by Ben Hur (Western Horseman Mar/Apr’45)
Pedigreed, pure-blooded, Thoroughbred, registered — what do they mean to you with reference to a horse? All too often they are used interchangeably and only add to confusion in an attempt to describe a horse.
If you own one or more mares, and contemplate raising colts, then you are interested in the possibility of improvement in the offspring. Improvement can be made by the intelligent choice of a sire. You are interested not only in the horse himself, but for an intelligent understanding of the sire, you are interested in his pedigree and the kind of registration papers belonging to him.
If you are interested in the purchase of a horse or colt for saddle or breeding purposes or both, then you are interested not only in the type and conformation of the individual you are considering, but you are also interested in his background, what he came from. To understand these things, it is necessary to study pedigrees. From these you will get a better idea what you can expect in disposition, performance, endurance and off-spring.
A pedigree is the family lineage of an animal extended for several generations in an accurate, chronological, genealogical form. In addition to the names and registration numbers, other information of value may be added.
You may have a cetificate of registry for your horse, dog or other livestock, but it is of little value to you from a breeding standpoint unless you can draft or obtain an accurate pedigree. Even then a pedigree with names and number only is worth little more than the paper it is written on unless you are personally familiar with pedigrees and have seen or have pictures and accurate descriptions of the animals listed in the pedigree form. The simple pedigree form is like a surveyor’s plot to a lot or farm — without the abstract or detailed description it is practically meaningless. For this reason many people who have given serious thought to pedigree breeding hopelessly throw up their hands in despair before they ever get started, for it seems an impossible job to get started right.
The various registry associations seldom have the time or inclination to furnish extended pedigrees covering the animals they have registered. The registration books they issue covering the animals registered from the Number 1 animal, on down, offer the means whereby anyone may draft their own pedigrees for any animal desired. It becomes a matter of methodical study and research and requires patience and time.
If you have a horse that is registered and you are giving serious consideration to breeding this horse to a registered horse of the opposite sex, it is then that pedigrees are of real value in the hands of students of breeding and the skilled and experienced breeder alike. It is then that membership in the registry club or association and possession of registry books become a valuable asset, for they are the key that unlocks the door to all the hitherto hidden past of the ancestry of your horse. Even these registry books fall far short of giving all the information you will eventually want to know about each and every individual in the pedigree of your horse. You may spend months and years accumulating all the information you desire on each of the animals in the pedigree and what is more important, that of extending the pedigree to the sixth, eighth or tenth generation.
A typical six generation Arabian pedigree:
|The ancestors of this American-bred American mare, as shown in the above pedigree, originated in the United States, England, Egypt and the desert. Note that nine names appear two or more times in the pedigree. The characteristics of these horses are thus multiplied and intensified.|
What is the value of an extended pedigree? The extended pedigree, data and knowledge of each and every animal in the fifth, sixth and seventh generation may open the pages to “skeletons in the closet” of which you little dreamed, and may enable you to fortify your breeding program against glaring defects which would spring out to plague you in offspring yet unborn.
On the other hand you may find many “diamonds” in the extended pedigree, noted animals which you did not know were ancestors of your horse. As you carefully work out each generation you may find the same noted horse, or several of them, appearing again and again in the pedigree as the common ancestor of horses in the more immediate pedigree, and which you did not know were directly related. Thus you will be able to carefully weigh the proportionate strength and weakness of the horses that appear two, three or more times in the pedigree and get valuable, accurate insight into what the offspring will be like.
Have you ever considered how many ancestors you and your horse have? Not until you take a piece of paper and pencil and make you your own diagram and do your own figuring will you begin to realize from what ancestors you and your horse came and how many there really were. It is overwhelming and appalling when you figure up the unknown ancestors and how little you know about the known ancestors in some pedigrees (especially your own.) In each generation there are double the number of ancestors there were in the preceding one. Thus:
|Number of Ancestors||2||4||8||16||32||64||128||256|
Half of the above, of course, are males, half females, and regardless of how you may feel about it, you and your horse both have exactly the same number of ancestors. Fortunately, possible, the curtain has been drawn down on knowledge or information available about most of the ancestors in your own pedigree further than the fourth generation. Not one in one hundred of our readers, I dare say, can give the names of all his ancestors in the fourth generation. but it is not much of a horse, or rather not much of a pedigree of a horse, which does not give accurate information including at least the fourth generation.
“Why all this fuss and bother about all those distant ancestors in the fifth generation on?” you may ask. Because in the pedigree of livestock, horses and dogs, a sound breeding program can be founded on the information revealed in generations as far distant as the eighth and ninth.
Let us challenge that statement. If there are 64 ancestors in the seventh generation, what does it matter how one of them looked or was like — he or she would be only 1/64 and so infinitesimal in the sum total that it would not matter anyway, you might answer. In your own personal pedigree suppose one of the 64 in the seventh generation was a native of central Africa or the bush country of Australia? How would you feel about it and don’t you suppose characteristics peculiar to their race and foreign to your race would come to the surface ever so often in you or your offspring? You have the answer, then, why breeding certain kinds of horses and livestock still results in offspring entirely foreign to what you had expected.
A typical five generation Arabian pedigree:
|The ancestors of this American-bred Arabian stallion originated in the United States, England, Egypt and the desert. The pedigree differs from that of the mare Nadirat on the opposite page in that the sire’s ancestors for a number of generations have been bred in England and Egypt, while the dam’s ancestors go directly to the desert. All but two in the 5th generation are desert-bred; the sire and dam of these two are desert-bred. These desert-bred ancestors represent three importations by Homer Davenport of the United States, Capt. Gainesford of England, Hadje Memmed of Damascus.|
The word “pedigree” is all too often indiscriminately used as a synonym for “pure-breed,” “Thoroughbred,” or “registered.” Such is not the case and a thorough understanding of what each means is highly important to the owner and purchaser of a horse. For example, an accurate pedigree can always be furnished with a pureblooded or Thoroughbred horse, but a pedigree worthy of the name cannot be furnished with many present day “registered” horses. Many present day registered horses have few, if any, ancestors of pureblood or Thoroughbred origin. The ancestors in the third and fourth generation are seldom known, and if so may be known as simply Tom, Dick and Nellie — but from where, what or when remains a secret of the past.
A pedigree worthy of study and use in the improvement of offspring should show sire or dam, preferably both, with at least four or five generations of known ancestry of the same breed. This may seem simple and easy, but let us see.
A breed is generally considered as consisting of animals of a given kind which reproduce their kind with uniformity. The sire and dam have a background of many generations of definite similar breeding. This is about as broad and liberal a definition as can be given.
A PUREBLOOD is among the rarest of our domestic animals. It is a term, however, that is often incorrectly used. Most of our breeds of domestic animals today have at most one or two hundred years of known breeding behind them. In the distant past they were “bred-up” from ancient diminutive, primitive types. Few if any, can lay claim to being pure in the blood of any one species. The Arabian horse, recognized by registration, is the only pureblood species of a horse today. The fat-tailed, black, Karakul sheep, also from the desert, is the only other pure species of domestic animal that we can recall at the moment, that has not undergone vast changes through the introduction of the blood of other types and species. The sacred or Brahma cattle of India are no doubt a distinct species but not domestic animals under our flag.
Not all horses of the Arabian desert are accepted as pure-blood but those that are have some two thousand years of unbroken breeding for purity of blood and type behind them. Scientists have shown that the Arabian horse has one less lumbar vertebra, two less in the tail, than other horses and they agree it is a true sub-species.
The THOROUGHBRED horse is the English version of a running racehorse. He is not a pure-blooded horse. Back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries gradual improvement was made in the running ability of the horses owned by royalty by the importation and use of stallions from the Orient, mostly Arabians.
Until the time of King Charles II (1660-1685) racehorses in England had been bred to a type or a distinct breed. Richard Blome, author of “The Gentleman’s Recreation,”1686) advised those who desired to breed race horses, hunter and road-horses to “choose a Turk, Barb or Spaniard (all horses of Eastern blood) as the stallion, and to select the mare according to her shape and make, with an eye for the work the foal might be intended.” King Charles imported Arab mares into England and they were bred to the stallion known as the Byerly Turk, having been imported in 1689 by Captain Byerly, who used him as a charge in his campaigns in the east.
The Darley Arabian, imported 1706, and the Godolphin Arabian, imported 1730, were exclusively used on the Arab mares which were directly descended from the Royal Mares and the Byerly Turk. Maj. Roger D. Upton in his book “Newmarket and Arabia,” published in London (1873) proves beyond doubt by his carefully compiled pedigrees, that the race horses on the turf of England descend from these three Arab sires and the Royal Mares. The last of these sires, the Godolphin Arabian, died in 1753, aged 29 years.
Breeders of Thoroughbreds in England, developed the running race-horse upon the above foundation. By their system of breeding, selection and racing they made a different type from the early Arabian ancestry and raised the height 1 inch every 25 years from a 14 hands horse on the average in 1700 to a 15 1/2 hands horse in 1900. It will be noted that British breeders of Thoroughbreds have never referred to their horses as “pure-blooded,” although they possibly could justify it if they chose to do so.
Thoroughbreds were, of course, exported to the United States from colonial days to the present time. But the breeders of Thoroughbreds in the United States were not, in the early days, quite so zealous of the purity of their horses. As a result their horses of largely American ancestry trace back in their pedigrees to out-cross, horses of unknown breeding. For this reason Thoroughbreds of American origin are not acceptable for registration in England.
The MORGAN, the American-made horse tracing to a single common ancestor owes its existence to the horse, Justin Morgan. It is quite generally agreed that his blood was largely Arabian. The early Morgan blood went into the formation of the trotting and pacing, harness race-horse. And the blood of the original Morgan horses might lay claim to being 50 per cent of the blood of the original Justin Morgan horse, at best, as no great effort was made to intensify the strain by inbreeding and line inbreeding until it was almost too late. Breeders of Morgans today, however, study their pedigrees very closely and they are making an effort to reclaim as much of the original blood as possible. Some are able to claim as much as 10 per cent or a trifle more of the original Justin blood in some of their hoses. Since Justin was not a pureblood to start with, and so many outcrosses have been made since, away from the original blood-lines, the Morgan cannot be referred to as a “pure-blooded” horse, although many of them have pedigrees back five or more generations in some branches of the family tree.
The AMERICAN SADDLE horse is a later creation, a combination of the blood of early day Thoroughbreds, Arabians and plantation ancestry. A study of a few pedigrees of these horses will quickly reveal that some branches of the family tree in the pedigrees ran into the factor of the unknown ancestor quite frequently. Thus the American Saddle horse is not a Thoroughbred nor a pureblood horse. The study of pedigrees has resulted in inbreeding and line-breeding to intensify the characteristics an and qualities of some of the more illustrious forebears. In time, this will bring about more uniformity of type and characteristics.
Registration certificates are issued by associations for the Arabian, the Thoroughbred, and the Morgan by associations devoted to their propagation. The Arabian, the only pureblood, is represented in this country by The Arabian Horse Club of America. The Arabian of primary unchangeable type, is bred from the same bloodlines (originating in the desert), in England, Poland, France, Spain, Egypt, Australia and a number of South American countries. Each of the registry associations in these various countries demands unqualified proof of absolute purity of blood back to the horses imported from the desert and authenticate by the oath and seal of the Sheiks of the desert. The Arabian of pureblood, registered in one country, is related to Arab horses in other countries and the horses and their certificate of breeding or registry are interchangeable and acceptable among the various countries and associations. The Arabian is alone in this distinction and honor. The rule of absolute purity of blood has made this possible.
The Thoroughbred of English origin is acceptable for registration in the General Stud Book of England, popularly called “Weatherby’s” after its founder, James Weatherby, when the applicant shows proof of registration of the sire and dam of the foal. About 150 years ago James Weatherby collected the pedigrees of English race-horses, purely as a study and personal enterprise. Breeders of Thoroughbreds were first to make use of the modern form of the pedigree and from this collection of pedigrees the plan developed into registration, officially recognized in England and the foundation of the General Stud Book or Weatherby’s. They have maintained a section for the registration of certain Arabians with the idea that after sufficient development of the pure stock in England it might be of assistance and form a “valuable new line of blood” for the future in revitalizing any strains of Thoroughbreds which might weaken and require revitalizing. It is not designed to improve racing stock, but to preserve it when threatened with decay. So zealously have the English guarded against any possibility of bringing in any new blood for their Thoroughbreds of the original royal mares and three Arabian stallions, other than the Arabians just referred to in the special section for them in Weatherby’s, that they will not accept Thoroughbreds for registry bred in the United States of American origin. When of American origin they are all not entirely of Thoroughbred ancestry, which gives you a practical example of some of the fine distinctions among successful breeders, who, without exception study and know pedigrees of their breed, as a preacher knows his bible.
THOROUGHBREDS in the United States are registered in The American Stud Book, owned by The Jockey Club (New York). Registered Thoroughbreds from England or Europe are acceptable for registration here but as noted, Thoroughbreds of American origin are not acceptable for registration in England because of the unknown breeding back in their pedigrees.
The HACKNEY, originally an English saddle horse, tracing largely to early English Thoroughbreds and Arabians, deserves to be mentioned here in passing, but today is considered a harness show horse. They are intensely line-bred and inbred and to this day are frequently fortified by importations from England.
Associations for the registrations of a number of other types and colors of horses have been formed in recent years. Among them are the PALOMINOS, TENNESSEE WALKING HORSES, PINTO, ALBINO, APPALOOSA, QUARTER HORSE, MOROCCO SPOTTED horse and others.
The PALOMINO is not a breed, but a color of horse only, and until recently color was the primary (if not sole) qualification. In his article in the October 28, 1944 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, “Horse of a Different Color,” Theodore Kesting states, “there is no certain way of reproducing them (Palominos) and quoting him further he states that “Pirate Gold — a magnificent stallion, whose ancestry is 25 per cent Arab, is so prepotent that he has produced Palominos out of a black mare.
It is significant that the most prepotent Palominos have as sire or grand-sire a chestnut Arabian or Thoroughbred stallion. A certificate of registration for a Palomino such as Pirate Gold or others of equal fame does not signify purity of blood or a breed, but a certificate originally based on color, regardless of the breeding origin of the various ancestors.
More recently, a group of breeders of American Saddle horses have formed the American Saddle Bred Palomino association, and will attempt to breed Palominos only from horses registered with the American Saddle Horse Breeders association. The American Saddle horse is so new, as breeds in their making go, and with so many different early horses of unknown breeding origin, that breeders are finding it possible by selection, to produce Palomino colors from the registered American Saddle horse. Thus a Palomino from ASHBA registered sire and dam would mean something entirely different than the certificate from the older Palomino association. American Saddle horse breeders of Palominos, from their registered stock in the ASHBA, can register and sell the offspring that are not Palomino, in the usual manner in which they sell American Saddle horses. Thus, they reason, they will have no off-colored or reject foals from their breeding operations, and the Palomino colored horses with this registration and line of breeding will have more uniform type, action and resulting prestige than Palominos of unknown origin.
The ALBINO is acceptable for registration because of his absence of color and pick skin — not on long authenticated bloodlines.
The QUARTER HORSE bears much the same relationship to the early history of the United States as does the Morgan. The Quarter Hose, so named because he was developed and used to run a quarter mile, was developed from early importations from England — Thoroughbreds and Arabians and possibility some Barb blood from North Africa and Spain. The quarter mile race first became popular in Virginia and the colonies on the seaboard to the south. He represents a very definite, distinct type which breeders today are intensifying and perpetuating by careful study of the bloodlines and pedigrees of their best horses. The Quarter Horse in its inception is as old or possibly older than the Thoroughbred or Morgan in this country and pedigrees in the male line run back many years. Due to the fact that there was no official registry association until quite recently many of the early pedigrees have been lost.
The TENNESSEE WALKING horse and the association devoted to its interests have had as a qualification for registration the way of going and gaits peculiar to this type of horse, most of which claim kinship to the Allan line of breeding. Developments of the gaits have been largely a matter of expert training rather than bloodlines. In the hands of experts, Arabians an successfully competed in the shows with Walking horses of the original Allan lines. Qualifications for registration have been changed from time to time and a certificate of registration does not have the significance of uniformity of type and breeding that it does with the older breeds.
The PINTO and APPALOOSA each have associations devoted to their interest and registration is based largely on color pattern. Some of their breeders have freely advocated the use of Thoroughbred and Arabian stallions to bette type and conformation. In time real progress should be the reward.
The MOROCCO SPOTTED horse is yet another, and the association formed in 1936 was “for the purpose of building up and developing the spotted general purpose horse, suitable for either saddle or harness, a farmer’s horse an and stock horse.” The key horses of the Morocco Spotted were Dessel Day and Stuntney Benedict. Dessel Day was a definitely marked piebald, foaled in 1887 in France, imported to the United States. Stuntney Benedict, a piebald Hackney, was foaled in England, 1900, and imported in 1907. Some of the Moroccos today are intensely linebred in these two key stallions, so we have here another breed in the making with pedigrees forming a more and more important part in the development.