Reconstructing Domow

A persisting question in the breed’s North American history, since coat color inheritance first came to be widely understood, revolves around the identity and parentage of the mare Domow. Biology and history working together provide a start toward the puzzle’s solution. By Michael Bowling and Robert J. Cadranell II, Copyright © 2001. Initially published in CMK Heritage Catalogue IV. Used with permission.

Domow is officially a 1913 (no month or day given) bay daughter of the two chestnuts, *Abu Zeyd and *Wadduda. That parentage is not compatible with established principles of coat color inheritance, if the colors of all three horses are correctly attributed. Domow produced the bay Tabab by a chestnut, and he sired bay foals out of chestnut mares. Enough of *Abu Zeyd’s hide is preserved at the American Museum of Natural History to eliminate any doubt that he was chestnut (Charles and Jeanne Craver, personal communication). No evidence from photos or contemporary descriptions, or from the balance of her breeding record, provides grounds to question that *Wadduda was chestnut; in fact some contemporary references make her “sorrel” which suggests, if anything, a light shade of chestnut. One reasonable explanation for Domow’s registration would be a switch of *Wadduda’s 1913 foal with another in the same ownership. The Arabian Horse Registry of America (AHRA) record shows Domow bred by Hingham Stock Farm (Peter B. Bradley). Although she was registered by Bradley, based on other information Domow clearly came out of the small personal Homer Davenport program, in Holmdel N.J. The original options there for exchange with Domow were Fahreddin, registered as the 1913 foal of the bay *Abeyah, and Sabot, the 1913 foal of the bay Sira, of the Basilisk family. Both were fillies registered as chestnuts, from matings capable of producing a bay foal (their sires were chestnuts, *Abu Zeyd and *Euphrates respectively). The foal switch question has now been addressed thanks to developments in DNA technology.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), in contrast to the nuclear chromosomes, is transmitted strictly through the egg cytoplasm and does not undergo meiotic recombination. Characteristic mtDNA sequences (haplotypes) of dam lines change only by rare mutations, and are stable over many generations. Questions of maternity can be addressed, within historical stud book time frames, by comparison of mtDNA sequences, if direct female-line descendants are available of the questioned individuals and of other representatives of the relevant dam lines, and so long as questions can be defined in an either-or sense. mtDNA haplotypes were derived (see Bowling, A.T., Del Valle, A. and Bowling, M., 1998. Verification of horse maternal lineage based on derived mitochondrial DNA sequence. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 115: 351-356) from tail-female descendants of Domow through her daughters Dowhana and Zenee; of *Wadduda through two daughters, Moliah and Aared; of *Abeyah through two daughters (Saba and Samit) of the only persisting source of this female line, her imported daughter *Haffia; and of Sabot through the line of her daughter Azreka. A matching Basilisk haplotype was derived through the independent branch from *Butheyna.

The Domow haplotype matched that of the *Wadduda family and was distinctly different from those of *Abeyah and Basilisk, which does not support a foal switch involving Fahreddin or Sabot. After these results were obtained, further research at the Arabian Horse Owners Foundation (AHOF) among the archived records of *Abu Zeyd’s and Fahreddin’s subsequent owner gave substantial support for Fahreddin’s having been foaled in 1912, rather than 1913, which would have ruled out from the start any easy scheme for exchanging the two. [Note added in 2007: the 1912 foaling date for Fahreddin proved to be an error.]

The Domow question has been complicated because *Abu Zeyd is credited in AHRA records with another bay foal out of a chestnut dam, the 1920 filly Radi. Correspondence in the same archives records a second owner’s request for assistance in having Radi’s registered color changed from chestnut to bay, which leaves room for the possibility of accidental or deliberate substitution. This example at least is not supported by documentation sufficient to question *Abu Zeyd’s genetic contribution in the absence of parentage verification, and in face of the genetic stability of the coat color alleles involved. Radi has no recorded offspring, so her color and parentage (or identity) are chiefly of academic interest, unlike those of the prolific and influential Domow. Radi’s case does underscore that the stud book record alone might not provide the whole story when addressing historical questions.

A further possible complication involves two of Domow’s granddaughters: Kirah (1925, by a chestnut Domow son and out of a bay mare) and Aatika (1926, by Domow’s bay son Tabab from a chestnut dam). In their original registration (the 1927 Arabian Stud Book) their color is abbreviated “s,” although “sorrel” is not listed as a color option in that book. In the 1937 volume both mares’ color has been changed to “b” but by 1944 it has become “ch;” both are given as “chestnut” in the current AHRA pedigree database.

Eye witness accounts confirm the bay color of both Aatika (Helene Asmis Clifford, personal communication) and Kirah, described in Reese and Edwards’ The Kellogg Arabians: their background and influence as “a dark rich bay.” Aatika produced the bay Lulu by the chestnut Asil, and Lulu produced the bay Lurif by Rifage, a grey who did not transmit black pigment (he got only a handful of bay foals, out of over 100 registered offspring, and none from chestnut dams). Kirah never produced a registered foal to a chestnut sire so no test mating results are available for her. Further inspection shows that Kirah’s and Aatika’s breeder also allowed to stand the prior registration of the well-known liver chestnut stallion Hanad as “b” and that he used “seal” as a color term, in correspondence available at the Trust. The chestnut error in the two mares’ registered color may reflect picking up the original “s” entry and mistaking it for “sorrel” during the preparation of the 1944 Stud Book, and could also be related to the correction of Hanad’s color in that volume.

All this coat color backing and forthing could be taken to support the ideas sometimes presented, that *Wadduda was a light bay, or alternatively that Domow was an off-shade chestnut. One can only say Domow and *Wadduda both were well-known mares in their lifetimes and nothing suggests either color assignment ever was questioned; the breeding record supports the bay color in all cases but Kirah’s (not tested). In the absence of color photography the images available of Domow, Tabab, Kirah and Aatika show them as bay, while *Wadduda does not look bay in her photos.

*Abu Zeyd, *Wadduda and Domow are extensively represented in modern Arabian pedigrees, through multiple offspring of each. In terms of gene frequency, anomalous color designations would be of regular occurrence had the Domow coat color incompatibility possessed a genetic basis separate from incorrect parentage. At this point the simpler explanation would have Aatika’s and Kirah’s breeder (who had no connection with the original registration of Domow) unfamiliar with standard horse coat color terms, or perhaps inexpert at recognizing ultimate coat color from foal coats. Some bay foals can have quite light-colored manes and extremities, and Mrs Clifford remembers that Aatika also sun-faded extensively in the summer.

If Domow was not switched with another filly and if her color and her dam’s were correctly recorded, it becomes necessary to seek the black pigment gene through a sire available to cover *Wadduda in 1912. Paternity, as opposed to maternity, can be addressed only on historical grounds: unlike the special case of mtDNA with dam lines, no biological tests of paternity can be applied at such a distance of time and generations and in the absence of physical samples from putative parents and offspring. In this particular case the relevant breeding records have not been located. A possibility must be acknowledged, that *Wadduda may have been covered accidentally, during the transitional period after Davenport’s death in 1912 and by a frankly unknown sire. Resolving that question suffers under the notorious difficulty of proving a negative, but it is not the only reasonable reconstruction.

The published record supports the interpretation that *Wadduda’s 1912 covering was actually part of a last phase of normal activities. *Wadduda foaled the filly Amran on 19 April, 1912; Homer Davenport fell ill on the evening of the 19th and died on 2 May. Only in the last few days of his illness was Davenport’s condition recognized to be life-threatening. While it is possible to picture that orders to breed *Wadduda might have been conveyed from the sickbed, it is less likely that an order to shut down the horse activities would have come under those circumstances; during the first week or more it would not have been thought necessary, and during the final few days, the horses might well have been the last thing on the minds of those in attendance. The agents in charge of Davenport’s horses in New Jersey would reasonably have carried on according to previously received instructions, which must have included at least general plans for mating the mares in 1912. The other foals registered from 1912 breedings to stallions owned by Davenport have known foaling dates, which were early in the 1913 season: Sabot and Omar in January, and Abeleyd in February. (The “1 January” 1913 foaling date of Domow in the AHRA database is a place holder, not a recorded birth date.)

*Wadduda was clearly an easy breeder and produced a registered foal every year from 1907 through 1913: she produced for Peter Bradley’s Hingham Stock Farm again in 1915 and ’16 (and died in time for her death to be noted by 1918). She had foaled a week later in 1908 than in 1907, 24 vs 17 July—but in 1908 through 1912 she foaled earlier each succeeding year, respectively on 24 July, 10 July, 10 June, 13 May and 19 April. Progeny records for others of the early Bradley and Davenport mares also support a policy of foal heat breeding (more likely than a high incidence of short gestations among that population). If it was normal practice to cover *Wadduda on her foal heat, and if such a policy had been followed in 1912, she would have been the last mare covered during Davenport’s life and according to his instructions.

*Wadduda’s 1912 covering sire was not, ex hypothesi, either of the chestnuts *Abu Zeyd or *Euphrates. The bay *Gomusa appears to have been among the horses in Davenport’s possession in New Jersey (his last recorded foal was in 1912). Davenport also had imported from England, in 1910 along with *Abu Zeyd, two Crabbet colts: *Berid, a 1908 grey with a chestnut sire, but whose dam could have provided black pigment—she produced all greys or bays out of her 12 foals—and *Jahil, a 1909 bay. Davenport bred two bay 1910 colts, Daghar and Jerrede; the last-named was sold from “the old Davenport place” in 1914 so likely was in residence through this whole period. Daghar was owned in Chicago by May 1915 but no date for his original sale has turned up.

*Jahil was transferred to H.J. Brown in January of 1912; Brown is his published owner in 1913 and used him in the spring of 1912, so he at least can safely be eliminated from consideration. This leaves all or some of *Gomusa, *Berid, Daghar and Jerrede in the running to provide a sire for Domow, and speculation has centered on an accidental or mis-recorded mating involving one of those four. There remains another possibility first raised based upon a fleeting reference to *Astraled in connection with Davenport, in Lady Anne Blunt’s published Journals and Correspondence.

F. Lothrop Ames of Easton, Mass. was a member of an established railroad and industrial family who was caught up in the early flurry of interest in Arabian horse breeding. He bought the yearling filly Rosa Rugosa from Spencer Borden in 1908 at a “four figure” price, and in 1909 went to Crabbet for the proven sire *Astraled along with two mares, *Shibine and *Narda [II]. Ames owned his Arabians for only a short time, and all his registrations were with the Jockey Club, so AHRA records do not touch on his activities. His grandson does not even remember any family tradition that Ames imported or owned Arabian horses, and nor does the son of Ames’ long-term horse trainer, who came on board just a few years later (Frederick Ames Cushing and John Hogan Jr, personal communication), although *Astraled and *Narda II would found two of the great sire and dam lines of the breed. *Narda’s son *Crabbet was gelded but he still is renowned as winner of the 1921 U.S. Mounted Service Cup (also known as the Army endurance test).

In May of 1912 Lady Anne commented, to Spencer Borden who had just written to inform her of Davenport’s death, that “he wrote to me about Astraled, full with enthusiasm. Do please secure Astraled. I always wished you to take him.” It is difficult not to read a great deal into this brief passage. Why would *Astraled be available for Borden to “secure,” immediately after Davenport’s death, if the horse had just been reported in some situation about which Davenport could be “full with enthusiasm”? Davenport’s enthusiasm must have been related to his own plans for the horse, for *Astraled to have become available as a direct consequence of Davenport’s death. Again in August of that year, Lady Anne pointed out that “if you took Astraled” Borden could breed a near relative to Riyala, who was not available for sale, from a related mare *Risalda he already owned.

Neither Davenport’s letter which mentioned *Astraled, nor Borden’s to Lady Anne notifying her of Davenport’s death, can presently be located. The following passage from the 1945 first edition of The Authentic Arabian Horse makes it clear that Lady Anne’s daughter Lady Wentworth was working from at least the Borden side of the exchange, if not Davenport’s letter as well:

“Mr. Ames bought the famous Crabbet stallion Astraled, and when Ames ‘fell down and quit’ as Borden put it, Davenport bought all the horses he had purchased from the Blunts except ‘Crabbet.’ Ames had offered Borden the seven head with his Rejeb mare [*Narda II], Rosa Rugosa [the filly Ames had bought from Borden some four years previously] and Shibine for 2,000 dollars; but they were in such bad condition that he did not purchase, intending to get them even cheaper in the spring. Meanwhile his old enemy Davenport secured them…”

Note even the coincidence of the verb “secure” which Lady Anne had used in her letter. The references to “poor condition” (exaggerating that would have been quite in Borden’s style, just as it was like Lady Wentworth to gloss over Borden’s 1909 report to Lady Anne that he and Davenport had resolved their prior disagreement) and waiting to buy the horses “in the spring” puts this exchange somewhere in mid-winter, which fits well with Homer Davenport’s published letter of February 1912 looking forward to better financial days because he had returned to W.R. Hearst’s employ. A February or March, 1912, date fits, too, with the likely timing of *Shibine’s breeding to *Euphrates (she foaled Abeleyd on 27 February, 1913). If Davenport believed all the horses he bought from Ames were “from the Blunts,” and if his successors transmitted that impression to the next owner, this could also explain the old puzzle of how Rosa Rugosa came to be registered as bred by Crabbet Stud and imported by Borden (her actual breeder).

No published stud book shows *Astraled in any other ownership between his importer Ames (American [Jockey Club] Stud Book, 1910) and the Rev. Thomas Sherman (Arabian Stud Book, 1918), who owned *Astraled in Washington State and would later donate him to the U.S. Remount. Spencer Borden did breed that *Astraled/*Risalda foal, a 1915 colt, and he also showed *Astraled at least once. Apparently Borden sold *Astraled to the Rev. Sherman; *Astraled’s registration, on file at the Trust, is noted “no certificate issued” which implies he had already left for the Northwest and was being put on the books to provide a registered sire for his two U.S. foals. Other registrations in the same numerical sequence were such posthumous ones as those of General Grant’s *Leopard and *Linden Tree.

The other substantial connection of *Astraled indirectly to Davenport is an original manuscript stud record preserved at AHOF, begun by H.J. Brown for his own short-lived Arabian program. The stallion section includes a page for *Astraled, with the undated notation “Sold to Borden.” Why should Brown have had occasion to devote a page to *Astraled and still less to mention the horse’s sale in his private records, unless he had been the owner and thus the seller? It is a matter of record that H.J. Brown bought Davenport’s stallion *Abu Zeyd, and the Ames imported mares, one of which produced a 1913 foal by Davenport’s *Euphrates. Taking all these facts together, the simplest reading has the Ames Arabians, including *Astraled, pass from Ames to Davenport to Brown. *Crabbet was registered later than the mares, which is consistent with his having been temporarily separated from them (if Davenport bought everything “except ‘Crabbet'”).

Domow herself was not registered until she was five, by which time not only her exact foaling date, but Davenport’s connection with the Ames Arabians (certainly *Shibine, if not more of them) seems to have been forgotten. Domow’s markings of a blaze and three stockings could have been taken as evidence that her sire must have been the flashily marked *Abu Zeyd, even had *Astraled (whose only marking was a faint snip) been named, the more so given the apparent lack of a paper trail connecting Davenport with the Ames Arabians. The fact that the bay-chestnut coat color difference is simply inherited while markings are highly unpredictable may well have been unknown to the Hingham management; the science of genetics still was in its infancy, even though Hurst’s 1906 study of Thoroughbred coat colors was the first illustration of a Mendelian character operating in a mammal. Even today one encounters otherwise sophisticated horse breeders who are unclear on the details of coat color transmission genetics.

Domow was highly regarded as an individual and produced 11 registered foals in five ownerships. Her immediate descendants included significant horses in several important foundation breeding programs, including those of W.K. Kellogg and Roger Selby, and she figures in the pedigrees of preservation-bred Arabians and of such influential sires as Bey Shah and Khemosabi. Among 100 animals in a random sample of AHRA registrations (mostly 1993 foals), Domow appears in 69, or roughly 70% of the pedigrees.

Again, given the difficulty of proving a negative, one cannot expect to show that it was impossible for any stallion to have jumped the fence during what must have been an unsettled period, after Davenport’s death. *Wadduda’s previous production record is consistent with a deliberate foal heat breeding, which in turn supports the idea that the mating took place while Homer Davenport was alive. If *Astraled really was in Davenport’s possession along with *Abu Zeyd—and the odds do favor that reading—the confusion of these two imported senior stallions, both Mesaoud sons and both sold to H.J. Brown, is easier to picture than any other simple scenario involving a mistake in reporting the sire involved in a deliberate breeding. Much of our reconstruction remains strictly unproven, but we see a strong case for Homer Davenport’s having owned *Astraled, in time to make that horse a serious candidate to have sired Domow.

Note added in 2007: Since this writing research in New Jersey court records has confirmed that *Astraled definitely was in Homer Davenport’s possession at the time of his death.

To expand on the previous note, in 2008: The court records not only confirm Lady Wentworth’s report that the Ames horses, except for *Crabbet, were in Davenport’s possession in 1912; they put most of the J.A.P. Ramsdell horses in his hands as well; and document that *Abu Zeyd and *Astraled were accounted the head sires of Davenport’s Holmdel Stud. In light of this further research *Astraled remains the most likely alternative covering sire for *Wadduda in 1912, if the breeding was not an accident.

Further, W.R. Brown correspondence at AHOF indicates that Fahreddin most likely was foaled in New Jersey, and that she was apparently never in Peter Bradley’s possession. If Domow were also foaled in New Jersey and went to Bradley at her dam’s side, it would explain why Bradley had no foaling date for her.