The Mistress of Crabbet

Copyright 1990 by R.J. CADRANELL from Arabian Visions March 1990

Used by permission of RJ Cadranell

Judith Blunt was five years old when the first Arabians arrived at Crabbet Park in 1878. By the time she died in 1957, she had spent 79 years with the breed, and the Crabbet Stud had owned or bred more than a thousand horses. Her position was unique. Modern Arabian horse breeding in the English-speaking world dates from 1874. Lady Wentworth was a part of it, originally as an observer and later as a dominant force, almost from the beginning. Many Americans became involved with the Arabian horse during the 1940s and 1950s, when the breed was moving out of the realm of rare breeds and into the equestrian mainstream. These people owned and bred their horses in Lady Wentworth’s shadow. This titled aristocrat had been involved with the breeding of Arabian horses longer than most of them had been alive. She had bred some of the most cherished ancestors in the pedigrees of their horses: *Raffles, *Raseyn, and *Rissletta (dam of Abu Farwa). She lived on a fabled estate almost none of them had ever seen. Her death brought with it the awe and dismay which accompanies the demise of hallowed institutions expected to last forever.

Lady Wentworth kept her distance, secluding herself at Crabbet. Her many books loudly praise Crabbet horses and inadvertently give us glimpses of her eccentric personality, but it is impossible to look at her or her breeding program through them alone. Other sources aid our understanding of this key figure.

Lady Anne Blunt’s published Journals and Correspondence indicate that Judith’s interest in the stud was never desultory. Nonetheless, Lady Anne Blunt often expressed disappointment at her daughter’s apparent lack of interest in continuing the stud when she herself would be gone. After Lady Anne Blunt died and Judith inherited from her the title of Lady Wentworth, there was no doubt about her desire to control the Crabbet Stud

Lady Anne Blunt died at the end of 1917. Beginning in 1918, Wilfrid Blunt had been removing horses by night from the Crabbet stables and stockpiling them at his estate at Newbuildings. Lady Wentworth learned to lock her paddock gates. During the ensuing lawsuit, perhaps in anticipation of the court coming down on her father’s side, Lady Wentworth began gathering scattered Crabbet animals. She repurchased the stallion Nadir from George Ruxton. She also repurchased the mares Jask, Amida, and Kibla. Her son-in-law lent her Rish. She and her children forcibly removed the mare Riyala, a special favorite of Lady Wentworth’s, from her father’s stables. With these she had the makings of her own Crabbet program to rival her father’s at Newbuildings.

Lady Wentworth was 47 years old when the courts settled the lawsuit in her favor on March 5, 1920. The first Arabians returned from Newbuildings on April 16. In the interim, Lady Wentworth had acquired a grey stallion named Skowronek. Skowronek was one of very few Arabians with no Crabbet ancestors which Lady Wentworth used for breeding, and the only one to become a part of her long-term program. He had been bred in Poland at Count Potocki’s Antoniny Stud. The Blunts had admired many of the Potocki mares during their visits to Antoniny, but their writings indicate they did not consider Antoniny a viable source of Crabbet foundation stock. The disputed Riyala was one of the first mares Lady Wentworth bred to Skowronek. She named the foal Revenge, and proceeded to weave Skowronek into the Crabbet tapestry.

When the horses returned to Crabbet, Lady Wentworth found herself the owner of between 80 and 90 Arabians. Many of these were excess colts and breeding stallions. She was able to reduce the herd by selling nearly 20 to Egypt’s Royal Agricultural Society. During the lawsuit, she had complained about her father turning horses into cash. Now that she was able to choose which horses would go and which stay home, sales were known as reducing the herd to a manageable size.

The period from 1920 to 1930 was a time of great experimentation at Crabbet. The genetic base was broad, and Lady Wentworth broadened it further with Skowronek blood and by continuing to reacquire Crabbet horses her parents had sold into other hands. The mare band was in full production, with nearly every mare covered every year. Lady Wentworth bred mares to a variety of sires, giving them a chance to show what they could produce by each. Lady Wentworth conducted a number of experiments in inbreeding. Rasim, *Nureddin II, and Skowronek all had the chance to sire foals out of their own daughters. Rasim was also bred to his dam, Risala. The most famous result of these consanguineous matings was *Raffles, a favorite of many American breeders from the late 1930s to the present. Among the horses Lady Wentworth returned to Crabbet during the 1920s were *Nureddin II, *Battla, Astola, Jawi-Jawi, Fejr, Nessima, Riz, and Rythma. She also bought the all Crabbet Savile-bred mare Julnar. In doing this, she was able to revive lines which had died out at Crabbet itself, in particular the Basilisk and Johara families. Halima briefly returned the Bint Helwa line. With Fejr to represent the Ferida family, Lady Wentworth was able to let the bay *Ferda go to the Kellogg Ranch in 1920.

Many of the horses Lady Wentworth bred during the 1920s travelled the globe and ended up changing the course of world Arabian breeding, whether in Australia, the United States, Poland, Brazil, Egypt, Russia, or Spain. Of those which stayed home for a time, among the most important to Crabbet’s future turned out to be Shareer, Naseem, Razina, Silver Fire, Rissam, Raseem, Ferhan, and Astrella.

Crabbet’s breeding peak under Lady Wentworth was in 1929, when nearly 30 broodmares were covered for 1930 foals. By 1931, the Depression had caught up with Crabbet. Lady Wentworth cut production by a third. The 1932 foal crop of eight was the smallest Wentworth crop yet. In 1933 only two foals were born. Although foal production expanded slightly in 1934 and 1935, Crabbet was overstocked and in financial trouble. A discouraged Lady Wentworth contemplated giving up the Crabbet Stud.

In 1936, however, a major reduction took place. Lady Wentworth sold 25 horses to Russia’s Tersk Stud, three to America’s Kellogg Ranch, and other horses went singly in 1936 or ’37 to new owners in Australia, Portugal, Brazil, Holland, and England. With numbers reduced and the genetic base narrowed, foal production at Crabbet continued on a limited basis as the Depression era abruptly ended and the war years began.

During the war Lady Wentworth’s aunt, Mary Lovelace, died and left her a large fortune. It marked the end of the financial problems which had hampered Lady Wentworth’s management of the Crabbet Stud from the beginning. In 1926 Lady Wentworth’s son, Anthony Lytton Milbanke, later the fourth Earl of Lytton, visited W.K. Kellogg. Kellogg had, earlier that year, bought a number of horses from Lady Wentworth. In a memo dated July 27, 1926, Kellogg recorded that “Mr. Milbanke stated that the propagating of horses by his mother had not proven profitable; he mentioned that this year had been an exception, and was the most profitable year that they had ever had.” This apparently refers to the more than $80,000 Kellogg had paid Lady Wentworth for his horses.

When the war ended, Lady Wentworth had been learning about Arabian breeding for 68 years. Despite the smaller numbers born during the Depression and war years, the breeding program had continued to advance. Of the horses born at Crabbet during the Depression, the most important to its future were Sharima, Indian Gold, Indian Crown, and Sharfina. If Lady Wentworth had spent the 1920s finding the way she wanted to go, then the 1930s saw the birth of the horses she needed to get there. During the war these elements began to come together in horses like Grey Royal, Silver Gilt, Indian Magic, Silfina, and *Serafina. By the spring of 1946, nothing stood in the way. Lady Wentworth was free to apply her knowledge to the production of horses which matched her ideals. Although foal production had increased toward the end of the war, the 1947 crop was the first to evidence the expanding breeding program. Ten foals was a large crop during the years between 1936 and 1946. After the war, Lady Wentworth’s foal crops again reached toward the mark of 20.

Post-war breeding at Crabbet produced its own distinctive stamp of Crabbet Arabian. Since 1920 Lady Wentworth had been culling the herd and selecting for the characteristics she most admired. The breeding she did in her later years stressed a few key animals, namely Raktha, Oran, Sharima, Silver Fire, Indian Gold, and Nisreen. Raktha and Oran were bred at Lady Yule’s Hanstead Stud from straight Crabbet bloodlines; Lady Wentworth bought them as youngsters. It is difficult to imagine post-war Crabbet without these two stallions. Writers often comment on Lady Wentworth’s knack for recognizing the potential of immature stock. Part of this was no doubt because she had spent her entire life watching animals of Crabbet breeding go from birth to old age. No one else was similarly qualified to predict how a young Crabbet Arabian would look at maturity. After the war, Lady Wentworth also added to her mare band from English studs using Crabbet lines. Included were Indian Flower and *Silver Crystal.

The movie footage of Lady Wentworth’s parades (what we in America might think of as “open houses”) of 1952 and 1953 document what she had achieved. With a remarkable degree of consistency, the films show us tall Arabians with upright carriage and lofty bearing. They are regal, magnetic animals with tremendous presence and arched necks. They seem to move well. Faults showing up in the herd with some frequency are long backs and a tendency to stand high behind. When Lady Wentworth died in August of 1957, she owned about 75 of these “Modern Crabbet” Arabians. To American breeders, the best known examples of Modern Crabbet horses are probably *Serafix, *Silver Vanity, and *Silver Drift. As impressive as these horses were, they replaced the wider variety of Arabian types which had graced Crabbet in earlier days.

With a few exceptions, Lady Wentworth stayed within the parameters of the Crabbet herd as her parents had defined it. The first and most lasting exception was Skowronek. By the time Lady Wentworth died, very few of her horses had pedigrees without Skowronek in them. In 1928 Lady Wentworth began using the stallion Jeruan, whose pedigree traced to the non-Crabbet desert-bred horses El Emir and Maidan. Lady Wentworth used none of his foals for breeding, but Roger Selby imported Jeruan’s daughter *Rishafieh to America, where she had a successful breeding career. In 1930 Lady Wentworth bred a number of mares to the Thoroughbred stallion Mighty Power, an experiment in Anglo-Arab breeding which apparently did not last at Crabbet. In 1946 Lady Wentworth purchased a remarkable yearling colt named Dargee. A sensationally successful show horse, Dargee traced to several non-Crabbet imported lines, namely those of Dwarka, Mootrub, El Emir, Ishtar, and Kesia II. Dargee was a successful cross on the Crabbet mares and Lady Wentworth did use his offspring Royal Crystal, Sirella, and Indian Peril for breeding, but that is the furthest extent to which she had incorporated him at the time of her death.

Many breeders of Arabian horses have suspected that certain coat colors are usually found in conjunction with recognizable types. Since there is no way to quantify a horse’s “look” in the scientific sense, the science of genetics is not yet able to tell whether this is so. Coat color was important to Lady Wentworth’s breeding program. She exhibited a preference for grey horses all her life. Her first recorded favorite in her mother’s Journals was the grey mare Basilisk, apparently the first Arabian she ever rode. Judith Blunt was six at the time.

The Blunts seem to have selected against grey to a certain extent. Greys were harder to sell to military remounts and government studs, a significant portion of the Blunts’ customer base. This was due to greys being easier targets on the battlefield, as well as grey hair being more obvious on dark uniforms. For the most part, it is only generals who are depicted on white horses. The last of the three grey sires the Blunts used was Seyal, sold to India in 1904. With the exception of a non-productive breeding to Rosemary, the GSB records that the Blunts restricted Seyal to grey mares. Mrs. Archer states that Judith was anxious for her mother to find another grey stallion for the stud, but that she was unsuccessful in her search (History and Influence, page 146.) During the lawsuit, Lady Wentworth claimed that her mother had intended for her to have every grey mare in the stud.

Reconstructed lists of the Crabbet herd at the time immediately after the settling of the lawsuit indicate that slightly more than half of the horses were bay or brown, a third were chestnut, and the remaining 15% were grey. The figures concur with Lady Anne Lytton’s recollection of the period, recorded in her article “Memories of the Crabbet Stud,” from the August, 1963 Arabian Horse Journal: “…bays were more common than chestnuts…[but] when Lady Wentworth took over the Stud I think she found that the quality among the chestnuts was much higher, with a few notable exceptions. At the time of her death there was not a bay left at Crabbet. She was not very fond of bays…” *Nizzam was one of the last bays foaled at Crabbet.

To speak today of an Arabian of “Crabbet Type” is a misleading oversimplification. Among Lady Wentworth’s horses, *Raffles and Grand Royal come to mind as two vastly different extremes. The Blunts owned animals as different from one another as Rijm and Sobha. Today, finding an Arabian of pure Crabbet pedigree is as difficult as finding one with no Crabbet blood at all. In a 1% sampling of 80 pedigrees from vol. XL (1982) of our stud book, the writer found that every one had Crabbet ancestry, including those in the pure Polish and straight Spanish categories. In spite of the present dilution of Crabbet blood, and in spite of the variety of horses Crabbet owned, certain ancestors reappear again and again in their descendants. Once familiar with them, it is possible to recognize the influences of Rodania, Mesaoud, Skowronek, Sharima, Feluka, and the rest of the pantheon of Crabbet luminaries.

Index to English-Bred Arabians Named Above
Amida 1913 cm Ibn Yashmak/Ajramieh Crabbet
Astola 1910 bm Rijm/Asfura Crabbet
Astrella 1929 cm Raseem/Amida Crabbet
*Battla 1915 gm Razaz/Bukra Crabbet
Dargee 1945 cs Manasseh/Myola G. H. Ruxton
Feluka 1899 cm Mesaoud/Ferida Crabbet
*Ferda 1913 bm Rustem/Feluka Crabbet
Ferhan 1925 cs *Raswan/Fejr Crabbet
Fejr 1911 cm Rijm/Feluka Crabbet
Grand Royal 1947 cs Oran/Sharima Crabbet
Grey Royal 1942 gm Raktha/Sharima Crabbet
Halima 1916 bm Razaz/Hamasa A.D.Fenton
Indian Crown 1935 cm Raseem/Nisreen Crabbet
Indian Flower 1939 cm Irex/Nisreen Miss I. Bell
Indian Gold 1934 cs Ferhan/Nisreen Crabbet
Indian Magic 1945 gs Raktha/Indian Crown Crabbet
Indian Peril 1952 cm Dargee/Indian Pearl Crabbet
Jask 1910 gm *Berk/Jellabieh Crabbet
Jawi-Jawi 1912 cm Rijm/Jiwa C.W.Laird
Jeruan 1920 cs Nureddin II/Rose of Persia A.J.Powdrill
Julnar 1911 cm *Abu Zeyd/Kabila G.Savile
Kibla 1900 gm Mesaoud/Makbula Crabbet
Nadir 1901 bs Mesaoud/Nefisa Crabbet
Naseem 1922 gs Skowronek/Nasra Crabbet
Nessima 1909 bm Rijm/Narghileh Crabbet
Nisreen 1919 bm *Nureddin II/Nasra Crabbet
*Nizzam 1943 bs Rissam/Nezma Crabbet
*Nureddin II 1911 cs Rijm/Narghileh Crabbet
Oran 1940 cs Riffal/Astrella Hanstead
*Raffles 1926 gs Skowronek/*Rifala Crabbet
Raktha 1934 gs Naseem/Razina Hanstead
Raseem 1922 cs Rasim/Riyala Crabbet
*Raseyn 1923 gs Skowronek/Rayya Crabbet
Rasim 1906 cs Feysul/Risala Crabbet
Razina 1922 cm Rasim/Riyala Crabbet
Revenge 1921 gs Skowronek/Riyala Crabbet
Rijm 1901 cs Mahruss/*Rose of Sharon Crabbet
Risala 1900 cm Mesaoud/Ridaa Crabbet
Rish 1903 bm Nejran/Rabla Crabbet
*Rishafieh 1930 cm Jeruan/Rishafa Crabbet
Rissam 1928 cs Naseem/Rim Crabbet
*Rissletta 1930 cm Naseem/Risslina Crabbet
Riyala 1905 cm *Astraled/Ridaa Crabbet
Riz 1916 bm Razaz/*Rijma Crabbet
Rosemary 1886 bm Jeroboam/Rodania Crabbet
Royal Crystal 1952 gs Dargee/Grey Royal Crabbet
Rythma 1914 bm *Berk/Risala Crabbet
*Serafina 1945 cm Indian Gold/Sharfina Crabbet
*Serafix 1949 cs Raktha/*Serafina Crabbet
Seyal 1897 gs Mesaoud/Sobha Crabbet
Shareer 1923 bs *Nureddin II/Selima Crabbet
Sharfina 1937 cm Rytham/Sharima Crabbet
Sharima 1932 cm Shareer/Nashisha Crabbet
Silfina 1944 cm Indian Gold/Sharfina Crabbet
*Silver Crystal 1937 gm Rangoon/Somara W. Hay
*Silver Drift 1951 gs Raktha/*Serafina Crabbet
Silver Fire 1926 gm Naseem/Somra Crabbet
Silver Gilt 1943 gm Indian Gold/Silver Fire Crabbet
*Silver Vanity 1950 gs Oran/Silver Gilt Crabbet
Sirella 1953 cm Dargee/Shalina Crabbet


Arab Horse Society, The. The Arab Horse Stud Book 7 vols. England, 1919-52.

Archer, Rosemary, Colin Pearson, and Cecil Covey. The Crabbet Arabian Stud. Gloucestershire, 1978.

Archer, Rosemary, and James Fleming, editors. Lady Anne Blunt, Journals and Correspondence. Gloucestershire, 1986.

Blunt, Wilfrid S. My diaries. 2 vols. New York, 1922.

Kellogg Ranch Papers, The. Collection held by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, California.

London Times, February 20 & 21, 1920.

Parkinson, Mary Jane, The Kellogg Arabian Ranch. 1977.

Weatherby & Sons. The General Stud Book, vols. 13-35, London, 1877-1965.

Wentworth, Lady. The Authentic Arabian Horse. 3rd., 1979.