Randolph Huntington: American Horse Breeder

by George H. Conn, D.V.M.
(Western Horseman Apr ’49)

Leopard, the Arabian stallion imported into the United States in 1879 as a gift to Gen. U.S.Grant. (Bottom of image: “The Arabian Stallion presented to Gen. U.S.Grant by the sultan of Turkey. Foaled in 1873 height 15 hands; now owned by Gen. L. Colby, Beatrice, Nebr.”)

Linden Tree, a Barb-Arabian sent to U.S. Grant in 1879

RANDOLPH HUNTINGTON was born in Springfield, Mass., in 1828. It was he who demonstrated the possibilities inherent in the Arab horse for the purpose of developing a new breed of saddle and road horses. He was related to some of the most influential people of his age, yet he preferred the breeding of horses to any other business.

Randolph Huntington married a country girl who later inherited a farm near Bloomfield, Ontario country, N.Y., and it was on this farm that Huntington began to breed horses soon after the Civil War.

During his first years on the farm he bought and sold many colts and fillies as coach horses in New York City. He soon came to recognize the value of the Clay stock in that community which was largely the result of the breeding of a horse called Henry Clay which was brought to the nearby Genesee valley and whose stock was distributed through the valley.

Huntington soon realized that the Clay blood was fast disappearing and he set about buying up the most desirable daughters, granddaughters and sons of the old Henry Clay breeding. The Clays were an especially fine trotting breed for their day. He attributed the excellence of the Clay blood to the amount of Arab blood through Grand Bashaw, Young Bashaw, Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay.

Before Huntington began to build up the Clay breed he sold all his horses of Hambletonian and other families. He began to collect the Clays in 1877. He states that he was in good position to know about the value of Clay blood as the first stud season made by this famous horse was in western New York at the farm of Francis Neason, an uncle of his wife.

Writing to a friend on Nov. 2, 1888, he said,

“I know the horse [Henry Clay] thoroughly well and also his get. Residing in Brooklyn I knew also the horses there and on Long Island … practical experience in handling and driving as a young man, as a matured man and as a dealer during and after the [Civil] war, I found my opinions in favor of the blood advocated. My investment was between $40,000 and $50,000.”

On May 31, 1879, there arrived in America two very fine stallions which were presented to Gen. U.S.Grant by the Sultan of Turkey. These stallions were Leopard and Linden Tree. It is generally acknowledged that Linden Tree was a Barb-Arabian while Leopard was a pure Arabian. Prior to the time that these horses arrived in America, the very favorable results from inbreeding to produce typical Clay horses was shown to be practical. After seeing the stallions, Leopard and Linden Tree, Randolph Huntington at once started negotiations to breed three virgin Clay mares to each of these stallions. He hoped thereby to improve the roadhorse quality of his horses. In later years he called them Clay-Arabs. Since Huntington wanted to breed only virgin mares it was not until 1880 or 1881 that he was able to breed and raise just what he wanted.

The offspring secured from these matings were good and the results secured by breeding these offsprings later to each other were outstanding. Within a few years many prominent men in the New York area were beginning to see the advantages of breeding these Clay-Arabs. A company was formed and Mr. Huntington moved his horses to Long Island where the project was to be carried on.

Just before moving to Long Island, Huntington purchased Naomi, the only Arab that remained of an importation to England of three Arabians. These Arabians were the mares Haidee and Zuleike and the stallion Yataghan, which cost Sanderman $62,500 in gold. Haidee was bred to Yataghan, her full brother, and produced Naomi, one of the finest and largest Arabian mares of her day. In 1888 Mr. Huntington bought Naomi and she was brought to America. In England, Naomi had been bred to Kismet and had a six months old horse colt at foot named Nimr. While Naomi was owned in England by the Rev. F. F. Vidal she foaled a chestnut filly which was sired by a famous Arabian racer, Maidan.

Randolph Huntington from his study and observation of the Arabian horse was determined if at all possible to get Kismet-bred Arabs for his breeding operation. He was unable to buy Kismet, but did succeed in leasing him for a two year period at a reported price of $20,000 plus the insurance fee on Kismet for this amount to be kept on the stallion until his return to England. Kismet arrived Nov. 10, 1891, but was very sick with pneumonia, and died a few hours after being unloaded.

Since Huntington was to be denied the use of Kismet for breeding purposes, his next move was to purchase Nazli (the daughter of Naomi) and her horse foal Nimr. These two Arabians figure prominently in many old pedigrees of Arabian horses.

These importations did not have a direct influence on the Clay-Arabian horses, but it proves that Randolph Huntington knew the value of the Arabian horse. Huntington’s treasurer, a man named Weeks, embezzled and disappeared with a sum reported to be nearly $100,000. This money was to have been used in the development of the Clay-Arabian horse and for the preparation of a history of the Clay horse. Had this not occurred it is possible that there would have been a different history of the light horse in America.

Due to the depression of 1893 and to the lack of finances to feed, care and breed about 100 head of horses, Randolph Huntington’s breeding venture of Clay-Arabs (sometimes called Americo-Arabs) was forced into receivership. Eighty-five horses were offered for sale February 22 and 23, 1894, at American Institute Buildings. They were sold by Peter C. Kellogg and Co., the leading auction firm of the day.

The following quotation is from The Horseman, published right after the sale.

“After many years of trials and discussions in the horse papers, something practical and substantial has been shown by the advocates of the Arab blood. The sale in New York last week of a number of Americo-Arabs at an average price of over $1,800 per head demonstrates the fact that the Americo-Arab is already an established type. Although the sale was made by Theodore C. Patterson, Chestnut Hill, Pa., the whole credit is due to Mr. Randolph Huntington, Oyster Bay, as the founder of the type. The horses sold last Tuesday were mostly by Abdul Hamid II, a son of General Grant’s Arabian Leopard, and out of Mary Sheppard, by Jack Sheppard, by Henry Clay; second dam Galusha mare, by Jack Sheppard. When the two stallions presented by the Sultan to General Grant arrived in this country in 1879, Mr. Huntington was the only person to appreciate their value by breeding to them six of his best Clay mares, thus laying the foundation of a most desirable type of horses. More Arabian blood was infused into the type later by the importation of the pure bred Arab mares from England, Naomi and her daughter Nazli. It was mainly through influential friends in England and at great expense that Mr. Huntington succeeded in bringing these mares to this country, both of which proved great additions in establishing the Americo-Arab type.

“The gathering at the sale was unusually large, and much curiosity was evinced as to how the horses with Arabian blood would sell, and to say that a majority of the crowd was astonished at the sums bid is drawing it but mildly, and wonder was added to astonishment when it was learned that a majority of the offerings were withdrawn because the owner and consignor, Mr. Patterson of Erdenheim Farm, did not think the bids were high enough to justify him in letting his pets go. For instance, the 15-2 hand stallion Omar was bid up to $1,550 and the owner would not let him go. The little black pony bred gelding Blackbird, 13-3 hands, was run up to $700 and withdrawn. Several others were taken out after what most of the horsemen present considered extraordinary high prices were bid for them. The 13-2 hand chestnut mare Gulnare was bid up to $875, and Mr. Grand turned to Mr. Patterson, saying: ‘Let me sell her.’ Mr. Patterson looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded his head, and the mare was knocked down to M. Evarts, New York.”

The following quotation is from The American Horse Breeders:

“Those who have ridiculed Randolph Huntington’s methods of breeding from Arabian stock received an eyeopener at the W.D.Grand sale in New York on the 21st inst. Six head of what Mr. Huntington calls Americo-Arabs brought $11,225 under the hammer, an average of $1,870.83 per head, Larissa, a four-year-old, 15.2 1/2 hand mare by Abdul Hamid II, son of the imported Arabian Leopard, owned at one time by General Grant, brought the top price, $3,500. She went to the bid of Ed de Cernea, who also paid $2,050 for Manila, a 15.3 hand, three-year-old full sister of Larissa. It is announced that these mares will be put in shape for exhibition next Fall at the annual National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden. It is Mr. Huntington’s turn to laugh now.”

The following quotation is also taken from the Oyster Bay Pilot and we quote as follows:

“We have the effort of Mr. Randolph Huntington to establish a type by mixing the blood of General Grant’s Arab stallions with the mares of the Clay family. It will be recalled that when General Grant made his famous tour of the world he stopped at Constantinople, and was entertained by the Sultan, who gave the American soldier, as a souvenir of his visit, two stallions, Leopard and Linden Tree. These horses were landed in 1879, and Mr. Huntington at once began making arrangements to breed to them. Mr. Huntington has theories as to in-breeding, or close breeding, as he prefers to call it, that are more in consonance with the ideas that prevail abroad than here.”