I've been trying to explain to a carriage driving list in America that the word "cob" in Britain covers a multitude of animals. So, I thought I'd stick up a blog post about it.
It depends where you are and what you are doing, whether you hear all
the varied uses of the word "cob".
As a general term it means a stocky, powerful, active *type* of horse
"suitable for an elderly gentleman to enjoy a day's hunting" - ie, not too high off the ground, broad, loads of stamina, weight carrying and comfortable and above all well mannered. Breeding is not an issue - they can be part TB, part Shire or Clyde, part pony. They are shown trimmed out, no feather on the heels, mane often roached and tails pulled and cut fairly short (a nod to their hunting purposes). Not a breed as such. Often called a "show cob." Power, stamina and good manners make a cob a good driving animal for a country turnout.
"Coloured cob" means a broken-coloured/pinto/piebald/skewbald horse and usually one with a lot of mane, tail and feather. They are heavy-boned, often with a Fell or Dales pony close up in the ancestry but also Clydesdale further back. These are the type that came over from Ireland in the 50s and 60s and became popular with the tinker/potter men and are now famed as "gypsy horses" (before that, a gipsy horse was usually a Clydesdale cross, black or brown with white socks!) They have a couple of registries for *type* and are rapidly becoming a pedigreed breed in their own right though I can't say whether their stud book is a closed one - I suspect not, since I know people who sometimes breed small coloured cobs from registered Fell ponies. Shown in full mane/tail/feather as a "traditional" cob but occasionally trimmed out and shown as a "show cob". There are also "coloured" horses that are NOT necessarily cobs and these are referred to as "non-traditional" coloureds - they are shown trimmed.
Traditionals make good driving horses for trade and exercise/leisure/pleasure classes, and of course the bigger sorts can pull a "van" of any of the gipsy varieties. Non-traditionals have famously been included in coaching teams and competitive (HDTA/FEI) tandems.
"Welsh cob" and "Welsh pony of cob type" are the stocky, active horses and ponies from Wales with historic pedigrees recorded by the Welsh Pony and Cob Society. They are a breed, although "Welsh pony of cob type, Section C" is for cobs under 13.2 hands and "Welsh cob, Section D" is for cobs over 13.2, and it depends on their height rather than their breeding which section they are registered in. "On the basis of height certified by a Veterinary Surgeon, the Society may sanction:
4.1 A transfer from Section A to Section B of stock which has grown over 12 hands.
4.2 A transfer from Section C to Section D of stock which has grown over 13 hands 2 inches.
4.3 A transfer from Section D to Section C of stock, seven years old or over, which does not exceed 13 hands 2 inches."(Registration regulations for Welsh ponies & cobs)
Often these are referred to a Section D or Section C cobs, with "Welsh" assumed from the word Section. (One of my gripes is that the Sec D cob in particular often doesn't look cobby any more but like a plump Arabian. And an Arabian is NOT a cob by any stretch of the imagination.) They vary from "hot" to "placid" as driving horses - can be very good, can also be very bad, and while they move spectacularly when seen from the side they often dish or plait at either front or back or both although the requirement for "true" straight movement is still mentioned in the Welsh breed standard.
Therefore!!! when you hear people in England talking about "a cob" they may mean one of several things. If you ask them to be more specific they will define what they mean by saying "show cob", "coloured cob" (traditional or non-traditional) or "Welsh Cob" (plus its section, C or D).
Here endeth the lecture.