A Hungarian Horseman in Egypt: General Von Pettko-Szandtner and the Arabians of the Agricultural Organization

copyright by R.J.CADRANELL
from Arabian Visions May/Jun 1993
Used by permission of RJCadranell

Between the two world wars, the Hungarian state stud of Babolna “was known as the Mecca of European Arab breeding,” Erika Schiele wrote in The Arab Horse in Europe. She continued,

“The stud owed this prestige mostly to the unforgettable General Tibor von Pettko- Szandtner, commandant from 1932 to 1942. He was well known in Germany, earning storms of applause at Aachen Show when he turned out with Arabian or Lipizzan five-in-hands. He applied his principles in breeding in three departments: pure-bred, part-bred Arab, and Lipizzan. The criterion for all three was the same: ‘A horse must be handsome, possess quality both inwardly and outwardly and arouse enthusiasm by its action.'”

In later years the General directed the Egyptian government Arabian breeding program and attracted acclaim to it. During the General’s tenure horses were exported from Egypt to Germany, the U.S.S.R., and the United States. In the decade after General von Pettko-Szandtner left Egypt horses of his breeding were sent to Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Nigeria, Syria, the U.S.S.R., and Yemen — but the greatest number came to the United States. The General bred *Ansata Ibn Halima, the only imported Egyptian stallion to sire both a U.S. national champion stallion and a U.S. national champion mare; and *Morafic, the leading imported Egyptian sire of national winners. In Germany, Ghazal was a popular sire while Hadban Enzahi revitalized the breeding program at Marbach. Aswan was a key sire at Tersk in Russia and his influence is now spreading through the Polish state studs.

World traveler and Arabian horse devotee Carl Raswan wrote of the General as “not only one of Europe’s great horsemen, but also a distinguished scientist, scholar, cavalry officer and stud manager of the first rank, honoured and loved in every country wherever he showed his famous horses under the saddle or in harness.” Raswan wrote that his contact with General von Pettko-Szandtner extended from the pre-Warld War I years to the end of the General’s life. According to Raswan, the General “was born in 1886 on the Hungarian studfarm of his father. During the First World War he served four years in the artillery and returned after the war to his work (management of the Hungarian studfarms.)”         

In 1932 the General became commandant at Babolna. Among the chief sires he used at Babolna were the purebred Arabians Koheilan VIII, Mersuch II and Mersuch III, Siglavy Bagdady IV, and the desert bred Kuhaylan Zaid. Among his chief Shagya stallions were Gazal II, O’Bajan VII, and Shagya XXV.

The General left Babolna in 1942 when he was called to Budapest to join the Agricultural Ministry, heading all of Hungary’s state stud farm. He held this position until 1945 when, along with thousands of other Hungarians, the coming of the Russians forced him to flee the country. This ended General von Pettko-Szandtner’s association with the Hungarian horse breeding industry. According to the General’s friend and associate Laszlo Monostory, today the sole surviving pre-World ‘War II commandant of a Hungarian state stud, it was an association which had lasted 43 years. As with the Polish state studs, Hungary’s Babolna, Mexohegyes, and Kisber were decimated during the war. Now homeless, the General and his wife went from Germany to Sweden.

The president of Egypt’s Royal Agricultural Society, Mohammed Taher Pasha, had visited Babolna during the General’s tenure. He now contacted the General about accepting the directorship of the Society’s Kafr Farouk Stud near Cairo. In 1949 General von Pettko-Szandtner, then in his 60’s, moved with his wife to Egypt to take on the task of breeding and managing Egypt’s national Arabian horse stud.

General von Pettko-Szandtner developed many aspects of the society’s operation. Stables, administrative buildings, and living quarters were remodeled or built from scratch. New paddocks were fenced. The General undertook extensive landscaping projects, including the planting of trees and grass. Judith Forbis visited the farm shortly after the General’s departure in 1959 and reported,

“The farm was kept immaculate, flowers bloomed gaily in the gardens, and the corral fences were kept sparkling white.”

With the reorganization and improvement of the physical plant also came the General’s restructuring of the breeding program. He culled the broodmare band, keeping only those mares with the type, conformation, and pedigree to meet his standards. He applied the same selectivity to the stallion battery, retiring older stallions he found faulty or unsuitable and drawing some of his replacements from the Society’s several stallion depots. Nazeer was among the latter, and in America General von Pettko-Szandtner is probably best known today as the one who incorporated Nazeer into the Society’s breeding herd.

The next major reorganization of the herd came with the absorption of the horses from King Farouk’s Inshass stud. In The Classic Arabian Horse, Judith Forbis tells the story:

“When King Farouk was deposed, the R.A.S. was renamed the more democratic-sounding Egyptian Agricultural Organization and the name Kafr Farouk was changed to El-Zahraa. At that time the General became responsible for selecting what remained of the ex-king’s horses. He screened them rigidly, breeding them apart at another farm until he decided which ones to approve for incorporation with the old society herd.”

In 1959 the time came for the General to leave Egypt. He and his wife moved to Germany to seek treatment for his advancing cancer, living as the guests of a Bavarian prince. According to Carl Raswan General Tibor von Pettko-Szandtner died in the spring of 1961. Raswan wrote in 1961 that

his memory lives forever not only in the hearts of his beloved people — the Hungarians — but also among the Egyptians and horse-lovers all over the world.

By using the listings in The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt one can analyze General von Pettko-Szandtner’s breeding program in Egypt. He worked toward increasing the numbers of the mare band and foal crops in Egypt. The 1950 and 1951 foal crops of the R.A.S. numbered fewer than 20. By the late 1950’s the number was closer to 30, with the Inshass mares contributing additional foals.

Most of the stallions the General used in his breeding had been born before he arrived in Egypt. The principal R.A.S./E.A.O. stallions he used, listed in order of approximate number of foals they sired for him (as tallied from The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt), are as follows:

1. Nazeer, 1934 grey (Mansour x Bint Samiha, by Kasmeyn). Although his first large foal crop did not arrive until 1952, Nazeer sired more foals for the General than any other stallion — approximately 100 born from 1950 through 1960. Laszlo Monostory says the General described Nazeer to him as a fine skinned grey with correct legs and good action. He had a great nobility of type, and many people feel he was a major source of quality in modern Egyptian breeding. Nazeer died in 1960.

2. Sid Abouhom, 1936 grey (El Dere x Layla, by Ibn Rabdan) began as the General’s head sire, with more foals than any of the other stallions in the 1950, 1951, and 1954 crops. He remained one of the General’s primary stallions throughout General von Pettko-Szandtner’s stay in Egypt, siring approximately 70 foals for him. Laszlo Monostory wrote that von Szandtner described Sid Abouhom as a large, strongly made horse with particularly good withers and hocks. Sid Abouhom was also known as a good mover. He died in 1963.

3. Gassir, 1941 grey (Kheir x Badia, by Ibn Rabdan) never monopolized a foal crop, but the General used him steadily throughout the 1950s. Gassir sired just over 20 foals for General von Pettko-Szandtner. According to Laszlo Monostory, the General considered Gassir to be another well made, good moving horse with correct legs. Gassir died in 1970.

4. El Sareei, 1942 bay (Shahloul x Zareefa, by Kasmeyn) sired almost as many foals for General von Pettko-Szandtner as did Gassir. His first foal did not arrive until 1955. That year, the General made El Sareei, along with Nazeer, the major sire for the 1956 foal crop. Mr. Monostory records that the General considered El Sareei a particularly handsome, good moving horse with notably good tail carriage. El Sareei died in 1967.

5. Sharkasi was a grey racehorse of T.G.B. Trouncer’s. After Trouncer died in 1955 the E.A.O. acquired Sharkasi. He sired a few foals for General von Pettko-Szandtner in 1955. Larger numbers came in 1959 and 1960 from the Inshass mares.

6. Mashhour, 1941 brown (Shahloul x Bint Rustem, by Rustem) was used at the beginning and again at the end of General von Pettko-Szandtner’s tenure in Egypt for a total of just over ten foals.

7. Sayyad el Lel (Mashaan x El Dahma, by Rustem) was born in 1938. His number of foals for the General was also just over ten, but these foals were all born from the years 1951 to 1953.

8. Azmi, grey (Sid Abouhom x Malaka) was born in the early 1950s. He sired fewer than ten foals, all born in 1957 and 58. Azmi was exported to the U.S.S.R. in 1958.

9. Balance, 1928 grey (Ibn Samhan x Farida), had been a successful race horse in years past. According to Monostory, the General felt Balance had good bone structure but was not as typey as the other stallions. He was a minor sire for General von Pettko-Szandtner. Since Balance was an older stallion, the General was able to incorporate the Balance influence through his pick of the Balance daughters born before General von Pettko-Szandtner came to Egypt. Balance died in 1960.

10. El Amin, 1947 chestnut (Shahloul x Rowala, by Ibn Samhan) sired two foals born in 1954.

11. *Morafic, 1956 grey (Nazeer x Mabrouka) was a young stallion just coming into use as the General was leaving Egypt. He became an important sire at the E.A.O., and was imported to the United States in 1965 by Douglas Marshall of Gleannloch Farms.

The stallions Amro, El Dalil, and El Nasser were minor sires; each got one foal for him listed in The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt.

General von Pettko-Szandtner’s Broodmares from the R.A.S. Herd


General von Pettko-Szandtner is said to have chosen his broodmares carefully from the R.A.S. mares foaled before 1950. The mares named in the chart at left produced R.A.S./E.A.O. foals listed in The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt during the period from 1950 to 1960.

The group included seven daughters each from Shahloul and Sheikh el Arab, five Balance daughters, three each from Ibn Rabdan and Kheir, two each from Gamil III and Hamran II, and one daughter each of Kasmeyn, Mashaan, Nabras, Baiyad, Mansour, El Garie, El Nasser, Awad, Registan, Ibn Manial, Ibn Samhan, Zareef, and Sid Abouhom. When von Pettko-Szandtner began placing young mares of his own breeding in the mare band, they were overwhelmingly daughters of Nazeer and Sid Abouhom (see chart [which follows]).

Broodmares the General singled out for admiration in his correspondence with Laszlo Monostory include Moniet el Nefous, Bukra, Nefisa, Maisa, Shams, and Salwa. Raswan described Moniet el Nefous as von Pettko-Szandtner’s favorite mare.

In arranging breedings, von Pettko-Szandtner paired a mare with a variety of stallions over the years. For example, Nefisa had foals by Sid Abouhom, Nazeer, and El Sareei, as did Maysouna. The General’s registered foals from Bukra were all by Nazeer, and Medallela’s were all by Sid Abouhom, but such exclusive pairings were the exception.

The military coup resulting in King Farouk’s being deposed happened on July 23, 1952. After the coup the horses from his Inshass stud were scattered in several directions, but a core was kept intact and the horses temporarily bred separately from the E.A.O. herd. The first foals from E.A.O. stallions crossed on Inshass mares arrived in 1959. The same years saw the birth of foals by the Inshass stallion Anter out of E.A.O. mares. In 1960 there came many more foals by Anter and out of E.A.O. mares. Anter and Sameh became the most used Inshass stallions after the coup. Aboud and Bedr were also frequently used Inshass sires in the middle 1950’s.

Zareefa 1927 b Kasmeyn x Durra, by Saadun
Bint Farida 1931 gr Mansour x Farida, by Saklawi II
Samha 1931 gr Baiyad x Bint Samiha, by Kasmeyn
Zamzam 1932 gr Gamil III x Bint Radia, by Mabrouk Manial
Gamalat 1934 gr Ibn Samhan x Bint Gamila, by Mabrouk Manial
Kahila 1934 b Ibn Rabdan x Bint Rustem, by Rustem
Medallela 1935 ch Awad x Khafifa, by Ibn Samhan
Bint Zareefa 1936 gr Balance x Zareefa (above)
Komeira 1937 gr Nabras x Layla, by Ibn Rabdan
Kateefa 1938 gr Shahloul x Bint Rissala, by Ibn Yashmak
Ragia 1938 ch Ibn Rabdan x Farida, by Saklawi II
Shams 1938 b Mashaan x Bint Samiha, by Kasmeyn
Zahra 1938 ch Hamran II x El Yatima, by Ibn Rabdan
Badr 1939 b Registan x Bint Samiha, by Kasmeyn
Salwa 1939 bl Ibn Rabdan x Bint Rustem, by Rustem
Helwa 1940 gr Hamran II x Bint Farida (above)
Kawsar 1940 ch Ibn Manial x Zamzam (above)
Atlus 1941 gr Zareef x Zamzam (above)
Malaka 1941 gr Kheir x Bint Bint Riyala, by Gamil Manial
Yashmak 1941 b Sheikh el Arab x Bint Rissala, by Ibn Yashmak
Bukra 1942 gr Shahloul x Bint Sabah, by Kasmeyn
Kamla 1942 gr Sheikh el Arab x Samha (above)
Futna 1943 gr Shahloul x Farida, by Saklawi II
Yosreia 1943 gr Sheikh el Arab x Hind, by Ibn Rabdan
El Bataa 1944 b Sheikh el Arab x Medallela (above)
Halima 1944 b Sheikh el Arab x Ragia (above)
Rouda 1944 b Sheikh el Arab x Fasiha, by Awad
Amara 1945 ch Kheir x Zahra (above)
Lateefa 1945 gr Gamil III x Salwa, by Ibn Rabdan
Nefisa 1945 gr Balance x Helwa (above)
Om el Saad 1945 gr Shahloul x Yashmak (above)
Afaf 1946 gr Balance x Badr (above)
Fadila 1946 gr Sheikh el Arab x Atlus (above)
Moniet el Nefous 1946 ch Shahloul x Wanisa, by Sheikh el Arab
Turra 1946 gr Balance x Layla, by Ibn Rabdan
Zaafarana 1946 gr Balance x Samira, by Ibn Rabdan
Halawa 1947 ch Shahloul x Medallela (above)
Khairia 1948 ch El Garie x Kawsar (above)
Maisa 1948 gr Shahloul x Zareefa (above)
Maysouna 1948 br Kheir x Shams (above)
Sehr 1948 bl El Nasser x Salwa (above)
Galila 1949 gr Sid Abouhom x Rouda (above)

The “Next Generation” Broodmares (mares born in 1950 or later with E.A.O. foals born by 1960 and listed in The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt)  

Dahma II 1950 gr Nazeer x Futna
Elwya 1950 gr Sid Abouhom x Zareefa
Fathia 1950 gr Sid Abouhom x Shams
Saklawia II 1950 ch Mashhour x Zamzam
Farasha 1951 gr Sid Abouhom x Yosreia
Fayza II 1951 ch Sid Abouhom x Nefisa
*Ghazalahh 1951 gr Mashhour x Bint Farida
Mabrouka 1951 ch Sid Abouhom x Moniet el Nefous
Rahma 1951 b Mashhour x Yashmak
Hemmat 1952 gr Sid Abouhom x Maysouna
Samia 1952 gr Nazeer x Malaka
Tahia 1952 gr Gassir x Kawsar
Abla 1953 gr Nazeer x Helwa
Ahlam II 1953 ch Sid Abouhom x Bint Zareefa
Fatin 1953 gr Nazeer x Nefisa
Kamar 1953 gr Nazeer x Komeira
Mamlouka 1953 ch Nazeer x Malaka
Bint Kateefa 1954 ch Sid Abouhom x Kateefa
Mouna 1954 ch Sid Abouhom x Moniet el Nefous
Nazeera 1954 gr Nazeer x Malaka
Souhair 1954 br Sid Abouhom x Salwa
Rafica 1955 gr Nazeer x Om el Saad
Shahrzada 1955 gr Nazeer x Yosreia
Zahia II 1956 br El Sareei x Zaafarana

Approximately 24 different Inshass broodmares produced foals in 1959 and 1960. They included Hafiza, Ghorra, Shahbaa, and Rooda.

The Inshass herd had many lines in common with the E.A.O. stock of von Pettko-Szandtner’s time, but it also included lines distinct from it — most notably some gift mares from the House of Sa’ud. By 1960 the Inshass mares had arrived at El-Zahraa and the two groups have since then been bred as more or less one herd.

It is not clear to this writer to what extent von Pettko-Szandtner would have integrated the Inshass lines with the E.A.O.’s existing herd had he remained in Egypt, but clearly an intermingling was already underway when he left. The Austro-Hungarian military horse breeding tradition of which he was a part made repeated and regular use of outcross bloodlines. Early to mid-20th century pedigrees of both purebred and Shagya Arabians from the Hungarian state studs show a minimum of inbreeding and regular use of outcross animals.

General von Pettko-Szandtner’s purebred Arabian breeding at Babolna was mostly scattered or destroyed during World War II. It lives on mainly as trace elements in some Polish pedigrees. It seems ironic that this great Hungarian horseman should have had his largest influence on world Arabian breeding through what amounted almost to a retirement venture for him — and in a land many miles and across a sea from his native Hungary.


Judith Forbis, The Classic Arabian Horse, Liveright, New York, 1976, pp. 218-9.

Laszlo Monostory, “General Szandtner and the El Zahraa Stud Farm in Egypt,” Arabian Horse World, June 1980, pp. 107-10.

Colin Pearson with Kees Mol, The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt, Alexander Heriot & Co., England, 1988.

*Carl Raswan, The Raswan Index, vol. IV, Mexico, 1961; pp. 563-34 and section between plates 117 and 1320.

Erika Schiele, The Arab Horse in Europe, American edition 1973, pp. 207-8.