This is essentially a fancy article. A cob is, compared to other horses, much what a ”concentrated luncheon lozenge’ is to a vol au vent. He must have as much breeding as possible, combined with the power of a carthorse. It is not everyone that is a judge of a cob. An underbred, under-sized, thickset punchy horse is not of necessity a valuable cob, though the owners of such beasts (when they are for sale) are sometimes very hard to persuade of this fact. Cobs are usually ridden by a class of men who can afford to pay for them; and as the demand is always in excess of the supply of these animals, they generally have to be paid for pretty freely, supposing them to be really good. But without a long list of virtues, a cob, however powerful, and in its own grotesque style handsome, will never fetch a price. To begin with, he must be perfectly quiet on all occasions; not inclined to shy; and possessed of a certain sedateness of character and demeanour, as it is his peculiar province to carry gentlemen of a certain age and weight, and usually of a position in life which renders their personal safety a matter of interest to the community at large.
… A cob who is not a good walker is of about as much use as a young lady who does not valse! … To be perfect in the country, a cob should let his rider kill a brace of birds right and left off his back without winking. Even if he be not wanted as a shooting pony, his nerves must defy alarm or excitement at any unexpected sight or sound, especially connected with gunpowder; for in these days of revolvers and rifle practice a quiet gentleman … may, in the course of his ride, whether in town or country, find himself almost at any moment in a “warm corner,” as far as numberless discharges of firearms can constitute one. Therefore the points most important in a good cob are strength, good mouth and slow paces, soundness (of course), good temper, moderate height, say 14 hands, and perfect steadiness and tractability. If anyone who may do me the honour to read these lines possesses a cob up to 16 stone, who can walk four miles an hour and trot twelve, with a good mouth and amiable disposition, who fears nothing, and never stumbles, let him, if a rich man, keep him — he will not get another such in a hurry; if a poor one, let him in offering him for sale, fear not to “open his mouth” boldly, and demand for him a price which shall make a difference in his (the owner’s) year’s income; for people must, and usually are ready to, pay for their fancies, and a good cob, as already remarked, is, of all the equine race, essentially a fancy article, and one too for which the demand is always brisk.
Unasked Advice, A Series of Articles on Horses and Hunting by “Impecuniosus”, reprinted from The Field, 1872.