by Michael Bowling
from Arabian Horse World July 1979
copyright by MICHAEL BOWLING, used by permission
The Grant stallions arrived in Connecticut on 31 May 1879 aboard the steamer Norman Monarch—14 months after their presentation in Constantinople. They were exhibited at fairs in the mid-Atlantic states through the summer and early fall and then stabled just outside Washington, D.C., at General E.F. Beale’s Ash Hill Farm.
There is no record of General Grant’s ever having paid any attention to the horses after he was given them, and his only documented reference to them appears to be the letter to Huntington. In 1883, Volume IV of The American Stud Book, registering thoroughbreds (and sporadically the occasional Arabian), listed both stallions as in New York. *Leopard was owned by J.B.Houston and *Linden Tree by U.S.Grant,Jr. In 1883 and again in 1884 they were exhibited at the New York Horse Show (apparently, quite literally, “in a class by themselves“) with *Leopard placed first both times.
Randolph Huntington was not idle while all this was happening. He was an active breeder and trader of harness horses at the time, and would have heard of the exotic imports soon after their arrival. As soon as he heard of the horses and their origin he determined to make use of them in his trotting horse breeding program. He held the entirely reasonable theory that the Thoroughbred, product of many generations even then, of selection for specialization at the gallop, was not necessarily the ideal cross to use to increase speed at the trot. His belief was that it was the methods the developers of the TB employed, that trotting horse breeders should make use of—not the horses themselves, which were the product of selection in the wrong direction for trotting speed. He saw the Arabian as the unspecialized, adaptable desert origin of speed, whether at the trot or at the gallop, and all his future breeding activities were directed toward the long-term goal of producing a linebred, predictable national breed of fast hardy harness horses.
In a time when horses were transportation, transporting mares away to stud was all but unheard of. Stallions traveled from one district to another; a horse would be used in a locality until the demand for his get declined, then would move on to a new station in keeping with whatever reputation he had achieved.
Huntington determined to make use of the Henry Clay family of horses, already well proven and linebred with Arab and Barb ancestry. Based in New York, he bought mares from as far away as Michigan and Tennessee to send to stallions which were standing just outside Washington D.C. This did not entail more pedigree-shopping, sight-unseen: he traveled himself to find the best representatives of the Clay breeding, selecting animals showing the traits he wanted them bred for. This occupied him during the fall and winter of 1879-1880, giving him, in the spring of the latter year, “five young, sound, healthy virgin mares by Henry Clay or by his sons, three being inbred, and all were choice; four being very fast natural trotters, and the fifth one would be were she not mixed at times in her gait.” That has an almost Biblical ring; one gathers that the emphasis on maiden mares was due to a belief in telegony (“the influence [on the foal] of the previous sire [to which the mare was bred]”), a false but widespread notion to which Lady Anne Blunt also appears to have subscribed, and which was not scientifically disproven until early in this century. At any rate Huntington clearly had no prejudice against “first foals.”
The Arab/Clay (and Barb/Clay) foals began appearing in June and July, 1881, and Huntington was enough encouraged to continue using *Leopard and *LINDEN TREE (still standing at Ash Hill) until his first crossbred colts were old enough for breeding. The backcross of these young horses to linebred Clay mares was sufficiently exciting to enable Huntington to obtain backing for a corporation which would develop and promote an “Americo-Arab” breed. This was envisioned along the lines of the Russian Orloff, linebred for consistency, and was expected to take over from the (to Huntington) random-bred and genetically unpredictable horses which were then founding the Standardbred breed.
Horsemen of the time were sufficiently impressed with the type of stock Huntington’s program was producing, that ABDUL HAMID II (*Leopard x a double Henry Clay granddaughter) was awarded a gold medal in 1889 at the Buffalo International Horse Show. Reportedly $10,000 offers were turned down for this horse and one of his sons about this time.
All this makes an interesting story, but has nothing to do with us today. Fortunately, Huntington imported the Arabian mare *Naomi from Reverend F.F.Vidal in England in 1888, specifically for breeding to *Leopard to maintain Arab stock analogous to his linebred Clays, for future crosses. Unfortunately for *Leopard’s own interests, this developed into a project to inbreed the “Maneghi racing type” which had very little room for the Seglawi *Leopard. Huntington imported the supposed Maneghi *KISMET (strain actually unknown) in 1891, but this horse contracted pneumonia on shipboard and died shortly after landing. Nothing daunted, Huntington purchased Vidal’s last three horses in 1893 (*Naomi’s daughter *NAZLI, and two *KISMET colts out of *Naomi daughters) and embarked, with these and *Naomi and her *Leopard son ANAZEH, on his inbreeding program. *Leopard does not seem to have played a part in Huntington’s program after 1889; in 1890 he was represented by ANAZEH and the Americo-Arab filly LEOPARDESS, out of his own granddaughter, COQUETTE by ABDUL HAMID II.
In 1894 the Americo-Arab consortium went into receivership, as a result of Huntington’s misplaced trust in its secretary. This gentleman absconded with all the ready cash of the corporation, leaving no option but auction sale of the hundred and more horses involved. According to a stocklist Huntington published in 1895, he was left with a few of each category (Arab, Clay, and crossed), including five pure Arabians: *Naomi, *NAZLI, ANAZEH, *NIMR and NEJD. *Naomi was then carrying her second influential son, Khaled, by her grandson *NIMR.
Photos this page courtesy of the American Genetic Foundation.
Some vindication of Huntington’s beliefs came in 1901, when eight head of Clay-Arab stock, not owned by him but based on his breeding, sold at auction for an average of over $1,800, topped by ABDUL HAMID II’s daughter LARISSA at $3,500. Huntington was an old man by this time, worn down by the pursuit of his lifelong devotion to excellence in horseflesh. His herd seems to have been dispersed by auctions in 1906 and 1907, many going for a few dollars due to being in poor condition, as his finances finally failed. The Arab legacy of Randolph Huntington is still with us; his efforts on behalf of the trotting horse did not have the success he envisioned, though it is difficult to believe that his highly-selected stock is not the unrecorded foundation at base of a lot of Standardbred pedigrees. Sadly, by 1947, when Hervey’s standard work The American Trotter was published, it was possible to sketch the history of the Henry Clay breeding in a few paragraphs—and Randolph Huntington’s name was not even mentioned.
Back to the Grant stallions. In 1888, *Linden Tree was bought from U.S.Grant, Jr. by another fascinating character, General Leonard W.Colby of Beatrice, Nebraska. One account has it that Colby paid a pre-inflation $10,000 for the horse and later “politely” refused $50,000 for him. Another version merely says $10,000 was later refused for him, with no original purchase price given.
Beatrice, Nebraska was not a place to let this exotic and historically-associated beast go unrecognized, and in 1890 when a harness racing track was opened by the Beatrice Trotting Association, it was named Linden Tree Park. When the time came, *Linden Tree was buried in the infield of the oval, “in a straw-lined grave.”
General Colby was born in Ohio in 1846, grew up in Illinois, served the Union with distinction in the Civil War, and returned home to finish high school and college with honors, eventually taking to the law. He moved to Beatrice in 1872, was commissioned first lieutenant of the state militia on its founding in 1875, and served in the Indian conflicts of the time, eventually being promoted to brigadier general in 1890. Although I am speculating from limited data, I gather he was deeply affected by the now-infamous Wounded Knee Massacre of 1891; he brought home an orphaned Indian baby girl, and he and his wife raised her in their home. In 1895 he presented a paper on “The Ghost Dance of the Sioux Indians” to the State Historical Society; he served in Nebraska state office and in the U.S. Justice Department where he was involved in defense against claims for damage against the U.S. Government and the Indian tribes; on his retirement from the Justice Department he was employed by the Creek, Cherokee and Seminole tribes as their attorney in Washington, D.C. He was active during the Spanish-American War and “on call” during World War I; he died in 1925 in Beatrice.
Again, we are interested in an aspect of his career which was not considered worthy of detailed documentation. He and his friends made use of *Linden Tree on local mares to such good effect that the reputation of the using horses on the cattle operations around Beatrice spread through the midwest and as far as Colorado. One version has it that Colby “persuaded his old friend” Grant to let him bring “Leopard and *Linden Tree to Nebraska “for just one season” in 1894, but as Grant no longer owned the horses as early as 1883, and as Linden Tree Park was named in 1890, that doesn’t hold up too well. At any rate it does appear that *Leopard had joined the Colby menage by 1894—this in spite of a 1941 publication to the effect that Colby’s second Arabian was named “Don” rather than *Leopard and had no connection with Grant. There is a strong local tradition, to which we will refer again, that *Leopard did reach Beatrice, and another account corroborates this.
Mrs. Norma Smith of Kent, Washington tells us that her late father-in-law, who was born in 1878 and lived to be 100, reported one of the most vivid memories of his boyhood as seeing *Leopard ridden in a militia parade by General Colby. He told her the horse was ridden only on special occasion due to his age, and that this was “around 1893” when *Leopard would have been 20. Mr. Smith recalled the extremely fine hair of *Leopard’s coat, through which his skin was visibly spotted. This is, of course, another indication of advanced age—not the fine hair coat, which merely shows “breeding,” but the mottling and speckling of the skin typical of many aged grey horses. *LINDEN TREE was dismissed with “Colby had two Arabians“—*Leopard was the impressive one. (*Linden Tree was a year younger than *Leopard but may have showed his age more, especially as *Leopard stayed longer in New York and probably had led a more sheltered life. On the other hand, *Leopard was described from the beginning as the “handsomer and more graceful” of the two, which I suppose is reasonable for an Arab compared to a Barb.)
In the late 1890’s a group of Colorado ranchers got together to finance a trip to Nebraska by the respected rancher A.C. Whipple, to bring back one of the superior Colby-related horses from Beatrice. Whipple selected a band of young mares of *Leopard and *Linden Tree breeding, and to head them, the stallion TONY. TONY’s sire and dam are not named in any existing account, but their parentage is given—both were by *Leopard out of “Army TB” mares, which presumably refers to mares used as, or derived from, cavalry mounts. TONY was thus an Anglo-Arab by modern definition, if “TB” refers to full Thoroughbred mares.
This band of Nebraska horses left influential and highly-regarded descent in Colorado, and over the years other horse of similar quality, some with reputed Arab or Barb crosses as well, were added. This resulted in tough, hardy, very able cowhorses which were recognized in 1934 with the name “Colorado Rangers.”