The term continues to be widely used to describe this type of horse in the United Kingdom, but less so in North America. In the United States, the term “cob” is primarily used to describe the Welsh cob, and in the sizing of bridles for horses, designating a smaller size that will fit not only the Welsh cob, but also many Morgans, Arabians, some American Quarter Horses, and other horses with short, triangular-shaped heads.
Characteristics of the cob horse
In general terms, cobs are larger than ponies, standing 14.2 hands or taller, but are relatively small and compact, usually with somewhat short legs. The breed of horse known today as the Section D Welsh cob exemplifies the classic build of the historic cob. It is said that good show cob should have “the head of a lady and the backside of a cook.”
Popular uses of the cob include driving, showing and recreational riding. Cob-type breeds have become increasingly popular for Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), as well as for riders who seek horses who are responsive but with a calm temperament, shorter stature and steady, comfortable gaits.
The rulebook of the British Show Horse Association (BHSA), states: “The Cob is a type rather than a breed. A short-legged animal exceeding 148cms (58 inches or 14.2 hands) with a maximum height of 155cms (61 inches or 15.1 hands), it has bone and substance with quality and is capable of carrying a substantial weight…Cobs should have sensible heads, (sometimes roman nosed), a full generous eye, shapely neck crested on the top, with a hogged mane and well defined wither…The Cob should also have clean, strong hocks and all the attributes of a good hunter.”
Popular cob breeds
A number of cob breeds are popular in the UK, including the Welsh cob, the Irish Cob and the “Coloured Cob” or “Gypsy Cob,” known in the USA as the Gypsy vanner horse.
The breed of horse known as the Section D Welsh cob exemplifies the typical build of the traditional cob. In competition, unlike most other cobs, these animals are shown with full manes and tails.
Traditional or “Gypsy” cobs are often seen in “coloured” horse classes. Originally a favourite of Romany travellers, who used them to pull caravans, they are now used for driving, dressage, showing, and even jumping.