Arabian Blood For Stamina Part I

Articles of History:


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 Nov/Dec ’35 Part I Part II Since writing the article which appeared in THE HORSE, (1) on Keene Richards’ Arabian importation, I found, unexpectedly, a letter, written in 1906, by the late Homer Davenport to the late Randolph Huntington in which this paragraph appears: “I have been fortunate enough to get hold of A. Keene Richards’ catalogue, – – – . Keene Richards has never received justice; instead of his plant being a failure, the very first colts that he had born in Kentucky, won every time they were shown, against all competitors.” (2)

Here was a clue to additional original information. I hunted high and low for this catalogue, but without result till I finally stumbled across a photostatic copy deep in the archives of the New York Public Library. (3)

It proved to be much more than a catalogue. (4) In fact it is such a unique review of the much discussed problem of the value of the Eastern blood for infusion on the Thoroughbred; the necessity of using only the purest Arabian blood to get an improvement; the great difficulty of securing such blood and the probability that very little of the purest blood was ever permitted to leave the Desert for the use of any country; the fact that Richards was a great stickler for the purest blood and insisted on a very high standard for his own breedings and that he was satisfied with his results, — puts this entire question, — which, heretofor has been surrounded by a mass of prejudice unfavorable to the Arabian, — in a new light.

As Richards himself wrote the “Catalogue”, and as no one had more experience with the best Thoroughbreds than he and as few had more experience with Arabians in their native Desert, I am quoting excerpts, that bear on the breeding problems, as follows:


“Kentuckians have become as famous for their love of horses as the Arabs; and our breeders of Thoroughbred horses pride themselves in having their stock well known all over the Union. The Arab, however, when he possesses an Arab of purest blood and unrivalled speed, cares only for it to be known in his tribe. He breeds and trains his Thoroughbreds for his own use, and not for the Turk and ‘Frank’ whom, he believes, know nothing of blood. (5)

“Having inherited a love and admiration for the horse, and a desire to possess the highest bred and noblest type of his race, I determined to examine for myself the most authentic history of the horse, and without prejudice, select from the stock I preferred — whether it might be at home or abroad. — from the aristocratic paddocks of England, the mountains of Morocco, the sandy plains of the Sahara, or the rocky deserts of Arabia.”


“I soon determined that the Thoroughbred English horse was the best horse for all works, and in tracing his history a few generations back, we came to the Arab, Barb and Turk. But the most of the English writers seem to favor the idea that it was the triplet cross, with English skill and English climate, that produced the unrivalled English blood-horse.” (6)

“A closer examination proves that some of the best English horses had not this triplet cross.”

“The true origin of the Byerly Turk, Darley Arab, and Godolphin Barb (the great Shem, Ham, and Japheth, of the English horse aristocracy), has not been discovered by the compilers of the English Stud book.” (7)

“Many have been the theories as to the origin of the English blood-horse; but the definition as given by the Stud Book is generally taken as authority. The Stud Book implies that all Thoroughbred horses should be able to trace their origin to Eastern sires and dams –.”


“For years the English have tried the modern Arab cross, but with not much success. After having examined the Arabs imported into England, as well as those on the Continent, the question arose in my mind — has the failure been owing to a degeneracy of the Arab, or has it been because so few pure Arabs have been imported!”

“Investigating the character of modern importations, I found that the most of them had been purchased on the coast of Syria, in Egypt, and some from India — besides, few, if any, of the modern importation have been well tested on account of the strong prejudice existing in England against the Arab. This prejudice is founded upon the fact of the failure of the Arab cross for more than fifty years; (8) and even in the time of the three great progenitors of the English horse, hundreds of so-called Arabs were imported which were worthless. (9) It was with the greatest difficulty that Mr. Darley brought his selection into notice and as for the Godolphin, his merits became known by mere accident. This noble animal had the form of a race horse, as any judge may plainly see from Stubbs’ picture; (10) but at that day English breeders knew very little as to what the form of a race horse should be. They had bred at random, until Flying Childers, and Leth called their attention to the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin. The forms of these horses were a mystery to them; they supposed that it was the Arab blood that gave to Childers and Lath their wonderful powers; (11) and again Arabs, Turks and Barbs were imported into England, with the hope of surpassing the Darley and Godolphin; but in vain, — even to this day they ae unrivalled in the annals of the Stud Book. With these facts before me, I determined to import the best Arabs that could be found in the East, and cross them with our best mares. (12) I made myself acquainted with the modern importations, by going [1851] to England, France and Spain, examining the best Arabs belonging to the governments, visiting Morocco, and going through the interior of Algeria, I went to Tunis — thence to Egypt, and from Egypt through Arabia Petra (13) and the desert east of Damascus as far as Palmyra [see map]. During this tour [1851-1853] I selected Mokhladi, Massoud and a gray mare [Sadah] – – – – ”


“They arrived safely, and I immediately made arrangements to select some of our best mares to breed to them. The result was quite equal to my expectations, (14) and I commenced preparing to make another trip to the East, determined to spare no trouble or expense (15) in procuring the best blood, as well as the finest formed horses in the desert.”


“For two years I made this subject my study, consulting the best authors as to where the purest blood was to be found, and comparing their views with my own experience. I found that most authors who have written on the subject differ materially as to facts; and that those who have seen the Arab on his native soil, knew more about the idle legends of the country than about the fine points of the horse.”

“Layard, (16) surely has claims to be the best authority among English writers. Although prejudiced in favor of the English horse, he says: “I doubt whether any Arab of the best blood has ever been brought to England. The difficulty of obtaining them is so great, that they are scarcely ever seen beyond the limits of the desert’.” (17)


“After two years spent in close investigation as to the best means of obtaining the purest blood of the desert, I matured my plans and started again [1855] for the East, accompanied by Mr. E. Troye, the artist, my cousin M.H.Keene, and a Syrian who had been with me since my first journey to the East. Soon after our arrrival in Syria, he died very suddenly, and Mr. Keene had to commence the study of the Arabic language, as we could find no one to trust in interpreting, to carry our our plans among the Bedouins. He was in Damascus seven months studying the language and informing himself as to the best way of getting to that tribe of Bedouins in Arabia which had the type of horse we were seeking.” (18)

“- – – – This last importation consisted of the bay Sacklowie; a chestnut Faysal, (19) supposed to be the best young horse in the Anayza tribe; a grey colt, two year old [Hamdan]; a mare [Lulie] and two dromedaries.” (20)


“In making both of these importations, I determined not to offer the services of any of the stallions to the public until they had shown some evidence of their merits. The colts of two of them having borne off prizes, last fall [1856], over the best Thoroughbred stock in Kentucky, (21) I was induced by some friends not to wait longer, but to give the breeders in Kentucky an opportunity to try the cross with some of our fine mares. I well knew the injury that has been done our stock by experimenting with such horses as the Winters Arabian, Zilcadi, (21) Stamboul, (23) and a number of black Barbs that have been presented from time to time by Sultans, Bays and Consuls. One who has seen the horses presented to Napoleon [III] by the sultan of Turkey can form an idea of the quality of horses that these orientals are in the habit of giving to ‘Franks’.”


“That the English horse of the present day [1857] is inferior to what he was in the days of Eclipse, no one will doubt who examines the performances of that day. The present race of horses are fleet and many can carry their weights; but how few remain on the turf; and one hard race of four miles would injure the best horse in England.” (24)

“Some writers contend that a degeneracy is taking place; and that the best Arab blood must be resorted to. In crossing the Arab upon our stock we must not expect the first cross (25) to equal such prodigies as Lexington and Bonnie Lassie; but this cross will not deteriorate, and fine bone with vigorous constitiution, free from hereditary defects (26) will be the result. I have confidence in the result as to the improvement of our fine stock for the turf, for harness and the saddle.” (27)


Mr. Richards then relates at some length “Nimrod’s’ good opinion of the value of the best Arabian blood, after his “German Tour,” and says of him:

“You will remember that “Nimrod,’ in his hunting tour, believed that the English horse was the only horse for the turf, the hunter or the road. Yet after seeing the success of the cross at Newstad, he favors the opinion that the cross of some Arabs would do for the Derby, for hunting and fast coachers.”


“Some of the Arabs in this country have not failed to produce racers as well as trotters. The grandsire of Pacolet, on the dam’s side, was the Lindsay Arabian. (28) The granddam of Sidi Hamet, the sire of Bethune, was an Arab mare, got by an Arab horse sent to President Jefferson, and out of the Arab mare that came with him. Rhoderic Dhu, a good race horse up to four miles, (29) was out of a Bagdad (30) mare and many others could be cited. In the fall of 1854, on the Lexington course, Mr. Clay’s Raffle, by Yorkshire, granddam of [by] Kochlani, one of the Rhind Arabians, forced Ellen Swigert (31) to the stand in 1.46–1.47 1/2.”

“Recent investigations show that the renowned Flora Temple goes back with a few crosses to the Arabs; (32) while in Pennsylvania, we have that superb race of trotters, the Bashaws, descended from an imported Arabian or Barb of that name — introduced in 1826.” (33)


“The Bagdad stock were in great demand in Tennessee at one time, on account of their legs standing the hard pikes better than any other stock. Massoud, Mokladi and Sacklowie are remarkable in this particular, as their legs did not swell any during their long sea voyage, on different vessels, to America. (34) Massoud goes all the fashionable saddle gaits; and Mokhladi has fine action for a trotter. The Bedouins do not train their horses to these gaits, but some of them are easily broken to pace or rack. The trot of the Arabs is so easy and springy, that no one who mounts them would care for them to go any other gait. Can this be said of our crack Thoroughbreds? Peytona or one of the long striding sons of Melbourne would be about as pleasent over a rough road, as a dromedary or a Brahmin Bull. The early English and American horses were far superior under saddle to the present style of ‘slashing goers.’ ” (35)


Footnotes and illustration descriptions

(1) Nov.-Dec., 1934 and Jan. -Feb., 1935, issues.

(2) In the Kentucky show ring for breeding classes. T.C.

(3) Since preparing this article I note that the “Catalogue” is listed in the bibliography of W.R.Brown’s “The Horse of the Desert.” Mr. Harry Worcester Smith has been kind enough to call my attention to an article, in the “Spirit of the Times” of Aug. 8. 1857, p. 366, which appears to be a partial review of the “Catalogue” though it misses much of the essence. T.C.

(4)The Arab horses, Mokhladi, Massoud, Sacklowie. Imported by A. Keene Richards, Georgetown, Ky., 1857.

(5) “The Viceroy of Egypt, Abbas Pasha who about twenty-five to thirty years ago, undertook to breed arabs, thinking Egypt could supply the great and constantly increasing demand from nations in the old world, expended much money — in purchasing — Arab horses and mares through agents, then intrusted the handling, care and breeding to servants; and results were of such great uncertainties in sizes, colors and character, that he gave it up, disposing of his entire plant to such as wanted, because from Abbas Pasha’s stud!” “When gone he said to England’s minister, “that only the Arabs of the Desert could breed and grow Arab horses’.” “I had this from Maj. Gen. W. Tweedie, C.S.I., for many years H.B.M’s. Consul general at baghdad –.” Randolph Huntington to T. C., June 2, 1903.

Abbas Pasha’s stud was sold at Cairo in 1860 so it was gathered somewhat earlier than stated in the above quotation. T.C.

(6) McKay advances the theory that the cross of the Arabian on the native English mares created a sudden mutation which he is warranted in calling a new “Elementary Species.” W.J.Stewart McKay. “Staying Power of the Race Horse,” p. 71.

(7) McKay states that the Darley Arabian was bred in the Desert of Palmyra. Ibid. p. 59.

(8) “The late General Angerstein spent Lb 10,000, and devoted many years, in trying to improve the English blood-horse by crosses of Arab blood, without ever succeeding in producing either a race-horse or a good hunter.” S. Sidney, “Book of the Horse,” p. 12.

(9) “From 1680 to 1800 England imported for stock and blood purposes, 300 Arab stallions and mares.” Randolph Huntington to John T. Bramhall, 1889.

“But, it is said the late importations of Barbs and Arabians to England and the United States have done no good. Perhaps they were not well selected, and some of them have got one or more good ones; and take as exceptions the same dozen or a score of the nearly 400 imported English horses [to the United States], and what have the rest done?” “Crofts” in “Porters’ Spirit of the Times,” February 20, 1858.

(10) See “Sporting Magazine” (English), November, 1812, pp. 63-6, for verification of the correctness of the Lord Townshend portrait, of the Godolphin, from which Stubbs drew his famous copy. The same article also comments, as does Mr. Richards, that Stubb’s portrait shows the true form of a race horse. T.C.

(11) The mere fact of the Eastern blood regardless of form and quality. T.C.

(12) Thoroughbred mares. T.C.

It is interesting to compare the result of Mr. Richards’ researches with those of a later student and scientific breeder of the horse, the late Randolph Huntington, who wrote to a friend thus: “As – – – all three, Morgan, Clay and Pilot, were the base of all trotting speed, and were all three close to the Arabian, and all three were diluted in blood influence, still able to carry dunghills to the front, I decided to reinforce it with its blood cause, hence began to breed to Arabians in 1880” From Huntington’s letter–press copy in the possession of T.C.

(13)The name Arabia Petraea was derived from Petra, the capitol of the ancient Nabataean kingdom and of the Roman province. International Encyclopaedia.

“In 1812 the Swiss traveller, John Lewis Burckhardt, disguised as a Bedouin sheik, reached it [Petra] and returned to tell of its mysteries. It had become sacred ground to the Arabs, and danger menaced any Infidel who approached it.” National Geographic Magazine. February, 1935, p. 130.

(14) Italics are mine. T.C.

(15) Mrs. John Pack, a daughter of Mr. Richards, wrote me November 28, 1934, “My understanding was — from my mother — that the expense of all trips was borne entirely by my father, who spent a fortune on these importations.” T.C.

(16) Sir Henry Austen Layard (1817-94), traveller, writer, archaeologist, spent some eighteen years in the Near East, where he made a study of the tribes near the Tigris; also he identified Kuyunjik as the site of Nineveh. From the famous Library chamber of the palace of Assurbanipal, Layard and George Smith brought the tablets, now in the British Museum, containing the account of the Deluge. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

(17) “There is blood and stride in the desert which has never been seen out of it.” S. Sidney, “Book of the Horse,” p. 25, quotting a Scotch correspondent of the Sporting Magazine, 1864.

“Indeed, Prof. Charles Du Hays, Master of Horse [for the French Government], wrote me three years ago, ‘that there was not a pure Arab in all France’.” Randolph Huntington to Capt. W.A.Kerr, V.C. April 4, 1890.

(18) Please note the exceptional preparations tht Richards considered requisite to get access to the purest bred Arabians. T.C.

(19) Generally known as Gysaul. T.C.

(20) Although not mentioned here, the Barb mare Zariphe [Zareefa Bruce A.S.B.] is listed in another part of the “Catalogue” as imported from the Sahara [1856]. T.C.

(21) Italics are mine. T.C.

(22) Zilcaadi (usual spelling) may not have been an improving factor in the Thoroughbred running horse, but the fact that he was the sire of the dam of Dorsey’s unbeaten Golddust gives him a secure place in the trotting world. Golddust was not foaled till 1855, so he was but two years old when Richards wrote. T.C.

(23) Stamboul may not have gotten improved speed at the run, but he must have imparted other desirable qualities for Dr. Geo A. Feris who had several of Richards’ Arabians refers to him with pride as the sire of the 2nd dam of a horse by Medoc, that he rode in the Mexican War . Dr. Feris to Randolph Huntington, November 30, 1887.

(24)In 1878 there was a pamphlet published and dedicated to the Earl of Rosebery, “On the Deterioration of the British Horse.” S. Sidney “Book of the Horse,” p. 111.

(25) “—It is in the second remove that the blood [Arabian and Barb ] tells, after which you will do well to double it back upon itself.” Rudolph Huntington to Gen. L.W.Colby (who had Gen. Grant’s horse Linden Tree). June 11, 1888.

(26) Glencoe and Boston went blind; the latter’s best son, Lexington went blind. — The Derby winner, Priam, had intied legs below the knees. T.C.

Another writes [1874]: Out of six thoroughbred stallions in one district [England] (whose sire were, respectively, Kingston, Newcaster, Lord Clifden, Ely, Rataplan and Macaroni) four are unsound two blind, three roarers, one has ring bone, two have spavins and ringbone. S. Sidney, “The Book of the Horse” p. 110.

(27) This confidence was justified in the famous horse. “Limestone.” bred by Mr. Richards, and whose grandsire was Massoud, and in many others. Italics are mine. T.C.

Please note that Mr. Richards had in mind the breeding of stallions and mares that would improve not only race horses but also horses for all light purposes. Many authorities including von Oettingen believe that this point of view has been neglected in the breeding of the modern sprinters. T.C.

(28) Lindsay’s Arabian (called Ranger): a white horse of most perfect form and symmetry, about 15 hands. Presented by Emperor of Morocco to Captain of a British frigate who gave him to the Captain of a United States boat, who landed him in Connecticut, 1766 — then four years old: stock very valuable. Bruce. A.S.B.

The belief has been advanced that some of the Lindsay blood helped to make Justin Morgan. T.C.

(29) Only four miles! T.C.

(30) Bagdad was imported to Tripoli from Aleppo; to New York 1823 by way of England. Sold in 1823 for $8,000 by George Barclay to John Harding, representing a company of Nashville men. J.D.Anderson, “Making the American Thoroughbred,” p. 63. Bagdad died February, 1836 Frank Forester, p. 142.

(31) Ellen Swigert. gr. m. f. –, bred by John L. Howard of Missouri: owned by John Harper, Woodford do., Ky. Sire Bulwer (son of Grey Eagle), 1st dam Cora by trumpator, 4th dam by tippoo Said. Bruce A.S.B.

(32) Although there is no documentary evidence of the breeding of Lora Temple, John Wilder Taylor who bought Flora and her dam — (from the farmer at Clinton, N.Y., who bred and raised her) — for R.A. Alexander, told Randolph Huntington in 1855 “that the mare [the dam, Madam Temple] showed more arab blood than anything else.” Randolph Huntington to John Gilmer Speed. December 20, 1903.

As Flora was the first trotter to beat 2.20; and, from 1853 to 1859, best all the good horse in the country, it is not hard to believe that she was close to the Arabian or Barb. T.C.

In an interview with Major C.A. Benton, November 13, 1934, he said that Tib Hinman was the first mare to beat 2.20; that his father had timed her in St. Lawrence Co., N.Y. Although authentic, it does not appear that this time was an official record. T.C.

(33) Young Bashaw, by imp. Grand Bashaw, was the sire of the unbeaten Andrew Jackson, who got Henry Clay the founder of the famous Clay family. T.C.

Matt Davis, foaled 1856, was one of the best race horses ever run in America. He and his full brother, W.R. Davis, were out of the Mae Rally, who was sired by the imported Arabian, Kochlani, one of the four Oriental Stallions presented to Minister Rhind. From “Spirit of the Times,” November 24, 1883.

(34) “Many of the horses had stood on their feet from the 28th day of August until the 8th day of October. Yet when they were led off the boat onto the docks, they played and pranced. With legs free from any swelling whatever. On reaching the farm one stallion stood up in his box for another twenty-four hours before he lay down.” “My Quest of the Arabian Horse.” Homer Davenport, p. 222.

“—a cubic inch of the tibia of a horse so reared [like the Desert bred] weighs 20 per cent moe than stabled stock.” S. Sidney. “Book of the Horse,” p. 25.

(35) “There is all the difference in riding the Arabian and the ordinary English hunter or half bred, that there is riding in a well hung gig. or a cart without springs.” W.S.Blunt to Randolph Huntington, who quotes this in a M.S. sent to Scientific American, September 6, 1887.

Continued in the next issue)



“This noble animal had the form of a race horse, as any judge may plainly see from Stubbs’ picture.” Quoted from Richards’ “Catalogue.”

This horse was foaled in 1724 and died in 1753. His height was 15 hands. He is considered one of the three most important Eastern horses in the creation of the Thoroughbred. While sometimes referred to as an Arabian and sometimes as a Barb it is now generally conceded that his conformation was more Barb than Arabian and Mr. Richards concurred in this belief.

Photographed from an engraaving in Tattersall’s “Pictorial Gallery of English Race Horses,” in the New York Public Library.



“I made myself acquainted with the modern importations, by going to England, France and Spain, examining the best Arabs belonging to the governments, visiting Morocco, and going through the interior of Algeria. I went to Tunis — thence to Egypt, and from Egypt through Arabia Petra and the Desert east of Damascus as far as Palmyra.” From Richards’ “Catalogue.”

“The trip from Jerusalem to Petra and back once required about a month of ardous caravan travel through country infested with lawless Bedouins.” National Geographic Magazine, Fegruary. 1935, p. 130.

Sheik Midjuel, of the Anazeh, guided Mr. Richards from Damascus to Palmyra. From newspaper obituary of Mr. Richards, 1881.

The direct distance from Damascus to Palmyra is about 150 miles.

Besides visiting all the interesting places in Palestine and Syria he studied the horses in Austria, Prussia and Russia.

The following notes are from a book kept by Troye on the Second Expedition: In September, 1855, they were in Constantinople. In November in Damascus. In Bayrout, “October 13, 1855,: as Troye wrote that date on the back of his portrait of the white mare.

“We pitched our tents on the 6th and commenced painting the ‘Dead Sea,’ March 6th, 1856.”

“We raised our tents on the morning of the 21st to rreach Jerusalem. It took ten days from Damascus to jerusalem [about 159 miles direct]. we had four mules to carry our baggage — a horse apiece — four horsesd — and one for our servant Yuseph.”

“Arrived at Barjyrout, April 3rd, 1856.”

The Troyue notes are used through the courtesy of Mr. Richards’ daughter, Mrs. E.G.Swartz.

The route, from London to Palmyra, of the First Expedition, is over 4,000 miles.

From a National Geographic magazine Map to which Richard’s route is added. Published by permission of National Geographic Society. Copyright 1932.



Quoting Richards: ” ‘Mokhladi’ is a gray, 14 hands 1 inch, and was bred by the Tarabine tribe of Bedouins, in Arbia Petra. He is the sire of the colt* that took the prize last fall at Lexington, in the ring of Thoroughbreds under one year old.”

“Faithful portraits of three of my stallions are introduced in this pamphlet, and those who are judges of form, can see for themselves and compare their points with other importations. The portraits are photographed by Elrod of Lexington, Ky., from sketches by that eminent artist, Edward Troye. The proportions are strictly correct, and any one who has the curiousity, may measure the comparative points with any thoroughbred of known merit. The height of each horse is given accurately, and not in the usual way of measuring part of the stallion’s neck for his height.” **

*The dam of the colt was a “chestnut mare, by Gray Eagle, out of a Bertrand mare.” “(This mare is the dam of Mokhladi’s colt which took the prize. She goes back to the same stock which produced Grey Medoc and Minnehaha).”

**From Mr. Richards’ own account of his horses, printed in 1857 at Lexington, Ky.

Reproduced here through the courtesy of Mr. Richards’ daughter, Mrs. Edward G. Swartz, who has the painting in her possession.

A small reproduction of this Mokhladi portrait appeared in my article in the Horse, January-February issue, before this present article was contemplated, but it should be included here as it is one of the three illustrations in the “Catalogue.” T.C.


photo: “MASSOUD”

Quoting Richards: ” ‘Massoud’ is a rich chestnut, 15 hands, bred by the Anayza Bedouins. He is the sire of the filly that received the first prize last fall [1856], both at Lexington, and at the State Fair at Paris [Ky.], in the Thoroughbred ring for yearling fillies.”*

“Massoud” was the sire of the mare Transylvania who produced the famous steeplechase and flat racer, “Limestone,” by “War Dance.”

All these horses were, at one time, owned by Richards.

*From Mr. Richards’ own account of his horses, printed in 1857 at Lexington, Ky.