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Travels In Arabia the Desert by the Chevalier D’Arvieux (1718)

The Chevalier D’Arvieux’s Travels In Arabia the Desert

Originally published London, 1718

CHAPTER XI Of the Arab Horses

from the KHAMSAT Volume 2 Number 1 January 1985

The Khamsat introduction:

This is a most amusing reprint from a very long time ago (1718) in a form of English seldom seen or read in many years. We have reprinted it without modifying any of the phrases or spellings so it will read somewhat differently than we are used to but it provides some interesting insights into bedouin life with their horses as observed nearly 300 years ago. We thank Dr. Sherman Stinson for submitting it to us.


There’s not the sorriest Arab but has his Horses. The Arabs had rather be without the most necessary Things in the World, than want a Nag to go about their Affairs, to seek their Fortunes upon the High-ways, and to make their Escape from their Enemies with.

They usually ride upon Mares, as properest for their Business; Experience has taught ’em that they bear Fatigue, Hunger and Thirst better than Horses; they are gentler, less vicious, and bring ’em every Year a Colt, which they presently sell, or keep it if it be a fine one and of a good Stock to make Money of it when ’tis fit for Backing: Their Mares never neigh; which is very convenient for ’em in their Ambuscades to surprise Passengers; and they accustom ’em so well to be together, that they will sometimes stand a whole Day, and in great Numbers, without incommoding one another.

The Turks on the contrary, don’t love Mares: The Arabs sell them their Horses which they won’t keep for Stallions, because of the Inconvenience to ’em in their Troops. They are never fix’d in any one Place’ they are all People that go and come just where their Service calls ’em: Their’s are Stone-horses, and it would be impossible to govern ’em if they smelt any mares amongst ’em. An Arab would not be reckon’d an honest Man if he had not a Mare to bestride. They call her Serras, which is a general Name for Horses; and they call a Horse Hhussan, which signifies only Curry’d or a Curriable Creature. The Turks, on the contrary, think it a Dishonour to mount a Mare, saying, that there is nothing so noble as a Horse; that a Cavalier, who is to make all the World his Country, ought not to embarrass himself with any sort of Female, nor any thing that may look like a kind of Family.

I told you, that the common Arabs ne’er mind their own Genealogy; if they do but know the fathers and Grandsires ’tis enough; They are usually unacquainted with the very Name of the Predecessors or their Families; but they are very curious about the Extraction of their Horses. There are some which they call Kehhilan, that are noble; others Aatiq, that are of ancient Race, but match’d below themselves; after those come the last Kind call’d Guidich, as much as to say, a Pack-horse, or by way of contempt, a Jade, these are very cheap’ the second are dearer, they are sold however at a venture, without proving their Descent. They that understand ’em well, find as beautiful and good one’s among them, as among the first sort, and set no less Value on ’em. They never let the Mares of the first Rank be Cover’d but by a Stallion of the same Quality. They know by long Custom the Race of all the Horses they or their Neighbours have; they knowe the Name, the Surname, the Coat, and Marks of every Horse and Mare in particular; and when they have no noble Horses of their own, they borrow some of their Neighbours, paying so much Money, to Cover their Mares, and that before Witness, who attest it under their Hand and Seal before the Emir’s Secretary, or some other public Person, where the whole Generation, together with the Names of the Creatures, is set down in Form. Witnesses are likewise call’d when the Mare has Foal’d; and another Certificate is made; where they put down the Sex, the Shape, the Coat, the Makes of the colt, and the time of its Birth, which they give to the Party that buys it. Those Tickets determine the Price of Horses; And they sell ’em dear the least are worth Five hundred Crowns in ready Money, or in Exchange against other Cattle, according as they bargain. The Emir Turabeye had a Mare that he would not part with for Five thousand Crowns, because she had travell’d three Days and three Nights without drawing Bit, and by that means got him clear off from those that pursued him. Nothing indeed was handsomer than that Mare, as well for her Size, her sharp, her Coat, and her Marks, as for her Gentleness, her Strength, and her Swiftness. They never tied her up when she was not bridled and saddled: She went into all the Tents with a little colt of her’s, and so visited every body that us’d to kiss her, make much of her, and give her anything. She would often go over a heap of Children that were lying at the Bottom of the Tents, and would be a long time looking where to step, as she came in or out, not to hurt ’em.

There are few of that Price, but abundance of a Thousand, Twelve hundred, Sixteen hundred, and Two thousand Crowns a-piece; and as there is a great deal of Profit to be made of their Colts, their Owners join with other Arabs, deducting their Share of the Sum she was agreed to be consider’d at, after the Rate of Three, Four, or Five hundred Crowns a Leg, (that’s their way of Bargaining.) Those who have none of the Value, join two, three, or four of ’em together, and buy one: He that keeps her and makes use of her, is oblig’d to maintain her; and when she has Foal’d, and the Colt is fit for Sale, they sell it, and part the Money amongst ’em.

A Marseilles Merchant that liv’d at Rama, was Part’ner so in a Mare with an Arab whose Name was Abrahim Abou Vouasses: This Mare, whose name was Touysse, besides her Beauty, her Youngness, and her Price of Twelve hundred Crowns, was of that first noble Race. That Merchant had her whole Genealogy, with her Descent both of the Sire’s and Mother’s side, up to Five hundred Years of antiquity, all from public Records, and in the Form I spoke of, Abrahim made frequent Journies to Rama to enquire News of that Mare which he lov’d extremely. I have many a time had the Pleasure to see him cry with Tenderness, whilst he was kissing and caressing her; he would embrace her, would wipe her Eyes with his Handkerchief, would rub her with his Shirt-Sleeves, would give her a thousand Blessings during whole Hours that he would be talking to her: My Eyes, would he say to her, my Soul, my Heart, must I be so Unfortunate as to have thee sold to so many Masters, and not keep thee my self: I am yours, my Antelope : You know well enough, my Honey, I have brought thee up like my Child’s; I never beat nor chid thee; I made as much of thee as ever I could for my Life: God preserve thee, my Dearest; thou art pretty, thou art sweet, thou are lovely; God defend thee from the Looks of the Envious; and thousand such Things as these. He then embrac’d her, kiss’d her Eyes, and went backward, bidding her the most tender Adieu’s.

This puts me in mind of an Arab of Tunis, whither I was sent to execute a Treaty of Peace, who would not deliverer us a Mare which we had bought for the King’s Stud. When he had put the Money in the Bag, he look’d wishfully upon his Mare and begun to weep; Shall it be possible, said he, that after having bred thee up in my House with so much Care, and had so much Service from thee, I should be delivering thee up in Slavery to the Franks for thy Reward? No, I will never do it, my-Dear; and with that he threw down the Money upon the Table, embraced and kissed his Mare, and took her Home with him again.

As the Arabs have only a Tent for their Horse, it serves ’em too for a Stable; the Mare, the Colt, the Man, the Wife, and the Children retire thither and all pig together. There you’ll see little Children asleep upon the Mare’s Belly, upon her’s and the Colt’s Neck, without the least harm from those Creatures. ‘Tis said they durst not stir for fear of hurting ’em. Those mares are so us’d to live in that familiarity, that they bear any kind of Toying with. The Arabs ne’er beat ’em, they make much of ’em, talk and reason with ’em; and take the greatest Care imaginable of ’em; they always let ’em pace, and never spur ’em without necessity; but as soon as ever they feel their Belly tickled with the Corner of the Stirrop, they fly with such Swiftness that the Rider had need have a good Head not to be stunn’d with it, as well as with the Wind they raise in his Ears by the violent Agitation of the Air. Those Mares leap Rivulets and Ditches as nimbly as Stags, and if the Rider happens to fall whilst they are leaping or upon full speed, they instantly stop and give him time to get up and mount.

All the Arabs Horses are Middle-siz’d, of a free, easy Shape, and rather Lean than Fat. They dress ’em very carefully Morning and Night; They have large Curry-combs, which they use with both Hands; they afterwards rub ’em with a Wisp of Straw and Woollen Brush as long as there’s the least Soil upon the Skin; they wash their Legs, Mane, and Tail, which they leave at its full length, and but seldom comb it, not to break the Hair. They eat nothing all the Day, in which time they give ’em Drink twice or thrice, and every Evening half a Bushel of very clean Barley in a Bag which they hang about their Head like a Halter: They feed in the Night, and keep the Bag ’till the Morrow Morning, when they eat up what is left. They litter ’em every Evening with their own Dung, when it has been dry’d in the Sun, and bruis’d between their Hands. They think that the Dung dries away the ill Humours, and preserves ’em from the Farcy; they heap it up in the Morning, and in the height of Summer sprinkle it with fresh Water, to keep it from overheating and breeding Corruption.

They turn their Horses out a grazing in March, when the Grass is pretty well grown: Then it is that they get their Mares Cover’d; and they eat neither Grass nor Hay anymore the whole Year. They never give ’em any Straw but to heat ’em when they have been some time without an Inclination to drink; Barley alone is all their Feeding.

They cut their Colts Manes as soon as ever they are a Year or Eighteen Months old, to make ’em grow handsomer; and they back ’em at two Years, or two Years and a half at most. They never tie ’em up ’till then; after which they stand bridled and saddled from Morning ’till Night at the Tent Door. They accustom ’em so much to see the Lance, that when once it is fix’d upon the Ground, and they are placed near it, they ne’er budge from it without any fast’ning; they walk quite round without losing sight of it.

These Horses are not often sick; The Arabs are all good Horsemen, and know their Distempers, and every thing that is necessary to cure and manage ’em; so that they have no manner of occasion for Farriers but only to make their Shoes; Those Shoes are of a soft flexible Iron, hammer’d cold, and always two Fingers shorter than the Horn of the Foot; They pare off before all that is over, that nothing may hinder their Running.

The Arabs and Turks have a great Faith in certain superstitious Writings and Pray’rs which preserve, according to them, from several Accidents. They fold these Talismans in a Paper made Triangular, put ’em in a leather Purse of the same Figure, and so hang ’em about their Horses Necks; It is, besides, to hinder the Effect of Envious Eyes. I express my self so, because I can meet with no Terms in our Language that render literally those of the Arabs: The Provence People’s Ceouclami is exactly what they mean. They hang likewise about their Necks a couple of Boar’s -Tusks, join’d by the root with a Silver Ring, that makes ’em a very agreeable Half-Moon; and this is to keep ’em from the Facy. The Turks keep too upon that account your young wild boars or He-goats in their Stables to attract, as they say, all the bad Air.

I have seen some Arab Horses so extremely fond of smelling the Smoak of Tobacco, that they would run after Folks they saw lighting their Pipes; They took so great a pleasure in having it puffed into their Noses, that they would rise up and End after it, and shew their Teeth, as they usually do when they have smelt the Stale of some Mare. One should see Water at the same time drop from their Eyes and Nostrils. I don’t know whether, considering the Instinct that leads ’em to seek that Smoak, one may believe it does ’em good. There are some Horses that are continually shaking their Heads when they are tied up in the Day-time; the Mahometans think that they are reading when they make that Motion; and that these Creatures being noble, generous, and proper for the Progress of their Religion, the Prophet Mahomet has obtain’d for ’em the Blessing of God, and an occult Capacity to read or repeat tacitly every Day some chapter of the Alcoran. These are the Whims of devout Persons in that Religion, who thus contrive Mysteries from every thing they see and don’t know how to assign a Reason for. As soon as ever the Horse has Cover’d the Mare, they immediately throw some cold Water upon her Buttocks; and at the same time a Fellow takes the Stallion by the Halter, and makes him frisk two or three Turns round the Mare, to fill her with the Image of the Horse at the Moment of Conception, having the same Notions as we have about the Causes of Likeness.

Their Saddles are of Wood, cover’d with Spanish Leather; they have no Panels as ours. Instead of that they make use of a stitch’d Felt that goes cleverly betwixt the Saddle and the Horses back, standing out about half a foot upon the Crupper. The Stirrops are very short, so that a man fits a Horseback as in a Chair, when he gallops he lifts himself above Saddle, and bears upon the Stirrops, to strike with the greater Vigor. The Bottom of those Stirrops is flat, large, and square; their Corners are pointed, and sharp: They use ’em instead of Spurs to prick their Horses with. This cuts their Skin, which makes the horses so tender, that if they are tickled ever so little in that Part, they manage ’em as they please.


I would have written sooner, but… Further in the Case of the Blunt-Davenport Correspondence

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Blunt-Davenport Correspondence

by R.J. Cadranell

Arabian Visions, July/August 1993

used by permission of R.J. Cadranell

In the August, 1991 edition of the “Baker Street” column, Debra and Jerald Dirks presented three letters from the correspondence between Homer Davenport and Lady Anne Blunt, both pioneer Arabian horse breeders. Together with her husband Wilfrid Blunt, Lady Anne had founded England’s Crabbet Arabian Stud in 1878. Crabbet’s earliest foundation stock, including the key mare Dajania, was acquired in and around Aleppo in what is today Syria. In 1906 Davenport, an American political cartoonist, had made his own Arabian horse buying expedition to that region and returned to the U.S. with 27 head. Davenport and Lady Anne made enormous contributions through the horses they imported and bred, but also through their influence on the way people in England and America think about Arabian horses. Their correspondence provides an intimate look at the dialogue between these two foundation breeders.

To Homer Davenport Sheykh Obeyd Garden

21 December 1907           Ain Shaems, Egypt

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your letter of Nov. 25 which followed me to Egypt, and for the previous one and the photographs. I would have written sooner to say this but could not find time before I left England.[1]

I am glad that Bushra and her Mahruss colt are in your hands and you were fortunate to get them.[2] And you see how right are the Arabs to attach a peculiar importance to particular strains. In the center and south of Arabia they have remained much more exclusive in that respect than in the North. Moreover they apply the term “Shemalieh” (Northerner) to the horses of the northern tribes as indicative of the suspicion with which they regard all such, excepting only those bred by certain known families amongst whom Ibn Sbeyni, Ibn ed Derri and others you will have heard of.

It is a pleasure to have good news of Markisa.[3] I trust she will do credit to her ancestry. She is, you know, like Bushra, a Seglawieh Jedranieh of  Ibn ed Derr’s strain.

I do not, at present, see my way to selling any of my few mares of the Hamdani Simri strain. I am afraid that these precious strains are becoming so very rare owing to the destruction of mares through the use of fire-arms in the war now raging in Nejd,[4] that very great caution will be more than ever necessary in parting with representatives of them. Apart from this new reason for caution, I want to guard against a recurrence of mistakes formerly made more than once at the Stud in not securing a sufficient number of representatives before parting with a mare or horse. Shahwan, whom you mention, is a case in point.[5] He was a Dahman Shahwan of the strain in the Abbas Pasha[6] collection, and is quite inadequately represented, as accidents happened unfortunately to almost all of his stock. N.B.—they were too few when the horse was gone.

Bushra’s dam, Bozra, was by imported Pharoah, a Seglawi Jedran of Ibn ed Derri’s strain and her sire imported Azrek being of the same strain, she is altogether of that blood. Mahruss was a descendant of Abbas Pasha collection—the strain, Dahman Nejib, existing with the Beni Hajar and Ajman tribes southeast of Nejd. Abbas Pasha got that and Dahman Shahwan and Kehilan Jellibi through Ibn Saoud, the powerful prince of Riad of those days. As an instance of the prices the Viceroy would pay, I may mention that I had it on high authority that he gave lbs 7000 for the original Kehileh Jellabieh brought to him!

I am delighted to hear of the excellent support your stud is having in the large order for half-Arab cavalry remounts. That is something like support—and your government is wise to give it.

I shall always be interested whenever you care to report further progress.

Believe me to be yours faithfully,

Anne N. Blunt

Thanks to the generosity of the Arabian Horse Trust in making its files available to members of the Arabian Horse Historians Association during the AHHA annual meeting.

  1. [1]Lady Anne wintered in Egypt at her home near Cairo, Sheykh Obeyd Garden. According to her published Journals and Correspondence in 1907 she left England on November 19 and arrived at Sheykh Obeyd by November 26.
  2. [2]*Bushra (Azrek X Bozra) was a bay mare bred at Crabbet and foaled in 1889. She was sold at the 1900 Crabbet sale and imported that year to the United States, carrying a colt by the Crabbet sire Mahruss. This colt was foaled in 1901 and eventually registered as *Ibn Mahruss. Davenport acquired *Bushra and *Ibn Mahruss several years after they arrived in America.
  3. [3]*Markisa (Narkise X Maisuna) was a 1905 bay filly bred at Crabbet. Davenport had purchased her from Crabbet and she had arrived in the United States in February of 1907.
  4. [4]Nejd is a region in the north central part of the Arabian peninsula.
  5. [5]*Shahwan was a grey stallion foaled in Egypt in 187. The Blunts had purchased him in January of 1892, used him at stud in Egypt briefly, and imported him to England that spring. The Blunts used him for breeding at Crabbet in 1892, 93, and 94, then sold him in September of 1895 to Mr. J.A.P. Ramsdell for export to America. By the time of this letter, apparently *Shahwan’s only representatives at the Crabbet Stud were Shibine (out of his daughter Shohba) and Ibn Yashmak. Ibn Yashmak’s dam, Yashmak (by *Shahwan), was still owned at Sheykh Obeyd in 1907.
  6. [6]Abbas Pasha was Viceroy of Egypt from 1848 to 1854. His collection of Arabian horses provided foundation stock for the stud of Ali Pasha Sherif, from whom Lady Anne began acquiring horses in 1889.

The Case of the Blunt-Davenport Correspondence Part II: A Shoddy Affair

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Blunt-Davenport Correspondence

Copyright 1991 by Charles Craver

published in the Sept 1991 Arabian Visions

Used by permission of Charles Craver

In the August issue, the “Baker Street” series contained an article by Debra and Jerald Dirks presenting an exchange of three letters dating from 1906 and 1907 between Lady Anne Blunt of England and Homer Davenport of the U.S. Commentary on these letters was reserved to the present writer for this issue of Arabian Visions.

In these letters, as in others, communications between Lady Anne Blunt and Homer Davenport were cordial and provided a reasoning exchange of thought. Lady Anne starts in an apologetic mode because the fact is that in prior correspondence with Spencer Borden, and before she knew anything on the subject other than gossip and hearsay, she had made some comments about the Davenport importation. These comments were not in themselves so bad, but they were used selectively by Borden to create a red hot controversy in the American Arabian horse community.

In a letter which we do not have, Davenport obviously had contacted her on the subject directly, and her reply to him begins this series of correspondence.

The differences between Lady Anne Blunt and Homer Davenport were really misunderstandings, and rather easily resolved. Beyond that there were considerable shared observations about the Arabian horse and experiences in Arabian travel. Lady Anne observed that Davenport’s travel experience confirmed her observation of the difficulty of travel in Arabia, and she commented on Davenport’s good fortune in having the sponsorship of the Turkish government, personal pluck, and a favorable season for desert travel, in that the Anazah were relatively accessible to contact by travelers in the heat of the summer. Lady Anne and Davenport discuss the role of a prominent sheikh, “Hashem Bey,” in Arabian desert politics. It is observed by Lady Anne that Davenport’s use of the word “chubby” corresponds to what she gives as the Arabic word “shabba,” meaning suitable to breed from.

Lady Anne points out that Davenport’s report that only 600 of the 6000 horses he was told of in the desert were in the “chubby” or “shabba” category confirms her observation of the need for caution in making purchased of horses in the desert. Lady Anne indicates her suspicion of Arabs as big as fifteen hands, and indicates that this height is an exception in the desert and in her own stud. Davenport confirms her observation, saying that among the Arabs, the best horses are from 14:2 to 14:3 hands high.

A number of other letters have been preserved from Lady Anne concerning Homer Davenport. Her tone is invariably polite and positive. The final item of action from her on the subject occurred when she translated and authenticated the pedigree of Davenport’s mare *Urfah 40, so that this mare and her son, *Euphrates 36, would be acceptable to the Jockey Club for registration in its stud book.

The letter in this series from Homer Davenport to Lady Anne Blunt is typical of his attitude towards her. In this letter and in other commentary of record, he obviously felt great respect for her as a person and as a breeder of Arabian horses. He quietly addresses several points upon which he feels there are misunderstandings, and makes a comment which can be used as explanation for much of the success of his trip to Arabia:

“I don’t believe that I was misled, or had misrepresentations made to me by any of the men around me, as owing to the Irade from the Sultan, and the three strong personal letters which I carried from President Roosevelt, they accorded me every honor…”

If these two people could have kept their exchanges of thought to each other they would have gotten along fine, and Arabian history of the era would have been more simple. Both of them from time to time said things to other people which would have been better unsaid. Lady Anne was jealous of her reputation as an unique expert on the Arabian horse, and she appeared to have had an underlying conviction later shared by her daughter, Judith, that no horses but her horses were real Arabians. Homer Davenport had foibles, too. He was an old-fashioned newspaperman who painted his thoughts with a broad brush, and there was decidedly a bit of P.T. Barnum in his soul. He was inclined to speak of his own horses in superlatives. Most of what he said was factual, but there was a measure of what we consider to be hype. All this came out in a series of interviews published in the New York Times about his importation of horses. Anne Noel Blunt’s lady-like teeth were obviously set on edge.

Several other pioneer American breeders of the time took the occasion to stake out their individual territory in the Arabian horse scene. They each had their own horses to promote: The Randolph Huntington group, who wanted to breed larger, Mu’niqi-type horses, felt that theirs were the only worthwhile kind of Arabians, and they had a further ax to grind with Davenport, probably based on personal conflict between him and Randolph Huntington. Davenport had adversely caricatured Huntington’s relative and benefactor, Collis P. Huntington, in public newspaper cartoons, and had published an article which was unfavorable towards the Huntington horses.

Another breeder, Spencer Borden, was a major customer of Lady Anne and Wilfrid Blunt, from whose Crabbet stud he had imported most of his horses. Borden was an “establishment” sort of person who appears to have felt that he had bought his Arabians from the best Arabian stud in the world, and he did not take kindly to the notion that some newspaperman could go to Arabia and come back with real Arabian horses that were competitive with what he had bought in England. Typically, Borden remained in the background of controversy, but he was a strong and persistent influence against the establishment of the Davenport bloodlines in America.

With this explosive combination of personalities, American Arabian breeding became complicated. There were newspaper exchanges, challenges for competition, horse-show disputes, bitter letters. The Jockey Club and even the USDA and Congress became involved.

Final resolution began with the establishment of the Arabian Horse Club of America, but the influence of the controversy between those early breeders has continued over time, although, of course, weakened, which is appropriate for something of no substance to begin with.

Some of the arguments from those early days still turn up now and then, usually as snide remarks from one side or another. Thus Raswan published an article called “Blunt vs. Davenport Arabians.” Lady Wentworth (Judith Blunt Lytton) makes disparaging remarks about the Davenport horses. Even now, one of Lady Anne Blunt’s current biographers cannot write about the Davenport importation without negative asides that are contrary to her own written remarks to Davenport and others. Some breeding programs are even influenced on the basis of the arguments that started in 1906 and followed the continuity from Spencer Borden through W.R. Brown, Judith Lytton, H.H. Reese, and Reese’s ideological heirs.

Too bad. Homer Davenport and Lady Anne Blunt got along fine, and they seemed to be in good agreement about horses. Without “friends” to stir up trouble between them and between them and and others, they each had a contribution to make a beautiful breed of horse. This occurred despite all the unnecessary help. Many feel that both the Blunt and Davenport Arabian bloodlines reach their peak expressions of Arabian beauty when combined with each other, and the fact is that much of the best of the Blunt heritage is found primarily in combination with the bloodlines that Homer Davenport brought from Arabia in 1906.

That Nura Style

by Rick Synowski © 1995

from The CMK Record Spring 1995 XI/2: page 15

used by permission of Rick Synowski

That air of distinction which characterizes the ‘Crabbet type’ cannot easily be explained. Lady Anne Blunt called it ‘that indefinable thing style’, and Wilfrid Blunt spoke of the ‘almost electric thrill’ he experienced when he saw a really first-class horse.“(1)

GHAZIEH (Ibn Nura x Bint Horra) (Note: an Ali Pasha Sherif mare, not the Abbas Pasha desert import who founded the family to which belonged Helwa and Yemameh.) Not a brilliant photo, still this exemplifies the remarkable style of this breeding (NBGS)

The influence of the Ali Pasha Sherif line of NURA(2) has been obscured, not only by the passage of time, but by the fact that her name appears only in the middle of pedigrees. Mares which did not leave enduring dam lines, at least from a historical perspective, are less easily celebrated. A horse’s genetic influence is not necessarily less, because its name does not appear in the direct sire or dam line. NURA was an important mare to the Blunts, though it is not clear whether they ever saw her; there was something in her descendants which caught their eye. Ali Pasha Sherif too recognized the special quality of these horses as attested by the “one hoof of the Bint Nura” quote at the head of the lead article. NURA’s early descendants were notable for their style, bearing and finish — traits which have bred down in the two lines carried on from this mare at Crabbet.

IBN NURA was an aged stallion when purchased by the Blunts. He was described as a “magnificent horse…and style perfection.” Although in his 20s, he was much used at Sheykh Obeyd, until his son FEYSUL replaced him as head sire. Of FEYSUL’s sons IBN YASHMAK notably displayed the regal elegance of the line, though as a sire he would be outdone by FEYSUL’s British son RASIM, sire of RASEEM, RAZINA, *RIFLA, *FARASIN, NASHISHA and FASILA — all of importance for breeding on the NURA attributes.

BINT BINT NURA ES SHAKRA [BINT NURA GSB] was the sole NURA daughter purchased by the Blunts. Existing photos of the mare show beauty and great bearing. BINT NURA bred two important sons: MAHRUSS GSB by MAHRUSS, bred by Ali Pasha Sherif; and DAOUD by MESAOUD, bred by the Blunts.

DAOUD’s value was a point of controversy between the Blunts; his contribution was to be through his daughters. Of these NASRA would be come a grande dame of Crabbet, perhaps rivaled only by RISSLA. NASRA exuded finish and elegance, in photos reminiscent of her granddam BINT NURA. Unquestionably NASRA passed on the NURA style to her later Crabbet stamp. By this time Crabbet horses carried multiple crosses to NURA; such as INDIAN GOLD and FARIS were double BINT NURA, the first combining DAOUD with RIJM and the second a double grandson of the latter.

MAHRUSS left only one breeding son at Crabbet, RIJM; he also sired the American en utero import *IBN MAHRUSS. Lady Anne Blunt in her Journals regretted the lack of opportunity given MAHRUSS. The same source records how Wilfrid Blunt “remarked over and over again of RIJM,’that is a real show horse’.” Years later Lady Wentworth described the RIJM son *NASIK as “a magnificent horse…having style and quality in a superlative degree.” H.H.Reese, after *NASIK’s importation, called him a “made-to-order show horse.” *NASIK was used sparingly in England, perhaps overshadowed by his full brother *Nureddin II. *NASIK did sire the notable RAFEEF, whom Lady Wentworth credited with “magnificent style. Neck arched, tail in the air. Everyone wanted this horse.”

The NURA style breeds on notably from *Nureddin II through his son FARIS, remembered as “very showy” by Cecil Covey. FARIS sired RISSALIX and this showy quality was evident in the great RISSALIX sons MIKENO, BLUE DOMINO and *COUNT DORSAZ. The latter was described by a British sporting journalist as “that prince of dandies.”

We have come most to identify the founder influences in Crabbet pedigrees with MESAOUD, RODANIA, NEFISA; to a lesser extent QUEEN OF SHEBA and later, Skowronek. Yet horses like Abu Farwa, *SERAFIX, INDIAN MAGIC and Aurab would not have been what they were had NURA not been a presence in the middle of their pedigrees. This reminds us to seek out the less immediately obvious.


(1) Archer, Pearson & Covey. The Crabbet Arabian Stud, its history and influence. p. 225.

(2) “Nura” is used to refer to the Ali Pasha Sherif mare BINT NURA, daughter of the original Abbas Pasha NURA. The Ali Pasha Sherif BINT NURA is the dam of IBN NURA and of BINT BINT [Es Shakra], registered as BINT NURA GSB.

See also: The Banat Nura of Ali Pasha Sherif

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Arabian Horses

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Arabian Horses

Used by permission of Rick Synowski

Copyright by Rick Synowski 1994

from ARABIAN VISIONS July/August ’94

Reprinted from The CMK Record

used by permission of Rick Synowski

The community of Arabian horse owners — “the Industry” as we have come to call ourselves collectively — has yet to face the far-reaching consequences in any genuine way of our treatment of the Arabian horse.

In the recent article “Observations” by David Murdoch, (Arabian Visions, January-Febuary 1994), the author makes the statement that

“Abuse messes up the mind. That is the reason that wonderful young horse you sent off to be trained — the one you foaled out in your arms and watched grow up — comes back to you like a maniac.”

Murdoch’s statement strikes a chord. As an Arabian horse breeder and as a professional in the mental health field who has treated many human victims of abuse, I have been disturbed in particular by the long-term, even permanent psychological damage suffered by horses which have been traumatized in the course of training, competing, and by general mismanagement.

My 20 years experience in the mental health field includes treatment of children and adults who suffer from Post-traumatic Stress disorder, the debilitating disruption of the emotions, mental functions, and behavior which is a delayed or residual reaction to some prior catastrophic event. My observation of behavior in horses which had undergone extreme trauma, whether of human or natural cause, and the observation of other horse owners relating their experiences, indicates that horses have responses to traumatic experiences parallel to responses of people.

The disorder was earlier identified as shell shock in returning combat veterans of the two World Wars and the Korean conflict. The term Post-traumatic Stress began to be widely used as it was applied to returning Vietnam veterans who were found to have serious problems readjusting to civilian life and who suffered emotional disturbances, mental problems, and problems with their behavior which continued for an indefinite period after their return. The disorder was also identified in both children and adults who had suffered prior physical and sexual abuse. These people were often misdiagnosed and sometimes locked up in back mental wards because they were thought to have major mental illnesses, their symptoms being so severe at times.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), published and revised periodically by the American Psychiatric Association, is the diagnostic bible for the mental health field. The DSM IV, the latest edition, gives the most complete and definitive description of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to date. The following is an excerpt:

The essential feature of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury or threat to the physical integrity of another person. The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness or horror. The characteristic symptoms resulting from the exposure to the extreme trauma include persistent reexperiencing of the traumatic event, persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and numbing of general responsiveness, and persistent symptoms of increased arousal. The full symptom picture must be present for more than one month and the disturbance must cause clinically significant distress or impairment to important areas of functioning. Intense psychological distress or physiological reactivity often occurs when the person is exposed to triggering events that resemble or symbolize an aspect of the traumatic event. In rare instances the person experiences dissociative states that last from a few seconds to several hours, or even days, during which the components of the event are relived, and the person behaves as though experiencing the event at that moment (page 424.)

The lastly described reliving of the traumatic event or “flashback” is often reported by patients to be more painful or otherwise distressing than the actual event had been for them.

A personal horse-related incident which comes to mind as illustrative of a simple example of PTSD involves a situation brought about by a rider’s misjudgment. My horse, as you will see, did not experience the trauma himself but merely witnessed the event.

During the 1970s when I was living in Marin County north of San Francisco, I spent many quiet relaxing hours riding my stallion on the miles of wooded, mountain trails and back roads. One particular Sunday afternoon we had passed two young women trail riding their horses. They left the main road to take a narrow side trail which circled around the other side of a nearby lake. It had not been long when I heard shouting from that general direction and turning found one of the riders galloping toward me. The other horse and rider had apparently slipped from a particularly treacherous part of the trail high above the lake. Luckily the rider had been able to jump free but the poor mare had slid further down the embankment and was caught under a downed log about fifty feet above the lake. We turned back to find the mare thrashing wildly to free herself. Just as we were about to reach her she struggled free only to go crashing end over end down into the deep water below. Once in the water the mare struggled for what seemed an eternity. At times she would appear to tire and then sink out of sight. Horrified, we stood helplessly on the bank: the two riders, myself, and my stallion. Eventually she was able to make her way close enough to the bank to touch bottom. At that point we were able to wade into the water and slip a rope over her head and pull her to the shore. She was able to get up on her own legs and staggered out of the water, the heavy, waterlogged stock saddle still on her back. Amazingly she had escaped serious physical injury. My stallion stood trembling, his attention riveted to the mare during the entire ordeal. When she emerged from the lake I had allowed him to sniff her, as a mare will do with a foal which has become upset or separated. On the ride home however, he seemed spooked and fretted all the way. After that day he would take to shying when I attempted to ride him near the edge of a lake, even on trails which were familiar to him and which had not posed a previous problem. His behavior did not generalize to fording streams or crossing bridges over streams, which he did with little fuss.

A horse’s response to real or perceived danger is either “fight or flight.” This is an instinctive survival response, as it is in people. Like people, horses will, when not physically able to fight or escape, attempt to leave the situation psychologically, and will dissociate. Horses dissociate in response to immediate trauma (this is sometimes associated with and symptom of shock), but I have seen them dissociate in response to a triggering stimulus associated with prior trauma. A horse in a dissociative state will seem to take leave of his senses. He may seem to be in another world and unaware of his immediate surroundings. If highly aroused he may be dangerous, to others or to himself. I had acquired another stallion who I had found in a starved, emaciated state. I was told he had been beaten. He was a gentle soul but when he became distressed he would weave with a vengeance and at times appear to go into a trance-like state, eyes glazed over. This behavior diminished in time but never disappeared.

Horses by nature are highly social, gregarious animals. The species evolved to live within a social group as its primary means of survival. Separation from the group often meant death from predators or from lack of experience in coping with other threats in its environment. The Bedouins bred horses these past thousands of years which were purposefully developed to generalize their social needs and responses to people. This resulted in the characteristic horse to human bond for which the Arabian would become a legend. Separation from horse or human companions can be stressful and traumatic. Separation and forced readjustment to unfamiliar, alien surroundings occurs as a matter of course to most horses, especially those shuffled from one owner to the next.

Such was the story of the great *Serafix, imported from the Crabbet Stud in England to California by John Rogers. The young *Serafix became so homesick after his arrival that he refused to eat. It was thought he would die, the situation was so serious. Finally, Rogers himself moved into *Serafix’s stall to provide round the clock companionship to bring the horse out of his nearly fatal slump. Happily most horses do not experience adjustment problems as severe, but it is not uncommon that horses are never able to completely adjust. Many develop abnormal behaviors such as stable vices or other irksome or even dangerous habits — coping mechanisms used to adapt to the fallout of traumas we owners seldom even notice, which includes isolation from familiar companions and adjustments to unfamiliar surroundings.

Human caused trauma seems far more debilitating to people than is trauma from natural events such as floods, fires and earthquakes (DSM IV, p. 424). Arabian horses, with their strong natural affinity for people, are especially vulnerable to the devastation of human-perpetrated abuses. Deliberately inflicted trauma, usually meted out as corporal punishment, is the most frequent cause of PTSD in horses — especially horses trained for competitive events. In Arabians, it is most commonly associated with halter training and showing, but it occurs on some level in all kinds of competition. We certainly are not talking about reasonable discipline or correction here — with alarming frequency we go over that line of discipline to outright abuse, and perhaps some of us do not even know when we have crossed that line. Where trauma does not involve punishment, it occurs in horses which are in physical pain and continue to be worked. Sometimes the horse does not even protest. Too often they are anesthetized and continue to reinjure themselves or worsen present injuries. Such practices result in suffering extending beyond the reach of painkillers and which often develops in chronic ailment. Working lame horses is cruel and inhumane, but far more insidious and even more common is the forced work of horses with musculoskeletal pain arising from trauma to the spine. These injuries result from the forced collection of young horses for prolonged periods and are aggravated by use of mechanical devices such as martingales, tie-downs, and draw reins. These appliances may actually be misused to correct horses which are already hurting from spinal problems, shown by resisting collection and going above the bit. We add more pain to an already hurting horse without a clue as to what we are doing. Little wonder these horses develop bad attitudes and other evasive or even violent behaviors which continue long after the pain itself may have subsided.

Whip abuse is the most often decried of the abuses to which the Arabian is almost universally subjected, owing to the high arousal state in which the Arabian is forced to be shown. People who believe the decline of whip abuse seen at the shows reflects that abuse is on the decline are gravely deceived and have little understanding of the use of the whip as a trigger to call up past abuse. One does not even have to use a whip as a trigger — the response may be elicited by a hand signal or gesture of the upright arm, or a verbal cue like the “shush” or clicking one hears in the ring. Just like the salivation of Pavlov’s dogs when the bell rang, halter horses are conditioned to become highly aroused and to exhibit the fight or flight behaviors given the threat of harm — or the memory of harm.

These responses include the tightening of muscles and exaggerated posturing and movement common to many other species when confronted with danger. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is not merely an effect of halter training; it has become the method itself, employed deliberately to elicit the response we demand in the show ring. Since the abuse need not occur at the time the response is triggered, it need not be repeated in the ring or even at the show. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that holding horses in paddocks at shows to be observed and inspected by stewards is little more than a charade.

The effects of conditioning by pain or fear of pain result in a variety of responses which may become long-term or permanent and usually generalize to other people, including their bewildered owners. I have heard more than one sad story from an injured owner who was attacked by their own horse they got back from the trainer — the horse they raised and thought they knew. One never knows what will trigger an aggressive reaction in what seem like otherwise gentle, sensible horses. And, one learns never to put one’s own guard down with them. These behaviors may subside in time but one cannot predict whether they will ever go away entirely.

Depression is another effect of abuse. These horses seem to suffer mental breakdowns. They become listless and withdrawn and non-responsive to their surroundings. We see this so often in show horses that I doubt we pay much attention to this kind of response. Once returned to hearth and home and to familiar companions these symptoms seem to subside in about six months to a year.

Of course, horses suffer a variety of physical ailments due to the effects of PTSD, just like humans do. Immune systems become depressed. These horses are much more prone to colic and other digestive upsets. This is not news to the insurance industry which has limited liability, raised premiums, or even refused to insure horses where abuse of one kind or another has become commonplace.

A bizarre and little understood response to abuse is the perverse kind of loyalty, and in extreme cases, affection the victim occasionally develops toward the perpetrator. This had been first observed in some victims who had been interned and tortured as POWs. I can remember my own bewilderment and frustration years ago working with a woman who had been repeatedly beaten by her husband, but who remained loyal to him, even to the point of raising his bail when he was jailed for sending her to the local emergency room with injuries.

Charles Craver brought to my attention his observations of horses which, having suffered abuse, seemed to develop the same kind of bond to their abuser. Craver’s observation brings to mind my visit to an Arabian breeding establishment some years ago and watching the trainer bring out one of the much publicized stallions. The horse was agitated and repeatedly lunged at the trainer, mouth open and ears flat back. It was obvious the stallion regarded the trainer with hatred and the trainer displayed no little skill to dodge the attacks while presenting the horse to guests. Imagine my shock when I learned years later of the special rapport these two were touted to have.

When a handler gives a horse a loving pat and the horse appears to respond, it is no guarantee that the handler hasn’t abused that horse to within an inch of its life back at the barn to earn that pat. I witnessed such an incident in the show ring one year. When it was announced that a particularly lovely young mare was chosen as the champion, her handler jubilantly threw his arms around her neck as though she were the love of his life. The mare was dazed, seemingly disoriented, and confused as she stood trembling to receive her accolades.

In his article, Murdoch cites owners as coresponsible with trainers for abuse, as we have the ultimate responsibility for the welfare of our own horses. Owners may plead ignorance and may well indeed be unaware of the abuses their horses suffer when under the care of someone else, or which they themselves inflict unwittingly. But the causes of ignorance are less the lack of accurate information than the lack of genuine concern which comes from the heart and conscience rather than that to which one pays lip service only. It really comes down to not putting the horses first.


Dissociative States: Any mental state in which an individual seems to lose contact with his immediate surroundings. Day-dreaming is a common and normally harmless dissociative state most of us experience at one time or another. In more severe instances, an individual may suffer amnesia (blackouts), confusion, disorientation or even psychosis.

Generalized Response: Any response which is learned in one context or situation and is repeated in a similar context or in response to a similar stimulus.

Increased Arousal State: Psychologically any state of intensified emotion (anger, fear, anxiety, excitement) and awareness (hypervigilance). Physiologically, increased arousal states are characterized by rapid heart beat and respirations, increased adrenaline release, and other indicators of increased metabolism.

Trigger: An event, circumstance, or object which resembles, or is symbolic of a previous traumatic event and which causes the victim to respond as if he were reliving the event.

Some Thoughts on Training and Showing Your Own Halter Horses

Some Thoughts on Training and Showing Your Own Halter Horses

Copyright by Rick Synowski 1993

from ARABIAN VISIONS May/Jun ’93

used by permission of Rick Synowski

I am among the multitude longing to see the return of the days when the majority of handlers in halter classes were owners rather than trainers. That is the way it was when I first started showing halter in 1962. Trainers would not necessarily be out of a job, but rather their role would change. It has always seemed to me odd that trainers themselves compete in horse shows whereas in other competitive sports trainers coach the competitors. What we now have, at least in the world of Class “A” shows, is a trainers’ competition, not a horse competition, especially in halter classes. Horsemanship has been replaced by “De Sade” methods of tormenting horses in order to achieve the petrified look which wins in today’s American show ring. The horses themselves are prepared by grooming and other methods to appear bizarre, even macabre. Sadly, it is amateurs too who mimic these “it’s-how-it’s-done” practices where insensitivity, if not outright abuse, is inflicted by their own hand on their own horses.

One either marches to a different drummer and sometimes lets the chips fall where they may in terms of winning, or one conforms. It is my experience you can win without conforming provided 1) your horse is very good and is expertly fitted and presented, 2) you have consistently put in long hours and meticulous care over months and years in fitting and training, and 3) you have done your homework in selecting a judge who will rate your horse knowledgeably and without prejudice. One insults one’s own horse to show under a poor or corrupt judge.

As an amateur-owner halter competitor, I believe showing can still be fun for you and for the horse. And you can facilitate a thrilling performance by the horse for the audience, whether the judge appears to appreciate it or not.

In my experience, certain horses demonstrate a natural halter attitude. These are the born show-offs. They tend to be “hot” and display an extra style and brilliance. Such a horse was *Nasik, imported to the Kellogg Ranch from Crabbet Stud, whom H.H.Reese described as “a real peacock” and “a made-to-order show horse.” These horses love to perform in front of an audience and they tend to be extroverts. This natural attitude is to be built upon and rewarded in halter training. Then one appeals not to the horse’s fear but to his vanity. I tend to select these kinds of horses to show at halter. Probably my prettiest mare is the most annoyed by halter training and showing. It was a real burden for her and not fun. But from the day she was born she never cared a whit about impressing anyone.

I begin halter training with a young horse by working a more experienced horse in the aisle in front of his stall. Horses, especially youngsters, do learn a lot by imitation. I have been amazed at how much a horse picks up this way. Normally I work my horses in front of their comrades, appealing again to the horse’s desire to show off or be shown off. Praise for ever-so-small right responses is loud and exaggerated; one might say I use applause as a reward. Sessions are brief — less than five minutes. Remember horses, like kids, have a low tolerance for tedious tasks. Bad days are allowed for without penalty or chastisement. I do not use a halter chain during training. I think this tends to sour horses. I prefer a short riding whip as a cue and sometimes as a reminder to pay attention. Some horses sour quickly with a whip, even lightly applied, and do best without it. If you are using the whip to discipline your horse during each session you are doing something very wrong and the whip is only making it worse. Likewise with the incessant jerking I see too often.

I train with the horse on firm ground rather than using the soft arena footing so the horse is not working against an uneven surface while he is learning. Lesson number one must be “whoa.” You cannot proceed until your horse has learned this. I let my young horses free-exercise prior to a halter session. It is much easier for them to focus and pay attention then. Concentration is hard work for youngsters, horse or human. Another cardinal rule: never back your horse into position. You may back him and then have him step forward into position. Also, I tend to be a visual thinker and it is natural for me to visualize what I am asking the horse to do. I know there is something to this in training horses. As far as positioning your horse’s legs, neck, and head: have someone evaluating your horse’s most flattering position, standing alongside your horse while you are at the front. Learn this position and train your horse toward it.

Equally important to training is conditioning. I do not believe there are shortcuts to the months of consistent, regular exercise program and proper horse management such as feeding, foot care, worming, and grooming to achieve a properly fit halter horse. In showing a youngster, one must also evaluate that individual’s stage of growth. If a young horse is slow to mature, small, or at an awkward stage, it is best to wait until he can be shown without the temporary handicap which time will change. I believe it is better to scratch and forfeit the entry fees than show when a horse cannot be at his best.

Training with these tips in mind, your horse should display a natural brilliance and sparkle in his eyes in contrast to the zombie expressions and contrived posturing which has become the norm. You may or may not win but you will be proud of your horse’s “good show” and there will be people in the audience who appreciate what they see.


Delightful as Companion and to Ride

Delightful as Companion and to Ride

 Copyright by Rick Synowski 1995

from ARABIAN VISIONS Sept/Oct ’95

used by permission of Rick Synowski

“The perfect union between horse and rider” is a state of being for which the true horseperson strives, and achieves momentarily, perhaps. Exhilarating moments difficult to describe unless you have been there. In these moments, described by someone as like having a wire between your brain and that of your horse, you are aware of your mount’s keen ability to know and understand you. You are aware of his delight to function in harmony with your thoughts, your will, and your emotions.

Perhaps beyond his other attributes, this is the unique quality possessed by the Arabian horse which has been passed on in varying degrees as the progenitor of light horse breeds. This attribute was valued above all others by the Bedouins.

In his article: “The Arabian Horse as Your Friend and Companion” (Western Horseman, November-December 1942), Carl Raswan writes in his inimitable style, “The gift of an intelligent spirit was bestowed upon the mare of Ishmael and an intuitive soul to dwell within her beautiful, strong and symmetrical body. Psychic powers of her animal spirit were gifts of God, but her conscious mind developed through her intimate human association.” Though Raswan’s poetic description seems archaic to contemporary readers, he did faithfully reflect the Bedouin sentiment.

Do we believe this about the Arabian horse, or do we account it as another one of many myths which have come to us from the desert? Do we believe the “scientific articles” appearing in various horse magazines and recently in U.S. News and World Report which ascribe only rudimentary intelligence to horses beyond unconscious responses to basic, instinctive drives? What we believe is critical because it determines how we train, handle, and manage our horses, and what we experience of them. It even determines how our horses respond to us, or maybe more accurately how they do not respond.

It may be an inconvenience to perceive the Arabian horse as a complex thinking, feeling creature with a capacity to experience in some way similar to our own, because it begs the question how our horses experience the circumstances we force on them. One would define abuse in terms of how one understands this mental capacity as well.

Like other traits, the Arabian’s mental/emotional capacity exists in various degrees and with differences which are specific to families and to individuals, and this based largely on inheritance. Within the breed one finds a wide range of personalities and intelligence. One should expect that different horses respond differently to various kinds of handling, training, and management. Perhaps this is why certain bloodlines are more popular than others with professional trainers given the methods of training, managing, and showing horses which have become the norm. Horses which possess the greater mental/emotional capacities may adapt less satisfactorily to these methods.

“[D]elightful as companion and to ride” was penned in her journals by Lady Anne Blunt following a June 4, 1891 ride on Sobha. This was one of several references she made to the intelligence of the Sobha line. Riding and companionship of her horses was doubtless to provide respite for Lady Anne Blunt from her life made tumultuous by conflict with and eventual estrangement from her family. What she noted was the capacity of these horses to provide for her that which people no longer did.

It is difficult to imagine any quality more valuable than that which Lady Anne Blunt describes in the Arabian horse. In the Selby Stud Catalogue published 1937, Roger Selby quotes, “But it is his fine disposition coupled with his great intelligence that have made the Arabian ‘a horse you can chum with, a real trustworthy pal, one that adapts himself to the moods and whims of his riders.” Yet today one can thumb through any of the breed journals without finding a single reference to these qualities. You can be left only with the conclusion that at least in “the industry” these qualities are passe’.

The Davenport desert import *Wadduda, noted by Davenport as having been “the favorite war mare of Hashem Bey” (Sheik of the Bishr Anazah Bedouins) was extolled for her “almost human brains” and like Sobha she passed this trait to her descendants. Her grandson Antez was credited by W.K. Kellogg for saving his life by staying “cool in a crisis.” Kellogg later returned the favor by making sure Antez had a permanent home to live out his last years. Pep, a great-grandson of *Wadduda, was trained as a trick horse for the Kellogg Sunday Shows. Pep apparently got bored with the routine and discovered his calling as a stand-up comedian muffing his cues and exasperating his trainer, sending his audience into hysterics. It was reported that after the performances when he was taken ’round the barn to be corrected he did his routine without a hitch.

I remember the surprising cleverness of my own first Arabian, a double great-grandson of Antez, which he displayed from the first day we brought him home. He was six months old and just off his mother when my father and I brought him home in the back of our pick-up truck. About halfway home the canvas cover, which was lashed over the side-panels, tore loose and began flapping violently in the wind, collapsing over the colt. I don’t know how far we drove before we noticed, but the colt stood calmly while we stopped and pulled the canvas off him.

The next year there were more incidents. One day our hired man came to the house to tell us how the colt was helping him put up a new fence. He explained that the colt would carry nails in his mouth from a keg near the barn over to where the man was nailing up rails. That year we took him to his first show. We had arrived the evening before our class and left our now yearling colt in a stall in the race barns at the fairgrounds. It was his first night away from home since we got him. When we returned several hours later “Antez,” which we called him, was missing from his stall. Unable to find him we found friends who had been there the whole evening. They took us to where Antez was now stalled and recounted his evening of mischief and adventure. Apparently he unlocked his door and let himself out of his stall. He then proceeded to go down the barn aisle and free other horses. Surprised in the act by the night watchman, Antez ran into an empty stall, standing as if totally innocent, amidst the melee of loose horses.

Fortunately, Antez outgrew his mischievousness and matured to become a fine riding horse and wonderful companion for 28 years. Maintaining a mind of his own, he was never one to be forced to do anything. But working together as a team he was willing and eager to put himself into any task from trail horse to English pleasure, dressage, jumping, and even herding cattle. Each thing he did with eye-catching style.

One hopes we can get beyond our Arabian-as-living-art phase. His physical beauty is just one dimension to be understood and valued. It was this physical beauty which caught the eyes of Westerners perhaps, but it was the beauty beyond the physical for which he was valued by the Bedouin. His conversable personality and companionable nature may be the finest assets he brings to the horsepersons of this day and age.


The Changing Eye

The Changing Eye

copyright 1999 by Robert J. Cadranell

from Arabian Visions Spring 1999

used by permission of RJCadranell

After you’ve spent a few years with horses, you don’t look at them quite the same way as you did when you started. I’ll give as an example my experience at about age ten with horses — these were not Arabians — from two different farms in the state where I grew up.

One farm was located “on the other side of the mountains” in the eastern part of the state, and the other farm “on this side of the mountains,” in the western part of the state. Today I am sure enthusiasts of that breed count both farms as successful breeders of sound, typey, and useful horses. But when I was ten years old, it seemed to me there was no contest. I liked only the horses bred at the farm on this side of the mountains, and I was always looking for them at the shows. The horses bred on the other side of the mountains — which I knew mostly from published photographs — looked to me coarse, clunky, and ugly. Nonetheless they were popular pleasure and show horses, so I assumed disposition must have been their one good point.

When I recently looked again at pictures of those horses I used to think were clunks, I was amazed to find average to pretty horses of sound, balanced conformation. There wasn’t a clunk in the bunch. Some of them even had bone that looked a little too light for the pronounced musculature it supported. Not all of them were perfect, but it was clear their breeder was doing something right.

What had changed? Certainly not the pictures. Yes, a few of the owners needed to learn a little more about how to pose and photograph their horse to its advantage, but most of the photos were acceptable or better. I can conclude only that the change has been in my eye for a horse.

At an Arabian farm I visited in my early teen years, I left the place wondering how that band of plain, indifferent mares could have produced those dazzling young stallions. One fleabitten grey mare in particular I thought was much too large and coarse: definitely offtype. I wrote her off almost immediately — no point wasting time going in the stall and looking at that mare and foal.

Only a few years later, I met that grey mare again in my travels. She had been sold to another farm, and somehow in the process she had shrunk down to 14.1 hands — maybe less — and had developed a beautiful head with particularly enchanting eyes. More likely she had always looked like that, but I was not able to see it the first time.

On a later visit to the band of plain, indifferent mares, it became clear to me where those dazzling young stallions had come from: that was actually one fine band of broodmares. All I had to do was learn how to see them, and it took a few years. It’s easy to be impressed by a prancing, dancing stallion. Properly evaluating a broodmare often requires a more practiced eye.

Broodmares know their priorities: good hay or pasture, and lazing in the sunshine. Most of the time, they don’t try to impress anyone. It’s easy for a visitor to walk right past the broodmares in search of the more animated residents of the farm. And maybe that’s just as well. Until the eye is ready to appreciate them, they might be evaluated unfairly.

The Banat Nura of Ali Pasha Sherif

Copyright © 1995 R.J. Cadranell II
originally published in The CMK Record Spring 1995 XI/2
used by permission

BINT NURA GSB a chestnut foaled about 1885 and bred by Ali Pasha Sherif, is widely influential through her sons KAUKAB, DAOUD and MAHRUSS GSB. This mare’s great elegance still is reflected in her modern descendants. (NBGS)

“Zeyd… offered 100 and 150, whereupon Ali Pasha exclaimed, ‘Ho, ho, ho! one hoof of the bint Nura is worth 100 pounds.'” — Lady Anne Blunt, Journals and Correspondence

Horses from the family of NURA consistently attracted Lady Anne Blunt’s attention, from her earliest visit to the Cairo stables of Ali Pasha Sherif. As Mr. Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt began to acquire more and more of Ali Pasha Sherif’s horses for their own studs at Crabbet and Sheykh Obeyd, the NURA line was frequently in the pedigrees.

Lady Anne Blunt first saw the Ali Pasha Sherif horses in 1880. Among them were two “banat Nura” (daughters of NURA in the usage that daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters are all “daughters” of an original mare):

…we saw 2 bay Doheymeh Nejib mares difficult to choose between. The more interesting at first is a 5 year old, bright full bay (like Kars) with 2 white hind feet and small star. Her crest, wither and shoulder exaggerated like the portraits of the Godolphin Arabian. She is a picture and at a little distance very like Kars. The other mare was darker bay and altogether I think the best. Legs stouter and more muscle. She is 6 or 7 – a daughter of a celebrated D.N. mare called Nurah who died of the disease when this mare was 2 yrs. old [i.e. in about 1875-6]. The first bay is a grand-daughter of Nurah. Both of these are daughters of Vizir [Wazir]. The younger one has a head like Jasmine [Dajania] and Kars. 25 Nov: 1880.

On the occasion of another visit, she commented on three banat Nura:

The three daughters of Nura the Doheymeh Najib, have two of them got foals within the last fortnight. The beautiful bay I admire more than ever. [If this mare is the bay with the Godolphin crest – and the markings described, the comparison to Kars, and “I admire more than ever” comment indicate that she is – Lady Anne was apparently incorrect in 1880 when she recorded her as a granddaughter of Nura.] Her colt foal is 8 days old, a bay with no white by Shueyman. She has a narrow white mark on the forehead and two white hind feet to above fetlock and the finest head I ever saw. Her sire Vizir [Wizir]. The brown mare her half sister (daughter to Shueyman) [ if this is the same “darker bay” Nura mare described in 1880, Lady Anne was apparently incorrect when she recorded her as a daughter of Wazir] has a colt by the Dahman horse [ Aziz}…. there is a third daughter of Nura, a white mare, but I did not care for her so much as the other two. If we could ever get the bay it would be the glory of the stud. She is exactly the color of Kars (though less black points). 3 Dec: 1881.

Just a few months later, Lady Anne wanted to know whether Ali Pasha Sherif would sell either of the bay NURA mares. She sent an emissary to inquire surreptitiously.

Zeyd…went to Ali Pasha Sherif to inquire, as we supposed, privately, whether his Excellency would be disposed to sell one or both of the bay daughters of Nura (Doheymeh Nejib). But Zeyd was no match for the Pasha, let the cat out of the bag at the first question and then offered 100 and 150, whereupon Ali Pasha exclaimed “Ho, ho, ho! one hoof of the bint Nura is worth 100 pounds.” … I told Zeyd he had no business to tell Ali Pasha who had asked him to enquire about the mares, it would be time for that if the Pasha wished to sell. 15 Feb:1882.

During this trip to Egypt the Blunts apparently made their last visit to Ali Pasha’s stables before they were barred from entering Egypt in 1883. In 1887 they were able to return to Egypt, but do not appear to have visited Ali Pasha’s stables. In December of 1888 the Blunts were again in Egypt, and saw the Ali Pasha Sherif horses for the first time in about seven years. The NURA family had grown:

There was a bay black points – if white on feet very little, can’t remember, something like Kars but rather small hocks….He had a star. They said he was five years old. I suppose 6 next spring which would make it fit with his being the foal of the bay Doheymeh Nejib saw in 1882….we found he was by Aziz. I thought hocks small but no defect. Head very fine, carriage of tail also, remarkably good feet. Then No. 2 a brother of the above, also bay – 2 years I think. Perfect head better than proceeding. Legs look as if they would be stouter.

…a grey Dahman with very beautiful head and good legs, back, not quite so strong in back….really lovely little horse [Probably IBN NURA, who would have been about 12 and whose head Lady Anne consistently admired.]

a brown…with star, I forget if any other white. Her last year’s foal same color also star – very rough coat – foal by…Aziz….The mare I understood to be the daughter of the brown Dahmeh (or Doheymeh) Nejib we saw in 1882 – her dam I was told is dead.

…the bay Doheymeh..with a last year’s foal a chestnut of course the Dahman’s. This mare I think called Nura. She is a wreck of her former self, the crest like the Godolphin Arabian has gone, nothing but the immensely high wither remains – light of bone, nevertheless I should not mind having her!

This Doheymeh Nejib must be about 12 years old….a lovely chestnut mare also Doheymeh Nejib, daughter of the white D.N. we saw (now dead). She is very fine. 19 Dec: 1888.

IBN NURA, shown here as an old horse with the young Judith Blunt, was a sire for Ali Pasha Sherif and for the Blunts at Sheykh Obeyd. His most influential offspring was FEYSUL. (NBGS)

The Blunts were to acquire the blood of the NURA family through a mare they registered in Weatherby’s General Stud Book as “BINT NURA” and a stallion they entered in Sheykh Obeyd records as “IBN NURA.” In addition to BINT NURA and IBN NURA themselves, the Blunts also purchased two sons of BINT NURA, four daughters and a son of IBN NURA, and a grandson of both.

From published sources, the pedigree connections are not entirely clear between the IBN NURA and BINT NURA owned by the Blunts and the mares Lady Anne enthusiastically described on her early visits to Ali Pasha’s stud. A photograph of a Blunt herdbook entry[1] describes IBN NURA as “a fleabitten White Dahman Nejib his dam Bint Nura a bay Dahmeh Nejiba by [illegible in reproduction] out of Nura a grey Dahmeh Nejiba….” Lady Anne consistently dated the bright bay mare with the Godolphin crest to approximately 1875 or 1876 – too young to have been the dam of her IBN NURA, whom she also dated to about 1876. Ali Pasha’s “darker bay” BINT NURA mare (apparently by Shueyman) would have been old enough to have produced IBN NURA as her first foal – especially if she was 7 and not 6 in 1880, and if IBN NURA was foaled closer to 1877 than 1876. But pedigree information Upton took from Blunt notes [DH p. 48) describes the dam of IBN NURA as BINT NURA, a bay mare by ZOBEYNI and out of NURA. A mare of this description does not seem to have been recorded in the Journals — although it is possible she had been sold or died before Lady Anne first visited Ali Pasha.

Upton (DH p. 108), working from Blunt records, gives the dam of BINT NURA (GSB) as a bay mare by ZOBEYNI and out of NURA. The tables in Arabian Horse Families of Egypt (p. xxxi), also compiled from Blunt notes, list IBN NURA and BINT NURA (GSB) as both out of the same bay BINT NURA, by ZOBEYNI x NURA.

MAHRUSS GSB (Mahruss x Bint Nura GSB), sire of the influential RIJM and the American *IBN MAHRUSS 22 from his very few opportunities at stud (NBGS)

Listed in order of acquisition, the NURA descendants the Blunts purchased were:

  1. MAHRUSS, purchased from Ali Pasha Sherif on January 7, 1896. He was a son of the BINT NURA Lady Anne was to acquire in 1897. MAHRUSS arrived in England in May of 1897. His breeding opportunity, as seen in GSB, was limited. In 1898 MAHRUSS covered four mares. All were barren except BADIA, whose 1899 colt broke a leg and was destroyed as a foal. MAHRUSS does not appear to have been used at all in 1899. In 1900 he covered five mares and was then sold from Crabbet. Three of these last five mares were barren, one was sent to the United States carrying a colt (registered as *IBN MAHRUSS 22, and an influence in American pedigrees), and one produced a 1901 colt named RIJM. “It would be well to have more of Mahruss’s stock,” Lady Anne commented, but RIJM was to be his sole representative at Crabbet. RIJM was a favorite of all the Blunts, and started his breeding career in 1905. His get include the sires *NASIK and *Nureddin II, and the broodmares NESSIMA, *RIJMA, FEJR, JAWI-JAWI, and BELKA. In Australia his son FAKREDDIN has pedigree influence.

    FULANA and her daughters produced at Crabbet but in the long run she has remained in pedigrees only via her very handsome MESAOUD son FARAOUN, brother to the filly shown. He sired important mares in Australia. (NBGS)

  2. FULANA (Bint Bint Fereyha el Saghira) and
  3. ABU KHASHEB were purchased from Ali Pasha Sherif on December 14, 1896. ABU KHASHEB, full brother to MAHRUSS, was imported to England in 1898, but does not appear to have been used at stud prior to his sale to India in 1901. FULANA was a daughter of IBN NURA, and imported to England in 1897. Her family bred at Crabbet until 1911, but the only modern pedigree connection is through her son FARAOUN (by MESAOUD), a widespread influence in Australia.
  4. IBN NURA was purchased at auction January 15, 1897 when he was about 21 years of age. “Magnificent horse, head splendid and splendidly set on; neck shoulder and style perfection.” IBN NURA was apparently the only sire used at Sheykh Obeyd (except on his own daughters and BINT NURA) during the 1897, 98, and 99 breeding seasons, whether a mare was on her way to England or to remain in Egypt.
    Of the 11 or more foals that could have been expected, there were but two born: MAKBULA foaled a grey IBN NURA colt at Newbuildings (in 1899 according to GSB) in what must have been one of those ordeals every breeder fears: “Foal dead, mare nearly dead,” Lady Anne recorded in herdbook records. The other IBN NURA foal was born at Sheykh Obeyd: an 1898 grey filly named WUJRA, out of BINT FEREYHA, and thus a full sister to FULANA. WUJRA was dam of a colt that died at ten months, and then on February 1st of 1904 a stillborn filly. A week later WUJRA herself was dead, apparently of complications related to foaling. It was a “great loss. She is the youngest daughter of Ibn Nura, she was also perfect to ride…And her temper was of the best.”
    During the 1900 breeding season at Sheykh Obeyd IBN NURA covered only one mare, WUJRA’s dam, but once again it was a barren breeding. The other three mares bred in 1900 all went to FEYSUL. Thereafter IBN NURA was a pensioner at Sheykh Obeyd, where he died in the spring of 1903.
  5. BINT NURA (Bint Bint Nura es Shakra) and
  6. GHAZIEH (Bint Bint Horra) were purchased at auction March 26, 1897. BINT NURA was sent to England in May that year. For Ali Pasha Sherif she had produced MAHRUSS and ABU KHASHEB, as well as one of two colts by IBN SHERARA (one of these, an 1890 grey, was bred to JOHARAH). At Crabbet BINT NURA promptly produced three more colts. DEM-DEM (1900) and DURRAJ (1902) were sold, but DAOUD (1899) was a favorite of Lady Anne’s and a sire for her. In 1903 BINT NURA, along with NEFISA and ROSE OF SHARON, became one of Crabbet’s three oldest mares; BOZRA had died and JOHARA and BADIA were given away in 1903. Like some older mares, BINT NURA became a problem breeder. She produced just one more foal — a 1906 filly by HARB, which died. Among her barren breedings was one to her grandson RIJM. She was put down in 1912. DAOUD and RIJM were BINT NURA’s only breeding ties to later Crabbet pedigrees. DAOUD’s get included NASRA, SOMRA, NADIMA (exported to Argentina), MARHABA, SARAMA (dam of *SIMAWA), RUDEYNA and *RASIMA.
    GHAZIEH, an IBN NURA daughter bred by Ali Pasha Sherif, remained at Sheykh Obeyd where she became a broodmare. Her son GHAREB was used for breeding there, was were her daughters GHAZWA and FEYDA. After Lady Anne Blunt died, FEYDA found her way to the stud of Prince Kamel el Dine. He bred her son IBN FAYDA (by IBN RABDAN), a sire at the Inshass Stud. Through IBN FAYDA, GHAZIEH has a presence in “New Egyptian” pedigrees.

    JELLABIEH, daughter of IBN NURA, was closely related to FEYSUL – some references would have them full brother and sister. She produced in England but the line did not persist. This photo carries its own story. It was published in Lady Wentworth’s Thoroughbred Racing Stock, specifically as an individual bred by Ali Pasha Sherif and of the Jellabieh strain. The background is English. The Blunts imported only two grey Jellabiehs. The other MAKBULA, was always referred to as “white” and clearly appears so in her one photo, taken two years after importation. This mare still showing grey on her legs would by process of elimination, be JELLABIEH. (This also appears to be the photo on which Peter Upton modeled his painting of that mare.)

  7. JELLABIEH, an IBN NURA daughter bred by Ali Pasha Sherif, was purchased December 10, 1897 from Ayub Bey. She was imported to Crabbet in 1898. JELLABIEH produced four foals at Crabbet from 1899 to 1902 (none of which carriedc her family into another generation), and then spent some time in the ownership of Lady Anne’s brother Ralph, Lord Lovelace. When Lord Lovelace died in 1906, JELLABIEH returned to Crabbet. She produced *BERK fillies in 1908 and 1910 for Lady Anne and was sold to Musgrave Clark in 1912 carrying a third *BERK filly, JERAWA (1908) produced at least one foal (which died) before she was exported. JASK (1910) was sold by Lady Anne Blunt and repurchased by her daughter, Lady Wentworth, in 1918 or 1919, carrying JELLAL, by RIYAL. Lady Wentworth sold both JASK and her son JELLAL abroad. According to Colin Pearson, JASK may have left a line in South American pedigrees.

    FEYSUL sired such important individuals as GHADIA at Sheykh Obeyd and RASIM at Crabbet. (NBGS; thanks to Betty Finke for custom print work.)

  8. FEYSUL, an IBN NURA son bred by Ali Pasha Sherif, was acquired December 7, 1898. By 1900 it was becoming clear that old IBN NURA had a chronic fertility problem, and FEYSUL was promoted to head sire at Sheykh Obeyd, a position he held until he was sent to Crabbet in 1904 with his son IBN YASHMAK. FEYSUL’s sons FERID, GHADIR, and GHAREB were all, used for breeding at Sheykh Obeyd (although just briefly), as were his daughters GHAZWA and GHADIA, and GHADIA’s daughter ZARIFA. Lady Anne presented GHADIA to the Royal Agricultural Society in 1917, where she was listed as RADIA, and influenced Egyptian pedigrees enormously through her daughter BINT RADIA (dam of SHAHLOUL, ZAMZAM, SAMIRA and HAMDAN). ZARIFA was another who went to Prince Kemal el Dine after Lady Anne died. The Prince bred a daughter of hers who went to the Inshass Stud and founded a large family there.
    At Crabbet FEYSUL and IBN YASHMAK were both used for breeding. Among FEYSUL’s get in England were RASIM (a sire at Crabbet) and AAJMAN (a sire in South America). IBN YASHMAK was part of the Newbuildings Half, where breeding opportunity was more limited than in the Crabbet Half. His get included AMIDA, AJJAM, *NAFIA, *FELESTIN, *RIZVAN and RAZIEH (BINT RISSALA in Egypt).
  9. AZZ was an IBN NURA daughter bred by Ali Pasha Sherif. Lady Anne Blunt purchased her in May of 1906 from Ali Pasha’s son, Osman Bey Sherif, but it was not until November, 1909 that she found out “Osman Bey swindled us as he knew that the mare had been hurt at last foaling.” Lady Anne sent AZZ to Crabbet in 1910, but she never produced another foal and was put down in 1916.
  10. SAHAB was a son of KAUKAB and AZZ bred by Osman Bey Sherif and foaled in 1903. Lady Anne Blunt bought him from Timur Bey in November, 1909, at about the same time she learned of the foaling accident of his dam. SAHAB was out of a daughter of IBN NURA and by a son of BINT NURA — apparently the BINT NURA owned by Lady Anne. When she saw KAUKAB she noted in her journal for February 20, 1914: “what style, the quarter splendid (I wish Sahab had inherited that)…Kaukab is son of B.Nura, and there is in him much to recall her – a perfect head.” SAHAB was used as a sire at Sheykh Obeyd from shortly after his arrival until Lady Anne’s death in 1917. He has Egyptian descent through his daughter ZARIFA (out of FEYSUL’s daughter GHADIA, thus with three NURA lines), his daughter SERRA (out of JEMLA, and dam of *BINT SERRA I and RASALA), and his daughter JAZIA (out of JAUZA and dam of GHANDOUR).
  1. [1]Desert Heritage: An Artist’s Collection of Blunt’s Original Arab Horses, p. 8

The South American Arabian Pedigree FAQ

by Robert J. Cadranell with Michael Bowling

Originally published in Arabian Visions, January-February 1997
Revised January 2005

Horses in South America were part of the deadlock between the Arabian Horse Registry of America (AHRA) and the World Arabian Horse Association (WAHO). This article answers some frequently asked questions about the South American horses.

The AHRA mentioned thousands of horses in South America with bloodlines it would not recognize as purebred Arabian. Which South American foundation horses are in question?

The foundation horses are O’Bajan V-6, Hamdani Semri I-9, O’Bajan-7, and Kurdo III. The first three were bred at the Babolna state stud in Hungary. Kurdo III was the son of a horse from Babolna. These four horses were imported to South America in the years just prior to World War I.

Babolna breeding is in the pedigrees of many Arabians in the U.S., including *Bask, Bey Shah, and Khemosabi. What makes these Babolna bloodlines in South America different?

In 1789, the Austro-Hungarian government established at Babolna a branch of its military horse breeding. In 1816, two desert bred Arabians arrived at Babolna: the stallion Siglavy Gidran and the mare 74 Tifle. Among the horses fostered at Babolna since then is a herd of purebred Arabians, which are designated in Hungarian Arab teliver horses (the German language equivalent is Arab vollblut, literally “Arab fullblood”).

Babolna’s Arabian purebreds were always outnumbered by its Arabian partbreds, known in Hungarian as Arab fajta horses. The Germans call them Araber rasse. In earlier years, Americans used the term “Grade Arab” to describe these horses. The words Grade Arab are used, for example, in a 1946 U.S. Army Remount catalogue to describe *275 Shagya XXV and *52 Gazal II, among others.

The nomenclature used at Babolna was also in place at other Austro-Hungarian state studs, like Radautz and Mezoehegyes. The handwritten pedigrees reproduced in Hans Brabanetz’s book about Radautz illustrate usage in German. Among partbreds, the male line determines the rasse of the foal. Partbreds descending in tail male line from a purebred Arabian stallion are “arab. Rasse.” Partbreds from the male line of the Norman import Nonius are “norm. Rasse,” just as partbreds by a Kladruber stallion are “Kladr. Rasse.”

Today, a number of distinct breeds have crystallized from the Hungarian partbred stocks. Among these are the Shagya and the Gidran, each named after an imported desert bred Arabian stallion who founded a prominent sire line. Both breeds aim to combine the intelligence, endurance, and hardiness of the Arabian with more bone, size, substance, and a larger frame. The Austro-Hungarian pedigrees carefully note the breed and origin of the early foundation stock. Behind Shagya X (1855), for example, are Arabian, Spanish, and Nonius ancestors. The pedigree of Gidran XXVIII (1857) includes Arabian, Lippizzaner, Nonius, Spanish, and English Thoroughbred ancestry.

Laszlo Monostory, former commanding officer of the Hungarian state stud Alsozsuk, mentions another category of horses recognized in Hungary, which he calls in English “Anglo-Arab purebreds.” These combine Arabian and Thoroughbred blood only. According to Monostory, in the records of the Hungarian state studs such horses were recorded in purple ink, while purebred Arabians were recorded in green ink, English Thoroughbreds in red ink, and partbreds in black ink. In his book on Babolna, Dr. Hecker mentions that a slightly different color coding system was used during the 19th century.

To return to the South American horses, O’Bajan V-6 and Hamdani Semri I-9 were Arab fajta horses. Kurdo III and O’Bajan-7 each have one line to an English Thoroughbred mare named 30 Maria.

How does the Babolna naming system work?

Foundation horses imported to Hungary were given their own names. For example, the black stallion O’Bajan, bred by the Sebaa tribe, was imported from the desert in 1885.

Babolna foals are given the name of their sire followed by a foal number indicating order of birth during a given year. Thus O’Bajan foals born during 1906 were named O’Bajan-1, O’Bajan-2, O’Bajan-3, O’Bajan-4, etc.

When mares enter the broodmare band, they are given broodmare numbers in front of their name, and the foal numbers are usually dropped. The many broodmare daughters of O’Bajan included 22 O’Bajan and 124 O’Bajan. If a mare dies or is sold from Babolna, her broodmare number is reassigned to a young mare entering the broodmare band.

When stallions are promoted to chief sires at Babolna, the foal number is replaced by a Roman numeral indicating order of coming into service. Several sons of O’Bajan stood at Babolna: O’Bajan I started in 1895, O’Bajan II in 1897, O’Bajan III in 1902, O’Bajan IV in 1903, and then O’Bajan V. The next sire of this line, O’Bajan VI, was a son of O’Bajan V. Recently Babolna has used O’Bajan XXIV, foaled in 1997.

Just as with the original O’Bajan, foals of these later horses are named after their sire, e.g. O’Bajan V-1, O’Bajan V-2, etc. Babolna stallions can also be assigned to state-owned stallion depots and given a number in front of the name. The 1954 colt O’Bajan X-5 became 4604 O’Bajan X-5.

Sometimes exceptions were made. The breeding sons of Mahmoud Mirza included Jussuf, Mehemed Ali, and Kara Mirza. The desert bred O’Bajan had a breeding son named Dzsingiskhan. Also, if a sire line disappeared from Babolna for several generations and was later reintroduced from another Hungarian government farm, the new horse might be unnumbered, e.g. Gidran or Samhan. Note also that Shagya X at Mezoehegyes, Shagya X at Babolna, and Shagya X at Radautz were three different horses. To further complicate things, if a stallion was moved from one farm to another, he was usually renumbered. Thus Shagya XVII at Mezoehegyes was known as Shagya VIII after transfer to Babolna.

Who was 30 Maria?

According to the 1972 Babolna stud book, the first edition of volume I of the Polish Arabian Stud Book, and Dr. Walter Hecker’s history of Babolna, the Austro-Hungarian broodmare 30 Maria was an English Thoroughbred foaled in 1842. Maria’s registration as a Thoroughbred and her foals born in England appear in Weatherby’s General Stud Book, which states, “Sold to the Austrian Government in 1852, before foaling” (see volume VII, page 230). The pedigree for 30 Maria appears here.

She was left in England to foal and then brought to the Austrian stud of Piber later in 1852. The Austro-Hungarian government established the stud farm of Kisber in 1853 for breeding Thoroughbreds and Thoroughbred crosses, and Maria was sold to Kisber in 1854. On May 3, 1861, she was bred to the imported desert bred stallion Aghil Aga, producing a bay filly on April 7, 1862. The filly was designated 3 Aghil Aga when she entered the broodmare band at Babolna, and the 30 Maria line descends through her.

30 Maria herself was transferred from Kisber to Mezoehegyes in October of 1862. Her last owner was Baron Bela Wenckheim; 30 Maria died in 1865.

The broodmare daughters of 3 Aghil Aga included 6 Mahmoud Mirza (1870), 35 Mahmoud Mirza (1871), and 90 Mehemed Ali (1878), but it was through 6 Mahmoud Mirza that Babolna developed a long line of horses with Arabian blood plus 30 Maria. A more recent example of such breeding is 30 Maria‘s tail-female descendant 125 Ghalion, born in 1975. After 12 generations of crossing to Arabian stallions, 125 Ghalion has just 0.024% of 30 Maria‘s blood.

The 30 Maria line appears in WAHO pedigrees through Babolna bloodlines that went to South America and Babolna lines that went to Romania. One of 30 Maria‘s first descendants to stand at Babolna as a chief sire was O’Bajan I. A son of his was sold to Germany where he sired Kurdo III.

Who owned Kurdo III?

Arabian breeding in South America began with the horses of Sr. Hernan Ayerza. He imported his earliest foundation stock to Argentina in 1894 and was for decades one of the world’s largest private breeders of Arabian horses. When he died in 1940, he owned 221 head. Hernan Ayerza’s foundation stock came from several sources, including France, Crabbet Stud in England, and his own importations of desert bred animals. Hernan Ayerza also had a stallion named Kurdo III. According to volume VII of the Stud Book Argentino (SBA), Kurdo III was imported in 1910 and was in service at Hernan Ayerza’s stud beginning 1912. He became a heavily used sire for Hernan Ayerza.

Kurdo III was bred at the Koenigsfeld stud in Saxony, Germany, but he was sold to Argentina through the Circus Hagenbeck. European circuses have a long tradition of acquiring Arabian stallions to train as performers. The Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg, Germany, is still a popular tourist attraction. Kurdo III‘s dam, Gamorra, traced to horses bred at Weil in Germany, horses bred by Poland’s Sanguszko family, and in tail-female to horses from Babolna. See Kurdo III‘s pedigree for details.

Why is he called Kurdo III? Who were the other two horses named Kurdo?

According to SBA, Kurdo II was a 1909 colt by Racid and out of Kariban. The original Kurdo was an 1899 colt by Richam and out of Kariban. Both of these colts were bred by Hernan Ayerza.

Nebal by Rukham ex Mottaka, an O’Bajan V-6 daughter by Hamdani Semri I-9

Did Hernan Ayerza own O’Bajan V-6, Hamdani Semri I-9, and O’Bajan-7?

No. Hernan Ayerza had a brother named Alfonso Ayerza who also bred Arabians, although on a smaller scale. Alfonso Ayerza started his program with the stallion Hamdani Semri I-9 and mare O’Bajan V-6, both stated in SBA to have been imported in 1909. His pedigree appears here and hers is here, but it would be necessary to extend them for many more generations to calculate the exact amount of non-Arabian blood. Hamdani Semri I-9 and O’Bajan V-6 had a 1911 daughter named Mottaka. Alfonso Ayerza bred Mottaka to the Crabbet stallion Rukham to produce a colt named Nebal. In 1978, Colin Pearson described Nebal’s male line as the primary sire line of Argentine breeding.

According to the SBA, more imports soon joined Alfonso Ayerza’s program. Two more Babolna mares, Hadban I-4 and O’Bajan-7, were imported in 1911. Djellah was imported from France in 1912. In August of 1913, Alfonso Ayerza purchased the stallion Rukham and the mare Nadima from Lady Anne Blunt of the Crabbet Stud in England. Alfonso Ayerza also incorporated, starting 1911, a desert bred horse named Seglaani al Abdi.

Alfonso Ayerza’s herd developed separately from Hernan’s, at least through 1923. During this time the only use Alfonso made of his brother’s horses was to breed two mares to Racid, but both mares were returned barren in SBA.

Of the Babolna mares imported in 1911, Hadban I-4‘s pedigree was Arab teliver. O’Bajan-7‘s pedigree, however, traced in tail-female to 30 Maria. In summarizing the influence of Rukham, Colin Pearson mentions the 1924 colt Setuhan (Rukham x O’Bajan-7).

Although the two Ayerza brothers developed their programs separately, their bloodstock was the major foundation for the following generations of South American breeders.

I’ve heard that there could already be Kurdo III blood in Arabian horses in the United States. How is that possible?

In 1926, Hernan Ayerza sold ten mares to the Duque de Veragua as foundation stock for his newly established stud in Spain. Ayerza also gave the Duque a colt, Kumit, but Kumit and a colt imported in utero were both gelded and do not seem to have been used for breeding. The ten mares are listed below:

Holail II 1922 (Haurram II x Alima, by Ajman)

Radjef 1922 (Risfan x Kamil, by Kurdo III)

Roala III 1922 (Risfan x Aziyade, by Ajman)

Hayadjan 1923 (Haurram II x Kadidjah, by Kurdo III)

Heknat 1923 (Haurram II x Adda, by Ajman)

Razayel II 1923 (Risfan x Riyala, by Racid)

Kate 1924 (Kurdo III x Habaya, by Haurram II)

Khotbat 1924 (Kurdo III x Halama, by Haleb)

Rabih 1924 (Rustnar x Kefta II, by Kurdo III)

Rafa 1924 (Risfan x Kaaba, by Kurdo III)

As of Spanish Stud Book (SSB) volume XXII, six out of the Duque’s 29 broodmares had Kurdo III blood. The Duque bred Arabians for only about ten years. He and his stud manager were killed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. With the Duque and his stud manager gone, many of the Duque’s younger mares and fillies could not be identified positively. Nonetheless they were retained in the SSB as “Veragua horses” without further pedigree. It cannot be known if any of these Veragua horses descend from Kurdo III. Veragua blood is found in some Spanish Arabians imported to and registered in the United States.

In 1978, Michael Bowling discussed the fate of the Duque de Veragua and his stud with the Duque’s niece. See his article “Spain” in Arabian Horse World, October 1978, in particular pp. 155-7, in which he recounts the family version of the story as told to him in Spain.

Kurdo III does have traceable descendants in Portugal through Aksoum (Razada x Radjef), bred by the Duque and sold to Portugal in 1933.

Isn’t it also true that a few Arabians already imported to and registered in the U.S. trace to some of the same Hungarian partbred Arab ancestors as Hamdani Semri I-9 and O’Bajan V-6?

In 1891, Babolna traded chief stallion Zarif I for Ibn Achmet of the Antoniny Stud in Poland. Zarif I is the great-grandsire of both O’Bajan V-6 and Hamdani Semri I-9. According to Britta Fahlgren’s The Arabian Horse Families of Poland, this Babolna stallion was the sire at Antoniny of Tybet, whose grandson Ornis was exported to Spain in 1912. From there the Ornis blood has found its way to the United States. An alternate reading exists for the pedigree of Ornis, since his export document from the Antoniny Stud describes Tybet as imported, not bred in Poland. However, reported translations of material from the earliest Arabian stud book of Russian Poland do not support this version.

Another Babolna stallion with Gidran breeding, Jussuf (1885), also stood in Poland. At the Slawuta Stud, he sired the mares Otawa and Porta. These mares are in the pedigree of 40 Lenkoran II, a stallion bred at Sarajevo. 40 Lenkoran II is the grandsire of a mare imported to the U.S. in 1946 and later registered in the U.S. Arabian stud book, where she has descendants.

Sources and Selected Bibliography


Rosemary Archer, Colin Pearson, Cecil Covey: The Crabbet Arabian Stud, Its History & Influence (Alexander Heriot, 1978).

Hans Brabanetz: Das k.k. Staatsgestuet Radautz und Seine Pferde (ISG Verlag, 1987).

Monique Dossenbach, Hans Dossenbach, Hans Joachim Koehler: Great Stud-Farms of the World (William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1978).

Britta Fahlgren: The Arabian Horse Families of Poland (Alexander Heriot, 1991)

Walter Hecker: Babolna und seine Araber (ISG Verlag, 1994)

Wojciech Kwiatkowski: The Complete Pedigrees of Arabian Horses from Babolna (Kawalkada, 1994)

Joanna Maxwell: Spanish Arabian Horse Families 1898-1978 (Alexander Heriot, 1983)

Otto Mayr: Allgemeines oesterreichisches und ungarisches Gestuetbuch (1867).

Erika Schiele: The Arab Horse in Europe (Borden Publishing, 1970)

C.G. Wrangel: Ungarns Pferdezucht in Wort und Bild (Schickhardt & Ebner, 1893-95).

Personal Communication

Wojciech Kwiatkowski for pedigree and other historical data

Veronica Lencinas for pedigree data

Tamas Rombauer and Andrea Toth of Babolna for checking the Babolna archives in response to specific questions

Carol M. Schulz for pedigree data

Gudrun Waiditschka for pedigree and other historical data

Periodical literature

Marta Cossio, “The Arabian Horse in Argentina,” Arabian Horse World, December 1979, p. 451.

Jill Erisman, “South America,” Arabian Visions, March-April 1995, p. 45.

Laszlo Monostory, “The Hungarian Naming System,” Arabian Horse World, May 1966, p. 50.

Carol Schulz, “Spain,” Arabian Visions, March-April 1995, p. 45.

Stud Books

as mentioned, plus the German Shagya Stud Book and Arabian Horse DataSource