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24 September 2014

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The Gypsy's Horse
Gypsy Horse.

The Gypsy's relationship with the horse is ancient and deep and although no longer essential for transport many Gypsies still keep and breed them, particularly for trotting races.

Part of the family


A Gypsy without a horse is not a Gypsy...

videoThe Gypsy Horse was aired on Radio Four at the end of August. Here's your chance to listen to it again. It lasts 27 mins and requires Realplayer. Download Realplayer

The changing relationship between Gypsies and their horses epitomises the profound changes that have occurred in the Traveller lifestyle in the course of one short generation.

When the horses and caravan gave way to the lorry and trailer something changed forever. A way of life that had remained essentially unchanged for centuries suddenly came to an end, and with it went centuries of tradition and culture.

Today horse ownership amongst Gypsies is on the increase and the relationship is being rekindled in a modern context.

Older Romany Travellers recall the days when the horse was virtually a member of the family and when life was led at the steady slow pace reflected by the sound of hooves echoing along country lanes.

Gyspy Horse On the day before hitching up and moving on, the caravan would be washed down, harness cleaned, brasses polished and horses groomed. No one who saw this proud cavalcade pass by would dare whisper the words 'Dirty Gypsies' under their breath.

The horse drawn days came to an end in the 1960s when Gypsy Travellers became motorised and the lorry and trailer replaced the old traditional painted wooden Gypsy caravan. It was a pivotal time as the old ways came to a close and the Gypsies embarked on a new journey which would eventually lead to sedentarisation and fears for the very survival of the Romany culture.

The 70s were dark days for the Romany Gypsies, there were not yet any official council sites and the round of agricultural work was drying up.

Lorries and trailers were now the norm and for a while the horse passed from the Traveller experience, but in recent years as the Romany culture has begun to find it's feet in new circumstances, horses are again very much in evidence.

Hear from Henry Elliot as he talks about his horses.


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Friends, Families & Travellers
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