by Ben Hur (Western Horseman Mar/Apr’44)
Friends and students of Arabian horses will be deeply interested in the report that the castle and estate of Count Potocki in war-harassed Poland have been saved from destruction. A deep American interest in the Arabian horses of Poland arises from the fact that during the past ten years or so the bloodlines of some of the best Polish bred Arabian horses have proven extremely popular in this country. There was a time when very little, if any, contact was had with Arabian breeders of Poland, and little was known of their methods of breeding and the quality of their horses.
It will be recalled that Wilfred S. Blunt and his wife, Lady Anne Blunt, established the Crabbet Arabian Stud about 1880 with horses they imported from the desert and, later, others from Egypt. They became the most extensive breeders of Arabians in the British empire, and Arabians bred there were exported to the far corners of the world. Many importations have been made by breeders of the United States.
Commenting on the later work of Lady Wentworth and her Crabbet Arabian Stud, William R. Brown, former president of the Arabian Horse Club of America, said in his book, The Horse of the Desert (1936): “In recent years, a white stallion, Skowronek, bred at the stud of Count Potocki in Poland, has been introduced in order to freshen the blood.”
Through the fact that Lady Wentworth deemed it necessary or expedient to freshen the blood of Crabbet Arabians by the importation of Skowronek from Poland shortly after the first world war, a deep interest in Polish Arabians was created in breeders in America. Arabian horses have been bred intensively in their desert purity in Poland for several hundred years. It has been the practice there of certain breeders to obtain a new desert bred stallion every five or ten years and this rule has been followed for many generations. The sire of Skowronek is Ibrahim, desert bred, and his dam is Jaskolka, on her dam’s side from a long line of Polish bred Arabians.
Skowronek’s blood has been disseminated to two continents. Several of his get were imported to the United States — the first possibly being the grey stallion, Raseyn No. 597, and the grey mare, Rossana No. 598, imported in 1926 by W. K. Kellogg. The grey mare Rifala No. 815, by Skowronek, was imported in 1928 by Roger Selby, followed by a double son, Champion Raffles No. 952, imported by Mr. Selby in 1932.
It is significant that the mare, Rifala, was bred back to her sire, Skowronek, and foaled Raffles while still in England. Raffles then is the in-bred son, the son and grand-son of Skowronek, and three quarters of the blood of his sire rather than the usual one-half.
Possibly for this reason the blood of Raffles has been found unusually potent in passing on the extremely desirable qualities, from the Arabian breeders’ point of view, to the offspring. From these two sons and two daughters of Skowronek in the United States, in the relatively short period of about ten years, the get and bloodlines have gone to a surprisingly large number of Arabian breeders from coast to coast.
After the importations of the two sons and daughters of Skowronek from England to the United States, the interest in Arabian horses from Poland grew. J. M. Dickinson imported seven Arabians direct from Poland to the United States in 1937, the most prized mare possibly being Przepiorka No. 1309, her dam being Jaskolka II (no doubt a daughter of Jaskolka). In 1938 Mr. Dickinson imported eight more Arabians from Poland, while Henry Babson made a visit to Poland and personally selected five which he imported into the United States. Mr. Dickinson then imported still another in 1939 and Mr. Babson two more.
Dickinson had the honor and distinction of exporting in the meantime to Poland the American bred Arabian, Antez No. 448, a stallion representing some of the best blood lines of the Homer Davenport (1906) importation from the desert to this country. Later, Antez had the distinction of being imported back to the United States from Poland after being used successfully as a stud there.
These importations from Poland were from a number of different estates and breeders as well as the Polish State Stud. With the invasion of Poland by Germany early in World War II, most of these estates and studs were liquidated, the horses confiscated, some being taken to Germany and added to breeding establishments there. So it has been with deep sorrow that many breeders of Arabians in America have followed the ebb and flow of the war across Poland, realizing that the breeding of several hundred years had been wiped out.
Recently, however, more welcome news has come from Polish Vice Consul Jozef Staniewicz in Chicago who reports that despite the terrific destruction in Poland there is one estate which stands untouched, Lancut, the historic castle of the Potockis, fifty miles from Cracow. The ancient house, the only one in Europe remaining intact as it was in the Middle Ages, stands in the center of 150,000 acres of fields and forests.
At the time of the German invasion in 1939, members of the German general staff lost no time in getting to Lancut and making themselves comfortable under Count Potocki’s roof. German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop and Reichs-marshal Herman Goering have engaged in boar hunting on the estate. The upshot of it was the famous castle and its historic properties and collections remained intact under the German high command. Other castles and country houses, universities and churches were sacked, but Lancut was saved.
This information from the Polish vice consul gives added assurance that the Arabian horses owned by Count Potocki were also saved and can be used as a nucleus for re-establishing the studs for which Poland has long been famous.