of the Cob type (I will discuss these in a bit more detail further down).

Let’s take a look at the Cob in a bit more detail:

A brief history of the Cob horse

It is believed that the term “cob” originated in the UK and Ireland, where these sturdy horses were originally bred as tough, versatile steeds.

During the Middle Ages, Cobs were used to work on the farm and in the military where they had to pull heavy loads. Thanks to their easy-going personalities, they were also a favourite mount for riding and driving.

During the 1700s, the Cob’s popularity grew in the UK. The industrial revolution saw a need for strong horses that could deal with heavy loads, so Cobs were used to pull carts and carriages.

Beginning of the 20th century, Cobs were no longer just working horses. Riders saw their true potential, and Cob horses were used in show events like jumping and dressage. As their popularity in these refined sporting events grew, they were bred to be slightly more refined than their working-class parents.

Today, Cob horses are incredibly versatile. They are brilliant in the show ring, but can also be used as working horses on farms, hunting horses, carriage horses or trail horses.


As I mentioned earlier, Cobs are not a specific breed, but rather a general type of horse with similar characteristics:

  • Stocky build

  • Short legs

  • Thick neck that appears to be arched

  • Amazing temperament

  • Leg feathers

  • Luscious manes and tails

Rocky the mini cob

Rocky – although he’s only 11.2hh he fits the cob description very well

Since Cobs can be many different breeds, there is no one set colour or marking by which you can identify them.

Not a breed, but a type

There is no single breed of Cob horse. Rather, the term “cob” refers to the body type, which can range from a stocky pony to a light draft horse.

Cobs are generally larger than a pony, but smaller than a horse, which means horses with this build require special Cob tack.

Types of Cob Horses

Below are some popular Cob breeds in the UK:

Welsh Cob

The Welsh Cob is the largest Welsh breed, with amazing load-bearing abilities and a lovely temperament.

The Welsh Cob originated from Welsh ponies, with the first hint of its existence found in the 1600s. Back then, these strong horses worked in mines and the military, although today they are one of the most popular Cob breeds for riding.

The Welsh Cob was included in the Welsh Pony and Cob Society in 1960.

  • Colour: Welsh Cobs can be black, bay or chestnut. On rare occasions, you will find a grey or palomino Cob, and sometimes they have white markings.

  • Height: Welsh Cobs are typically no higher than 14.1 hands (4.7 feet), although a section D has no upper height limit

  • Profile: This Cob type is a sturdy horse that retains many characteristics of a pony in terms of its proportions.

Irish Cob

Irish Cobs go by many different names. They are often called a traditional Cob, a Gypsy Cov, a Gypsy Vanner or even an Irish Tinker.

Gypsy Cobs originated from Ireland and Great Britain and were officially recognised in 1998.

  • Colour: These horses come in a variety of colours, including black, brown, bay, grey, chestnut, roan and palomino.

  • Height: Gypsy Cobs will rarely exceed 16.5 hands.

  • Profile: This Cob type sees a horse with a robust build, a straight face and a medium-length neck. The feathers on their legs are quite prominent, especially on the larger horses.

Skewbald Irish Cob type with a girl riding her

Ruby, one of our riding school ponies is a typical skewbald Irish type cob

Gypsy Cob

As I mentioned, Irish Cobs and Gypsy Cobs are categorised under the same names, however, the Irish Cob has a rather broad definition, whereas Gypsy Cobs have predominantly piebald or skewbald colouring.

Coloured Cob

Cobs are considered “coloured cobs” when they have white markings on their bodies (other than their faces).

These horses typically have a base colour that is black, chestnut, bay or grey, and then have white patches on their coats.

Not to confuse you more, but yes, Gypsy Cobs and Gypsy Vanners are Coloured Cobs!

Pepper the cheeky hairy cob sticking her tongue out

Pepper, our cheeky Gypsy Cob. They can be quite hairy!

Norman Cob

The Norman Cob originated in Normandy, France. Hence the name!

These horses descend from the extinct Norman Horse (Carrossier Normand) and were traditionally used to pull artillery and carry knights during battles.

Due to their size, Norman Cobs are considered Maxi Cobs. (Maxi cobs are cobs between 15.2 and 16.3 hands high, weighing up to 750 kgs).

  • Colour: Commonly bay with white markings, as well as chestnut and brown.

  • Height: Typically between 15.1 and 16.3 hands

  • Profile: Has a similar appearance to a Thoroughbred, but much more robust, with pronounced withers, an arched neck and a broad chest.

Vanner Cob

The Vanner Cob is exactly the same as the Gypsy Cob discussed above, which is why these horses are also known as Gypsy Vanners.

“Vanner” is simply the American term used to identify these horses.

Dixie the cob looking for food in winter

Cobs are hardy and can live out in almost all conditions. They will come looking for food though!

Showing Cobs

Whether you are considering a small Welsh pony or a large Maxi Cob, you might be wondering if these types of horses are any good at show events.

Well, like I mentioned earlier, Cobs are incredibly versatile, which means that a lightweight Cob is actually pretty amazing in the show arena, and the British Show Horse Association (previously called the British Show Hack, Cob and Riding Horse Association) often hosts shows and events where Cobs can compete.

Can Cobs jump?

Cobs may look like bricks with legs, but these horses are surprisingly nimble, with incredible jumping skills! Despite being traditionally used for drafting and pulling carriages, Cobs have surprised many with how well they do in jumping events.

Many Cob riders enter their horses into showjumping events, or simply enjoy jumping on the arena during riding lessons.

Although they are competent jumpers, some heavier Cobs may not have the same agility as horses that were specifically bred for jumping. That said, with the right training and conditioning you will have a star jumper under your saddle.

The easy nature of the Cob means you probably won’t be fighting your ride to try and convince it to take the leap!

Can Cobs do dressage?

If you school your Cob properly, you will have a horse that can perform dressage to a high standard.

Dressage aims to show the discipline and suppleness of a horse, and while it may not necessarily come naturally to these stocky horses, their calm demeanours and trainability make them the perfect candidates for dressage.

Dressage tests at lower levels are designed to be inclusive of many different horse breeds, with the focus of the tests placed on the quality of the movements, not the athleticism of the horse.

Consistent work and training can produce a Cob with balance and responsiveness that will perform well in the dressage shows hosted by the British Show Horse Association.

Prince the super cob doing dressage

Cobs can be surprisingly agile, as seen with Prince in action being ridden by Catriona

Who Should Own a Cob?

The real question is actually: Why would you not want a Cob?

Cobs are amazing horses, and are suitable for any horse enthusiast!

Nervous or elderly riders can safely ride these horses since they are so calm and laid-back and typically have a steady gait.

But, that doesn’t mean Cobs are only for novice riders. The versatility of these horses means that they are great for experienced riders as well!

Drop them on the cross-country course or in the dressage arena and you are sure to have a horse that performs well.

Fortunately, Cobs are also incredibly low-maintenance. Their self-sufficiency and hardy nature mean you can lead your horse out into the paddock and he will be happy in almost all kinds of weather.

So you see? When you combine their gentle temperament with their versatility and hardiness, you get a horse that is suitable for any equine lover!


A cob is a type not a breed, it’s a sturdy horse or pony and one we can really recommend as an all-rounder. They are easy to look after, their mixed breeding means the chances of genetic defects are less than pur bred animals, they are hardy, can often live out year round and have less joint and ligament issues than finer-boned horses such as the thorougbred. They are extremenly versatile and can turn their hooves to almost any discipline. They may not be as nimble as their hot-blooded cousins but with good schooling, they will have a long and happy life with minimal health issues.


How much do Cobs cost?

The cost of a Cob will depend on several factors, including the age, breed, size and training of the horse. Needless to say, a well-trained Welsh pony will cost significantly more than an old, unruly and unrideable Maxi Cob.

Generally, a well-trained Cob can cost between £2,000 and £10,000. Untrained, younger Cobs will be more affordable, whereas Cobs with showing experience will cost a lot more.

You also need to remember that you are not only paying once-off for your Cob. You need to consider the ongoing expenses as well, such as feeding, shelter, vet care, insurance and training.

How long do Cobs live?

Sadly, horses can’t live forever, but luckily the hardiness of Cob horses means they have quite a lengthy lifespan.

Most horses live for around 25 to 30 years, but with the proper care and maintenance, Cobs have lived up to 35-40 years!

As your horse ages, keep an eye out for any health issues and address them as soon as you notice them to ensure your Cob has a long, happy life.

Can Cobs live out year-round?

I mentioned earlier that Cobs are pretty low-maintenance, but does that mean they can live out throughout the year?

Well, yes and no! It will depend on the food available and the climate. Cobs can withstand cold temperatures which means technically they can live out year-round, but you may have to toss a rug over them when it is below freezing.

If there is plenty of grass available, they should be very happy out in the field, but you may have to supplement their diet if the grass is not of high quality.

How fast are Cobs?

Since there is no single Cob breed, the speed of a Cob will depend on the breed, age and size.

The average speed of Cob type-horses is 15 to 20 miles an hour, which is slower than other horse breeds such as the Quarterhorse, Arabians and Thoroughbreds!

Although Cobs might not be the Usain Bolts of the horse world, they have incredible stamina and can keep up their pace for a long time.

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