With a large number of tunnel boring machines (TBM) being used in various tunnel constructions, the vibration problem under complex geological conditions have become increasingly prominent. In order to solve the problem, this article investigates the application of an adaptive magnetorheological (MR) damper on the vibration reduction of a TBM. The MR damper could reduce the horizontal vibration of the TBM system and adjust its dragging force on the propulsive system under different geological conditions. The MR damper can also provide large enough damping force even under a small amplitude vibration, which is required by TBM. In this paper, an MR damper was designed, prototyped and its properties were tested by an MTS system, including its current-dependency, amplitude-dependency and frequency-dependency features. A scaled TBM system incorporated with the MR damper was built to evaluate the vibration reduction effectiveness of the MR damper on the TBM system. The experimental test results demonstrate that the displacement and the acceleration amplitudes of the TMB vibration could be reduced by 52.14% and 53.31%, respectively.