Articles of History:
ARABIAN BLOOD FOR STAMINA
Keene Richards’ Own Account of His Two Desert Expeditions and His Arabian Importations.
Edited by Thornton Chard
With illustrations and notes collected by him from The Horse Jan/Feb ’35 Part I Part II (Concluded frm preceding issue)
NO WRITTEN PEDIGREES IN THE DESERT
Then, Mr. Richards explains that in the desert no written pedigrees are kept of the lineage of their horses. —
“the blood of their best horses is known to all of the tribe traditionally; and when a stranger takes a horse from the tribe, he may get a certificate of the animal’s blood, written out by the Sheik’s scribe, and certified to by some of the old men of the tribe, who know well his pedigree and history.”
“When a colt of high blood is foaled, several men of the tribe are called in, with some degree of ceremony, to witness the fact – – – -. The best family of horses is never crossed with any inferior blood. there are many horses of inferior blood (36) in the tribes, but a stain in the stock of any family of horses is as well known as a flaw in the pedigree of any of our distinguished winners.”
BEDOUINS KNOW WHERE THE BEST BLOOD IS
- ‘In the throng we met Shoiman, the elder of Suttum. He was riding on a bay horse, whose fame had spread far and wide amongst the tribes, and whose exploits were a constant theme of praise and wonder with the Shammar. He was of the race Obeyan Sherakh — a breed now almost extinct, and perhaps more highly prized than any of the desert. (37) He had established his fame when but two years old. Ferhan, with the principal warriors of the Khorusseh, (38) had crossed the Euphrates to plunder the Anayza; they were met by a superior force, and were completely defeated. The best mares of the tribe fell into the hands of the enemy, and the bay colt alone, although followed by the fleetest horses of the Anayza distanced his pursuers. (39) Such noble qualities united with the purest blood, render him worthy to be looked upon as the public property of the Shammar,and no sum of money would induce his owner to part with him. With a celebrated horse belonging to the Hamond a branch of the same tribe, he was set apart to propagate the race of the first horses in Mesopotamia. In size he was small, but large in bone and of excellant proportions. (40) On all sides I heard extraordinary instances of his powers of endurance and speed.’ “
“Layard relates the following of an Arab horse, he saw in Mesopotamia, which fully illustrates how the Bedouins know the speed and bottom of their horses, and how a horse possessed of these valuable qualities becomes known to those who wish to breed their high-blooded mares to a sire worthy of them.
Then, Mr. Richards says:
“No author is considered more reliable than Layard and the facts that he states are worth more than all the fancy legends of tourists. As we have probably given as much attention to the subject as any one who has gone to the East. (41) to select well-bred Arabs, these statements might be sufficient; but we will introduce from Burckhardt’s notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys, (42) one of the pedigrees which he gives of a highly- bred horse after stating that they are kept by tradition.” (48)
“When the horse Fysal was purchased in the desert, Mr. Keene asked for his written pedigree. The Bedouins replied that every one in their tribe knew well the horse and his pedigree. When he told them, however, that the horse would leave the tribe, the usual form of pedigree was written out by one of the Sheik’s scribes,and certified to by the old men who knew well the horses’s family and history.” (43)
MODERN ARABIAN CROSS A FAILURE FOR THE TURF
“Those who are informed on the subject, know that it is the opinion of some of the most intelligent writers in England and in this country, that the modern Arab cross is no improvement for the turf. Could all breeders know, however, the difficulty of getting a purely bred and highly formed Arab from the desert, they would not be surprised at the failure of the modern Arab cross to compete with the best English or American blood. The failure of the modern (44) in beating the English lately in Egypt, is no test whatever as the Arab entered was by no means the best one in the possession of the Pasha. He was a ‘Kadish’ (of common stock) and no high blood was claimed for him. It is well known that Abas Pasha had Anayza mares that Charles Augustus Murray, British Consul General at Alexandria, thought could not be beaten a long distance by the best English horses. Mr. Murray was the only European who had seen these favorite mares of the Pasha.”
“Layard states that Abas Pasha’s agents had paid as high as five and six thousand dollars for well known Anayza mares. The speed of the English horse has never been tested with any of these high-bred mares. It must be remembered that the former Pasha’s challenge to run against the English, for ten thousand dollars, never was accepted.”
DISCOURAGING DIFFICULTIES OF GETTING HIGH-CASTE EASTERN HORSES
Then, Mr. Richards describes some instances of the enormous difficulty of obtaining pure-bred Arabians and Barbs, and quotes from Drummond Hay’s “Morocco,” the failure to obtain, even for Queen Victoria, the purest bred Barb, — such a horse was found, but no amount of gold would buy him so a second best was accepted. (45)
“A similar instance occurred to Mr. Keene, while among the Beni Zahr. (46) He was pricing a mare, when the owner told him, ‘that if he would load her with gold, the gold would still be his, and he would keep his mare’.”
The failures of Captain Nolon and Lieutenant Burton, (47) on separate quests, are described. Mr. Richards show how these officers were well versed in the habits, customs and language of the tribes; Burton being so well equipped that he was able to gain entrance to the Holy Cities of Medinah and Mecca
“which no ‘Frank’ has dared to attempt since Burckhardt.
“If such men as Hay and Burton should find it difficult to procure the best blood in the interior, is it not strange that Consuls on the coast, who cannot speak a word of Arabic, should be so fortunate in getting Arabs, as they say, of the highest caste? ” (48)
HEIGHT AND FORM OF THE PURE-BREDS
“I think I may safely say that there are not fifty pure-bred horses in the desert over 15 hands 1 inch high. Layard saw only one mare that exceeded 15 hands; and not one of the Arabs, from whose loins sprang the English horse, was over 15 hands; yet their progeny were of good size and could pack heavy weights through four-mile heats, if not in as good time, certainly with less injury to their lungs and legs, than the present winners over the flat at Newmarket. The Arab in the desert is no smaller now than he was centuries past. The bas-reliefs at Nineva, the painted walls at Thebes, and the equestrian statues of the Greeks centuries before Christ, clearly prove this.” (49)
“As to the form, no degeneracy has taken place in the high-bred Arab. The heads of the horses (from Arab models) on the frieze of the Parthenon, from the chizel of Pheidias, more than four hundred years before Christ, are superior in beauty and blood-like outline to the best Derby winner, flattered by the pencil of Harry Hall, or Herring; and yet they are true to the type of some horses that may now be found in the desert.” (50)
DEGENERACY NOT ARABIAN BUT ENGLISH
“As some of the tribes of Bedouins have never been conquered [written in 1857], not even by Alexander, Napoleon, or Ibrahim Pasha, and their laws of breeding have been the same for centuries, there is no reason to suppose that a degeneracy has taken place since the Darley Arabian was taken from Aleppo, something over one hundred and twenty years since; about the life time of some old Bedouin Sheiks like Hussein of Akabah. (51) We think if any degeneracy has taken place it is amongst the English horses; they have become more gross and leggy than their ancestors; they may stride a little longer, but their strides are at the expense of their long legs, which not unfrequently give way (53) and is so forced in his growth that in his two-year-old form, he is larger than any of his oriental ancestors. We question if this system enables them to carry more weight in better time than Childers and Eclipse. We are aware that the wonderful exploits of Childers and Eclipse, are not generally credited by the admirers of the present race of English thoroughbreds. It is a little strange that watches should have been so slow, and horses so fast in those days. We should imagine that if the English horse has been continually improving since the days of Childeers and Eclipse, the farther we have a remove from these two horses the better; but it is a remarkable fact, that the horses of the present day , that can go back with the fewest crosses to Childers and Eclipse, are always pre-eminent, over others of longer pedigree, both in speed and bottom.(54) We are not one of those who believe that a horse ever ran a mile in a minute, yet if Childers and Eclipse were entered for the next Derby, we think they would come in first and second, and the modern leggy flyers would be where Mr. O’Kelly once placed all the horses that started against Eclipse, — ‘no where.’ ”
“If the English horse is degenerating, is it too late for us to do what England did not two centuries since? Are not our Thoroughbred daughters of Glencoe, Margrave and Sovereign, as good as those of doubtful origin (55) which were sent to the Darley and Goldolphin (56) Arabians?”
“In the pedigree of English Eclipse, there are thirteen mares of unknown blood.” (57)
“We make allusion to these facts and arguments, merely to show-forth the reasons we have for thinking that the modern (58) Arab cross will be successful if proper selections are made. We do not wish any one to try the experiment without knowing the facts.
TYPE OF THOROUGHBRED INTENDED FOR CROSSING WITH THE ARABIAN
Under a separate heading in the “Catalogue” is a “list of some of my stock” already mentioned above, except the Barb mare Zariphe [Zareefa]; and Mr. Richards continues:
“Glencoe has recently been added to my stud for the purpose of breeding to mares of my own selection, knowing his stock to be the best suited for crossing with the Arab, on account of being more heavily muscled than any other. He is in vigorous health, and his colts this spring give proof that he is still able to compete with the best stallions in this country as well as England.”
“One of the best, if not the best brood mare now  in England, is by Glencoe; I mean Pocahontas, the dam of Indiana, King Tom, Stockwell, Rataplan, and the thousand guinea yearling by Nutwith. Mr. Ten Broeck’s Pryor is by Glencoe; and Lecompte and Pryoress are out of Reel, (59) One of the first of Glencoe’s get in this country. The performance of Vandal is a proof that Glencoe gets colts to win as well as fillies. Bonnie Lassie, the three-year-old filly by Glencoe, out of a Medoc mare, recenty sold by Mr. James K. Duke for $5,000 cash, would now sell for more money than any racer in the United States.” (60)
“The selection of such stock is the best proof that I will give this experiment a fair test.”
After reading the foregoing reasoned account of his study of the breeding problems; of his acquisition of pure desert-bred Arabians and of the best and most suitable Thoroughbreds, who can doubt that Mr. Richards was fully justified in his belief that his experiment would have produced, in time, as much speed, more stamina and less unsoundness in the Thoroughbred?
The Civil War is a fair and honest excuse, in this particular project, for what Mr. Richards was unable to prove. (61)
(36) Italics are mine. T.C.
(37) “Authorities now concur that the accepted five strains of the Al Khamsa [the Kuhaylan five pure strains] are Kuhaylan, Saqlawi, ‘Ubayan, Hamdani and Hadban ——. To be properly authenticated all of these names must be followed by a suffix denoting a family: as, using most common strains — Kuhaylan “Ajuz, Saqlawi, “Jidrani, “Ubayan Sharrak, Hamdani Simri, Hadban Inzihi.” W.R.Brown, “The Horse of the Desert,” p. 98. Italics are mine. T.C.
(38) Herese (Khurasa). W.R.Brown.
(39) The Bedouins’ test fro speed and bottom: a matter of life and death. T.C.
(40)Italics are mine. T.C.
(41) Mr. Richards was the first American to go to the Desert to procure horses. T.C.
(42) “Notes of the Bedouins and Wahabys.” J. L. Burckhardt, 1831.
(43) The flowery pedigree which Mr. Richards copies is omitted here. T.C.
(44) In using the term “modern” Arab, Mr. Richards undoubtedly had in mind the inferior importations subsequent to those of the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin barb. T.C.
(45) Both the English and the French had a hand in making the high-bred Barb scarce: “George III presented the Emperor of Morocco with a dray horse stallion, and this horse played the very devil with the Barb mares.” “In Algeria the French with their clumsy Normans have ruined the breed [Barbs].” Capt. W.A.Kerr V.C. to Randolph Huntington, May 25, 1894. Also, see English Sporting Magazine, March, 1813, pp. 285-6, for George III presentation. T.C.
(46) Banu-Sahr (Sakhr). W.R.Brown.
(47) Later Sir Richard Burton, translator of the Arabian Nights. T.C.
(48) In 1863 M. Guarmani, an Italian geographer, who had traversed several times the Syro-Arabian Desert and who knew well the customs and language of the tribes, was commissioned by the French Government and the King of Italy to purchase stallions. Although on this quest he made a dangerous journey form Jerusalem to Northern Nejed, occupying six months’ time, he succeeded in buying only four horses, and one of these was secured through the favoritism of a Scheik. From the “Report of a Journey from Jerualem to Northern Nejed. 1863-64.” by M. Guarmani.
(49) “——amongst the Bedouin Arabs 15 hands is the normal maximum for the pure-bred. Anything over that is a phenomenal posability. The valuable and useful horse is normally 14.3. I stress that and ————any horse exceeding 15 hands can only be found in conditions inconsistent with Bedouin life.” From a letter December 20, 1933 to T.C. from Dr. A.E.Branch, Senior member of the Egyptian Jockey Club and late President of the Classification Committee.
“—-The carefully finished bas-relief of Egypt, of Babylonia, of Chadea, show strains of horses and breeds of cattle almost as fine as those of the present day. Every important domestic animal and cultivated plant was, in fact, taken from the wild, and improved almost beyond recognition long before the dawn of history. —-” Edward M. East. “Heredity and Human Affairs.” p. 31.
(50) Mr. Richards was an eye-witness of the Desert horses. T.C.
(51) Writing of the constancy of some races Emerson said “The Arabs of today are the Arabs of Pharaoh.” “English traits,” Edition 1876, p. ??
(52) Among instances that the race track follower may have seen are two that occurred at Belmont Park the season of 1934. Chase Me broke his leg in full stride while running in the Metropolitan Handicap. Dark Secret broke his leg immediately after passing the wire a winner in the two mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, September 15. T.C.
“Camden, S.C., Feb. 22. More than 5,000 persons enjoyed a day of excellent racing. The program, however, was marred by a series of accidents in the fourth race, the Mulberry, for non-winners over brush, at about two miles. The young horses set too fast a pace and three fell and injured themselves so badly that two had to be destroyed and the fate of the third is still in doubt. ” — N.Y. Times, February 23, 1935.
(53) The best verbal characterization of this hot house plant is one by major Henry Leonard, who, referring to the difficulty of getting Thoroughbred mares in foal writes of their “exceedingly exciting and nervous life superimposed upon a very immature and underdeveloped structure, brought to size, but not maturity by forced feeding them from birth.” — The Horse, March-April, 1935, p. 8.
(54) Italics are mine. T.C.
(55) The late Randolph Huntington writing me. August 22, 1910, about his Clay-Arab family said that they were “Equal as Americo-Arabs to the best of England’s creations as Anglo-Arabs — the foundation for the English Thoroughbred, which latter was built upon Arab and Barb bloods from mares of really unknown bloods—.” T.C.
(56) “–having seen ourselves almost every type of Arab, we believe the Godolphin to have been a Barb from Morocco, judging from his form; for we have seen horses in Morocco of precisely the same type.” Foot note, page 1 of the “Catalogue.”
(57) McKay speaks of blanks in the pedigree of English Eclipse and says that each one of these blanks sould contain the name of a native English mare which he refers to as Mongrel. Stewart McKay. “Staying Power of the Race Horse.” p. 67, p. 71.
(58) Mr. Richards uses the word modern here in a different sense from that in which he refers to the modern Arabians as lacking high caste. T.C.
(59) Reel, a grey daughter of Glencoe and Gallopade, was one of the great race mares of the forties. She was beaten in only one race, her last, in which she broke down. Her produce also made turf history; one of her sons was Lecompte, who in 1854 triumphed over Lexington, and another was War Dance (for which Mr. Richards paid $5,000 as an untried two-year-old) by Lexington. Reel’s portroit, by E.Troye, which hangs in the New York Jockey Club, bears a striking resemblence to Troye’s portrait of Mr. Richard’s Arabian mare, Lulie. T.C.
(60) Bonnie Lassie, b.m.f. 1854, bred by James K. Duke of Ky.: owned by Gen. R.S.Taylor of La. Sire imp. Glencoe. 1st dam Mafdalen by Medoc. 2nd dam Keph’s dam by Sumpter. 3rd dam by Lewis’ Eclipse. 4th dam Maria by Craig’s Alfred. Bruce A.S.B. Vol. I, p. 254.
“Kate Hunter, another Glencoe filly, won a race at Savannah, Ga., after running seven heats on the 8th.” [A few days before]. “Porter’s Spririt of the times.” January 23, 1858. Mentioned by Porter to show the stamina of the glencoe get. T.C.
(61) “We had a man in this country, the late A.Keene Richards, who had the means and the courage to bell the cat, but, unfortunately, the Civil War arrested his work. It robbed him of his fortune and indirectly shortened his life, and now people point to his failure as proof of the worthlessness of the Arab cross. Had Mr. Richards been blessed with the income after the Civil War which he enjoyed before the War, the result of his breeding venture would have been far different. The man who wold demonstate to the average breeder the virtues of Arab blood must have the courage to face criticism and disappointments for a series of years. A family cannot be created in five or ten summers:* and he who works and waits in this field, therefore, should have a long purse.” “The Turf, Field and Farm.” August 18, 1882.
Quoting the “London Field” in the same issue, “The Turf, Field and Farm” says: ” ‘There is no doubt that the future generations of our race horses would be benefited by an outcross, and the Arab is the only source from which it is possible to derive it’.”
“It is preposterous to attempt to mend bad forelegs by bad hind legs — chalk and limestone will not do it. The flint of Arabia must be restored to impart firmness and density to the bone, toughness to the sinews, and strength and elasticity to the muscles.” Crofts, in “Porter’s Spirit of the Times,” February 20, 1858. ______________
*It takes twenty years to build a foundation, then such fixed type will reproduce itself; will increase in size, substance and mentality by never introducing outside blood; always breeding within the family. Randolph Huntington to T.C., March 7, 1911.
illustration: BAS-RELIEF FROM NINEVEH
These bas-reliefs referred to by Mr. Richards were on both sides of an inclined passage in Sennacherib’s Palace. Note the deep jowl, large eyes, short ears and high crest. Of the fourteen horses included in this series of sculptures there are different types of face profiles and tail sets. The tail set of the horse in this picture suggests that of a Barb. The elaborate treatment of the mane and tail and of the hair and beard of the attendant indicate a high state of civilization. This horse is the result of many years of selective breeding; in fact, as the date of this Assyrian palace on the River Tigris is given by James Fergusson as B.C. 704, and as archaeological finds prove the horses to have been domesticated as early as B.C. 5000 (Wolfgang Amschler, “Journal of Heredity,” Vol. 26, No. 6) he had back of him innumerable generations of selectively bred ancestors.
Assuming that the man is 5 feet 8 inches high, the proportionate height of the horse is about 14 hands 2 1/2 inches.
Photographed from an engraving in Layards’ “Second Series of the Monuments of Nineveh,” in the New York Public Library.
” ‘Glencoe’ was bred by Lord Jersey and foaled in 1831. His sire was ‘Sultan’; his dam ‘Trampolin’ by ‘Tramp.’ ‘Glencoe’ was much inbred to ‘Herod,’ ‘Eclipse’ and Matchem’.” He won 2.000 Guineas and was the second three-year-old that ever won the Goodwood Cup, besides he left distinguished progeny in England before he was imported in 1835 to America where he sired many high class race horses. At twenty-six years of age he joined the Richards’ stud. He died at twenty-seven and was buried, beside his daughter, “Peytona,” at Blue Grass Park.
This picture shows “Glencoe” as a young horse before he was brought to America.
From a photograph of an engraving in Tattersall’s “Pictorial Gallery of English Race Horses.” in the New York Public Library. The engraving is from the original painting by C. Hancock.
image: CUP WON BY “LIMESTONE”
The cup bears the inscription
Members Cup Jerome Park June 8th, 1874 won by L.A. Hitchcock’s “Limestone” Ch. C. 4 yrs. old Rode by Robt. Center
Mr. Richards bred “Limestone” and imported his Arabian grandsire, “Massoud.”
Reproduced here through the courtesty of Mr. Richards’ daughter, Mrs. John Park.