Keene Richards’ Arabian Importation

Articles of History:

Keene Richards’ Arabian Importations Conclusion

By Thornton Chard

from The Horse Jan/Feb ’35 Part I   Part II            Speed says:

               ”What gave the Arab horse a kind of disrepute in America was the experiment of A. Keene Richards. Mr. Richards was a man of wealth and education and a breeder of race-horses in the Blue Grass section of Kentucky. In studying the history of the English Thoroughbred he came to the conclusion he would like to get fresh infusions of the original blood. He went to Arabia and personally selected several stallions. These he mated with his Thoroughbred mares, and when the colts were old enough he entered them in the races. They were not fast enough to win even when conceeded weight. He went again, this was about 1855, taking with him the animal painter Troye. They took their time, and came back with a superior lot. Mr. Richards tried over again the same experiment with the same result. The colts did not have the speed to beat Thoroughbreds. … If Mr. Richards had waited seveeral generations and then injected the new infusions of the Arab blood, the result probably would have been quite diferent. The Civil War came along about this time, however, and the experiment ended in what was considered a failure. But the blood taken to Kentucky at that time by Mr. Richards has been valuable in an unexpected way, for it has been preserved in the half-bred horses in the horse-breeding section, and it crops out all the time in those wonderful saddle-horses of the Denmark strain, which are sent all over the ountry to delight the lovers of horseback exercise as well as to monopolize the ribbons in the horse shows.” (35)

           Then, Huntington following his own successful Arabian breeding principles, comments that the Richards Arabian mares should

               ”have been bred to thoroughbred or trotting bred horses, and the stallions to trotting bred or Thoroughbred mares; then the produce of both Thoroughbred sides brought together; then inbreed the produce separately.” (36)

           Also, Huntington observes, regarding a direct infusion,

               ”that when a Thoroughbred mare is bred to an Arab horse, the produce is a disappointment to the race horse man: but when a pure Arab mare is bred to a Thoroughbredhorse the results are a very great success.” (37)

           No doubt the comments quoted from Speed and the methods of using the Arabian blood suggested by Huntington are sound. Besides there is du Hays’ authoritative treatise (38) on how to infuse the Eastern blood into a fixed breed, already built on it, in order to improve and not to retard temporarily, such breed. At the same time there are individual examples where a more direct infusion has produced high class race horses. One of them was Limestone, whose dam, Transylvania, was by Richards imported Arabian Massoud, 15 hands high.

           To those who admire height and weight in the Thoroughbred Limestone will definitely appeal, for he grew to be 16 1/4 hands high and to weigh 1240 pounds; but those are the least of his characteristics for he developed into one of the greatest hurdle-racers of his day, repeatedly winning, over the best horses of all ages, at one and two mile heat races. At New Orleans April 16, 1875, then five years old, in his last race, a handicap hurdle race at two miles, over eight hurdles, he lapped out Tom Leathers who carried only 117 pounds, beating the fastest time on record by 4 1/2 seconds. These data are taken from his stud-bill on which Dr. Feris has written

               ”Has any horse ever before [run] two miles in 3.47 1/2 with 150 pounds up even in a flat race? Limestone did it and jumped eight hurdles 4 feet high.” (39)

Dr. Feris’ further comment will be relished by those who believe that the Arabian transmits a good disposition.

               ”Limestone although very spirited has been driven in single harness by a Lady and is a splendid trotter.”

           Another successful example of the more direct infusion of Arabian blood was the trotting mare May Queen who had a record [1877] of 2.20.

               ”[She] has the cross of one of Mr. Richards’ Arabians which he imported with Massoud.” (40)

           Still another example; and this one written on the margin of the Limestone stud-bill in Dr. Feris’ own hand, reads:

           ”Sonnie G., one of the best young trotters in Ky. is by Almont out of a thoroughbred–Mokhladdi [Richards Arabian] mare bred in Louisiana.” (41)

           The above examples of the more direct infusion of the Arabian blood bear out Mr. Huntington’s experience

               ”that results by an Arab horse were according to blood of the mare used, though which the second remove was very decidedly affected.” (42)

           Dr. Feris had already sent to Mr. Huntington a stud-bill (illustration No. 13) of two of his horses Moor and Shepherd. On the back of this he wrote:

               ”Mocha, the dam of Moslem, (43) (Sire of Moor) was got by the great four miler Woodpecker–2nd dam the 3 mile mare Leopardess by Medoc, the best son of American Eclipse.

               See Bruce American Stud Book Art, Leopardess (44)

               Read and judge for yourself.

           In acknowledging this stud-bill Huntington comments on the value of the blood and what it shoud do, as follows:

               ”Your two stallions, Moor and Shepherd are certainly bred as well as horses can be, and should be invaluable in any portion of our country if put to the right class of mares. Moor should have got both trotters and runners of the highest type, and Shepherd, if bred to the right mares, should get the very best trotters, saddle horses and coachers.” (45)

           So, here were actual descendants of the Keene Richards importations, lost sight of for years, but still doing service in the stud to carry on the blood lines.

           However, there is a sad sequel to this last Texas remmant and it brings the story up to date. It is related by a surviving daughter of Dr. Feris in a letter to me dated January 20, 1934. In it she writes that she inherited her father’s love of the Arabian blood; that the two stallions, Shepherd and Moor were the last they had; that they were bred by her father and died in his possession; that their horses were “Oked” by S. D. Bruce. Then she continues,

               ”We lived in a community that only cared to raise a cow-pony that would respond to the dig of a spur and the swish of a raw-hide quirt. Competent help could not be procured so the herd was turned on the open range and soon nearly all were lost.”

           In another letter to me (Feb. 10, ’34) Miss Feris writes what will interest those who believe in the traditional docility of the Arabian, that

               ”the horse Moslem [stallion] was ridden by the girls of the family; [and] I almost lived in the stable with Abd-el-Kadir; his stall was large. I rode him up and down in it. Whe he tired of my company he would toss me in the manger where I would sleep until my mother would find me.”

    “My love for the Arabian horse will never by shaken,” In the same letter (Mch. 8, ’34) she writes: “My father loved the Arabian horse next to his wife and children.”

           One phase of the picturesque result of the Richards importations is shown in the following except from a letter to me (Jan. 18, ’34) from Mrs. John Pack, a daughter of Mr. Richards:

               ”Among the oldest residents of Georgetown [Ky.] the beautiful Arab horses with the picturesque figure of the dragoman Yousef in native costume at Blue Grass Park, my father’s stock farm, is still a tradition–as well as the dromedaries which he brought over with the idea of using themo his Louisiana plantation for cotton planting.”

           It is difficult to give too much credit to Feris and Richards, both practical horse breeders, for after realizing through experience the superior value of the Arabian and Barb blood as an improving factor in the breeding of the Thoroughbred, they had the courage against opposition, to go through with the difficult problem of obtaining it, both as to the expense involved and the actual physical hazards to which Richards personally subjected himself. For in the 1850’s it was no light matter to undertake two expeditions to the near East, nor was it less than hazardous to have made the desert excursions against the advise of resident missionaries and consuls.

           So much for a review of the narrative of the expeditions and the importations: and now for a few paragraphs about the value of the Eastern blood and Mr. Richards purpose in using it.

           It is not to be supposed for a moment that Mr. Richards’ main purpose was a great increase in speed for the first or second remove. Speed was already, through a hundred years of specializing, the prerogative of the Thoroughbred; but in Mr. Richards’ time the sprint was little thought of, two and four mile heat races were the order of the day so that the breeder who could produce a fast stayer won the honors; and this word is used advisedly because in most cases, in those racing days, the money was secondary.

           The breeders problem was to balance speed with stamina; and Mr. Richards was experimenting. If the Civil War had not interrupted his efforts no doubt experience would have taught him to introduce the Eastern blood less abruptly; that is, not to use the first remove or cross incompetitive races.

           There must have been even in those days, when the Thoroughbred was much closer to the source, a feeling that he was over specialized; otherwise it is hard to explain the worthy English importations and the one like the Richards, to America: all involving much time, great effort (46) and large expense.

           And as for the present-day need of the purest Arabian blood, — of which so extremely little has ever left the Desert, — to bring back soundness and endurance, witness the following:

               ”I venture to fear that what is commonly accepted as the Thoroughbred is today not as good as he was yesterday.”

               ”To return to the foundation after about a centruy’s lapse would be the re-uniting of blood which has made the British breed the foremost in the world, and its fresh transmission might, in the fullness of time, give us yet another Ormond, St. Simon, Persimmon, and a legion of others, the prototype of which are not discoverable in this year of grace.” (47)

               ”That the English horse of the present day is inferior to what he was in the days of Eclipse, no one will doubt who examines the performances of that day. The present race horses are fleet and many can carry their weights; but how few remain on the turf; and one hard race of four miles would injure the best horse in England.” (48)

               ”I have been giving a good deal of attention to the Thoroughbreds lately and I am afraid–indeed I am sure–that he is deriorating, and in considerable mesure owing to the sprint (49) racing which is so popular. We have nothing now of the “Alice Hawthorne” or “Beesway” or “Doctor Syntax” type. It has struck me several times lately that the time has come for another direct Arab cross. The difficulty is how to bring it about. Of course it is the place of the Government to do it for it is not fair that a private individual (50) should undergo the certain loss which will take place, in the early stages, for the public benefit.” (51)

               ”We have been breeding race-horses for more than one hundred years;–does any one familiar with the facts imagine that we have ‘improved the breed of horses’ in that variety in one single particular? Does he realize, on the contrary, that while they have improved in no detail, they have ‘gone back’ in many? Walk into any of our paddocks on a race day; look over the animals as they present themselves for their respective races; and consider the average, not the few good specimens. Bad constitutioned weeds, most of them, almost staggering under the hundred pounds, less or more, they are asked to carry; cravens at two years, rogues at three and wrecks at four…; [they are] so light and frail in make-up that it is almost impossible to find any thing thoroughbred, sound enough, big enough, and quiet enough to use as steeplechasers, cavalry horses, hunters or hacks …” (52)

           But why weary the reader with more quotations of the same kind, by authorities on the subject, numerous enough to fill a book? Enough has been said to show the trend and to show that Richards, contrary to the prejudiced (53) general belief, was justified in his Arabian enterprise.

           Mr. Richards undoubtedly had in mind the breeding of Thoroughbreds that would “improve the breed of horses” for in his stud-bill for Limestone for the year 1880 he inserts in italics in a conspicuous place, this:

           ”An old turfman, writing up his experiences of fifty years, in the Turf, Field and Farm, said of Limestone: ‘He has speed to win races, strength to carry a dragoon and size to draw a carriag‘.” (54)

           At all hazards the breeding of the racing Thoroughbred must be continued for the good of all the present and future light horses of the country. This arguement is used whenever an appropriation bill for breeding comes up in Congress; whenever a threat appears in any state legislature to abolish racing by making race-track betting illegal; or where legal race-track betting has been abolished – to bring it back. But it is not the over specialized scurry-race Thoroughbred, often unsound, weedy, a “roarer,” subject to periodic opthalmia and of bad disposition that will “improve the breed” of horses of the country at large, but the type that, with speed, has the stamina, soundness of wind and limb as well as the even temper of the rare purebred Arabian.

           Any account of the Keene Richards Arabian importations without mention of the talented painter Edward Troye would be distinctly incomplete, for, while the horses have undoubtedly gone to their heavenly grazing fields, the protraits of most of them have been recorded on canvas, for all time, by a too little known painter, but one whose aesthetic expressions place his paintings as high class works of art. And this can be said of very few so called sporting pictures.

           Troye (1803-74) was born near Geneva, Switzerland. His grandfather, a French nobleman, de Troy, was a politcal exile from France. His father was an eminent painter and is represented in the Louvre by the “Plague of Marseilles.” Edward, as well as his brothers and sisters, was well educated and very talented. (55)

           After residing for some time in England, Troye made his home in the United States where he painted portraits of famous race-horses, both runners and trotters, as well as farm animals–mostly in the South. Since some 240 of his paintings have been located, largely through the commendable efforts of Mr. Harry Worcester Smith,–it is astonishing that so large an output of such decided merit should have had such limited recognition.

           Of course, Troye owned much to Mr. Richards’ friendship and patronage of his talent, for he not only lived and died at Blue Grass Park, where he painted numerous pictures for Mr. Richards, but was engaged by him for one of the expeditions to Arabia, in which event we have the unique situation of a horseman enlisting an artist’s eye in selecting types of desert horses. That Mr. Richards was justified in his choice of Troye for this work as well as that of painting the portraits of his horses, is attested by the character of the Richards Arabians as we see them in the Troye paintings. (56)

Image notes and footnotes:

35) “The Horse in America.”: John Gilmer Speed, pp. 32-33.

“The Bagdad [imported to Tripoli from Aleppo; to New York, 1832, by way of England] stock were in great demand in Tennesee at one time, on account of their legs standing the hard pikes better than any other stock. Massoud, Mokhladdi; and Sacklowie, are remarkable in this particular, as their legs did not swell any, during the long sea voyages, on different vessels to America.” A bona fide quotation from an author whose name I have lost. T.C.

36) From a letter of the late Randolph Huntington to Dr. Geo. A. Feris, Dec. 6, 1887. Probably these are the details of the breeding principles that Speed had in mind when he writes: “If Mr. Richards had waited a few generations——–“




This is a very rare and interesting picture for several reasons. Besides being an authentic portrait of Mr. Richards, it shows him in authentic Arab costume of those days and at the same time is a portrait of the horse that was the sire of “Abd-el-Kadir,” shown in the previous issue.

The picture is taken from Ed. Troye’s painting signed and dated by him 1854, and now in possession of Mrs. E.G.Swarta.

Reproduced here through the courtesy of Mr. Richards’ daughter, Mrs. E. G. Swartz.




Horse breeders, attention! Did the British, the greatest breeders of livestock in the world,know th value of Arabian blood when the Thoroughbred was still called the Anglo-Arab? Here is what the Sporting Magazine (English) of March, 1832, has to say of “Muscat.” “We have the honor to present–an exact protrait of the Arab horse ‘Muscat,’ which all must allow is at once creditable to the masterly hand and correct eye of the younger Marshall [a painter], as well as to the beautiful scientific graver of Mr. Romney; but, above all, to the Hon, Col. Finch, for a display of his superior judgment in procuring such a subject; and we have no hesitation in saying, being backed up by judges from whom there is no appeal, the ‘Muscat’ is the only Arabian imported in the present generation calculated to improve, or rather renovate, the English Race-horse, being of good size, perfect symmetry, fine temper, and the purest blood; besides there is in him, bone, muscle strength and action to improve the breed of horses of every grade.”

“Muscat ran three times at Calcutta in 1829, and his performances there were quite creditable to him as a racer, having won two out of the three engagements, and he came in second for the third, carrying 11 st. 7 lbs [161 lbs.]; when eight of their best horses started. His first prize was the gold Cup, given by the Royal Club, two mile heats, 9 st. [126 lbs.] each. He also won the Little Welter stakes, carrying 10 st [140 lbs.], the Round Course (one mile and three quarters), six subscribers.”

Photograph and legend quotation (from the Sporting magazine, March, 1832) reproduced through the courtesy of Miss S. Lavinia Feris, only surviving child of Dr. Feris.


37) R. H. notes at the time of sending horses to Wisconsin. Dec. 9, 1800.

38) Charles du Hays. “The Percheron Horse.” (1868). Translated from the French by W.T.Walters. (1886)

39) Records for 2 miles on the flat: Pradella, 7 years, 116 pounds, 3.19 2-5, at Ascot, June 19, 1906. Exterminator, 5 years, 128 pounds, 3.21 4-5, Belmont, Sept. 15, 1920. World Almanac, 1933.

40) Stud-bill of Limestone; yar 1880. Mokhladdi was imported with Massoud. T.C.

41) There are many other classic examples. T.C.

42) Randolph Huntington to U.S.Grant, Jr., Sept. 27, 1888.

43) Moslem was sold to Canada. T.C.

44) Leopardess ch. m. f. 1836. Bred and owned by Chas. Buford of Ky. By Medoc, 1st dam. (Randolphi dam) by Haxall’s Moses. Produced nine foals. Bruce. A.S.B.

45) Letter to Dr. Geo. A. Feris. Nov. 25, 1887.




The grandsire of “Limestone” was Richards’ imported Arabian “Massoud,” a horse 15 hands high, yet “Limestone” grew to be 16 1/4 hands high. The 10th dam of “Limestone” was Imp. “Selima” (by the Godolphin Arabian who in 1752 at Gloucester, Va., defeated Col. Byrd’s “Tryall” and Col. Taylor’s “Jenny Cameron” at four miles for a purse of 500 pistoles. Note that the 12th, 13th and 14th dams were by Arabian and Barb Horses.

This rare old stud-bill reproduced through the courtesy of Miss S. Lavinia Feris, only surviving child of Dr. Feris.

Data about the race given by Maj. C.A.Benton.



The above is a rare old stud-bill of descendants of Richards’ Arabian importations. These part Arabian horses were still alive in the 1890’s. On the back of the original is a letter in Dr. Feris’ own handwirting which reads in part as follows; “Richmond, Texa, Nov 20-’87,—‘Mocha,’ the dam of ‘Moslem,’ (sire of ‘Moor’) was got by Imported (Arabian) ‘Mokhladdi.” Her dam was got by the great four miler ‘Woodpecker’–2nd dam the 3 mile mare ‘Leopardess’ by ‘Medoc,’ the best son of ‘American Eclipse.’ See Bruce’s American Stud Book, Art. Leopardess.’ “

Read and judge for yourself.——“

Reproduced from the letters and papers of the late Randolph Huntington.


46) It was only through the influence of President Pierce that Richards was able to take his horses out of Arabia. N.Y.Evening Mail, June 7, 1906.

47) Robert S. Sievier, in London Sporting Life. Reprinted in Rider and Driver, April 25, 1931.

48) this a bona fide quotation from an authority whose name I have lost. T.C.

49) “This was one of the most enjoyable days of the season hereabouts. The Hawthorne management had arranged a program unusual in its charactor. Is it because there is a real reaction against the eternal demnition grind of five and six-furlong sprints, and an swakening to the fact that the public really wants to see the horses race? Or what? At any rate, there were no less than four events programmed at distances over a mile, two of them being at a mile and a furlong and two of them at a mile and a quarter—something almost unheard of these days——” “Salvator” in the Thoroughbred Record, August 27, 1932.

50) That Richards undertook it as an individual without the assistance of the New Orleans Jockey Club is verified by a letter to me from Mrs. John Pack, March 9, 1934. T.C.

51) The well known English writer William Scarth Dixon in a letter Jan. 1, 1926, to Major C.A.Benton.

52) Francis M. Ware. Collier’s, June 11, 1910.



On the back of the original title page of this brochure which proves Troye to have been a scholar as he was also a talented painter, is printed the following: “To Keene Richards, Esq., whose pilgrimage to the Eastern lands afforded him a well improved opportunity of visiting the scenes, which are the subject of these strictures, and of whose generous worth the friend and artist cherish a living recollection; these speculations, as a token of gratitude, and in the hope that their crudeness will not detract from the sincerity of the tribute, are inscribed, with affectionate respect, E. Troye.”

The last part of the brochure, dated 1858, describes a painting which Troye made on one of Richards’ expeditions in search of horses and which found its final resting place in a European gallery.

Reproduced here through the courtesy of Mr. Richards’ daughters, Mrs. Edward G. Swartz and Mrs. John Pack.


53) In a letter dated march 24, 1934, to T.C. Miss Feris, who was brought up with Arabian horses, says: “I want every one to know and appreciate the royal blood of the Arabian; it may be criticised by those with ignorance, so we will ignore their opinions and cherish ours.”

In many other cases prejudice against the Arabian is well founded because of the very inferior Eastern blood used. The high-caste Arabian has seldom been seen outside of the Desert. T.C.

54) Note similar comment under illustration of “Muscat.”

55) Arts and Artists of the Capitol of the United States by Charles E. Fairman, 1929, pp. 319-320.

56) Unfortunately the photographic reproductions cannot show Troye’s beautiful colors. T.C.