by Hon. Sir James Penn Boucaut
The Khamsat Vol 10 Num 4 Nov 93
Ed. note: While this book is very old and hard to find, it is much enjoyed by those who have the opportunity to own it. It primarily focuses on the value of Arabian blood within the equine species. It was published in 1905 (before the founding of the Royal Agricultural Society and before the Davenport importation) and sounds a call of alarm to the Western and European world regarding the importance of preserving the qualities of the Arab horse – the war-horse qualities, the athletic ability, the intelligence, the disposition, and the hardiness, and so forth. I have always enjoyed this book and thought it best to share this chapter with you as it gives numerous accounts from many varied sources regarding what was most valued about these war horses of the desert. Mr. Boucaut was prime minister of South Austrialia and owned and imported some of the first Arabians to come to Australia (1891) among which was the 100% Blunt stallion Rafyk (1890) by Azrek x Rose of Sharon. He was a great admirer of the Arab and shares some useful information here with us. The scope of this chapter is rather broad in that is also includes mention of other middle eastern Arab derivatives such as Barb and Turkoman, but most often he distinguishes. The important point of his chapter is to illustrate what a magnificent horse was created by the Arab culture and to remind us in Al Khamsa what oriental qualities we are obliged to preserve.
SUNDRY ENCOMIUMS ON THE ARAB TAKEN AT RANDOM, AND INSTANCES OF THE LOVE OF THE ARAB BY GREAT SOLDIERS
BISHOP HEBER, in his “Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India,” says:
‘My horse is a nice quiet, good-tempered little Arab, who is so fearless that he goes without starting close up to an elephant, and so gentle and so docile that he eats bread out of my hand, and has almost as much attachment and as coaxing ways as a dog.’ My guests frequently notice the strange coaxing ways of my stallions, and my unbroken mares love to be petted, coming up around you for that purpose in the paddock. although unbroken, and only handled when being weaned, they eat thistles out of the hands of the children of one of my men.’
Captain Shakespeare, in his “Wild Sport in India,” says that the Arab is the very best horse under the saddle that can be had in India for all general purposes.
Mr. H. Chichester Hart, in ‘Scripture Natural History,’ writes of the Syrian horses of to-day, that, no matter what the nature of the country, nothing comes amiss to them, and there is probably in the world no more sure-footed beast of burden to be found; that they are docile and spirited and willing to the last extremity. Certainly these are Eastern horses, truly Arabs, though not the very best of Arabs, not being of the pure desert breed. They are often spoken of as Syrian Arabs.
Mr. Sydney Galvayne, in his article ‘War-Horses, Present and Future,’ says of Arab ponies that there was not a very large number of these valuable ponies sent from India to Africa, but what were sent made a great name for themselves and fully maintained their reputation for endurance and strength.
The Rev. E.J.Davis, in his ‘Life in Asiatic Turkey,’ writes that even hard work and starvation cannot tame his spirited little horse, which, in spite of being in bad condition owning to hard work and insufficient food, has never once stumbled, never been sick, and has borne the longest and most difficult marches with the utmost fire and spirit.
Mr. A.G. Hulme-Bearman, in his ‘Twenty Years in the Near East,’ refers again and again to the excellence of the Syrian pony upon which he crossed Lebanon, 8,000 feet, through snow up to the girths, then Anti-Lebanon, 6,000 feet, and after a few days’ rest the pony took him back just as readily. A writer on the retreat from Moscow speaks of the Cossack pony (Eastern) as living on what it could get by scraping the snow with its feet, in pursuit ‘indomitable, not to be fatigued, relentless.’
Mr. Adye writes that it was, of course, the Arab descent of the little animal so much in vogue in India which accounts for its excellence; and truly wonderful were the capabilities of the little hunters (some of them only 13.2) on which the redoubtable sportsman Major Shakespeare speared hog, bear, and even leopards, over broken and rocky ground intersected by nullahs and other obstacles, which render pigsticking in certain parts of India the most difficult and exciting of all forms of hunting from the horseman’s point of view. This corroborates what General Tweedie says, as above mentioned, in referring to which I have mentioned other instances of this wonderful capacity of turning and twisting, which alone could render such sport safe and possible. Mr. Ker, in his book ‘On the road to Khiva,’ says that the Khirgiz, with Eastern horses, sit motionless on their saddles, aligned ‘as if on parade.’ Suddenly the foremost darts off at full gallop, and then, wheeling in mid-career, comes like a thunderbolt, all in one mad whirl of flight and pursuit.
‘Bruni,’ in the Astralasian (September 6, 1902), testifies that the (Indian records abound in proofs of the marvellous services rendered by the small horse, and notably by the Arab, and that on every hand the evidence was strongly in favour of the Arab and Arab cross for army purposes, and that of the value of the Arab cross we have had ample proof in Australia, because for endurance they had no equal.
Dean C. Worcester, of Michigan, U.S.A., writes of the Philippine ponies as having originated from the Andalusian horse or Barb, and, being well formed, sure-footed, and remarkable tough, making excellent saddle-horses.
Mr. George Flemming writes of the wonderful endurance of the Tartar pony; he gives one instance of the Russian courier, who used to ride from Pekin to Kiakta — 500 miles — in twelve days, rest two days, and return in fifteen, and quotes a book by the Emperor Kienloong, published in Paris in 1770, translated by a Jesuit Father, alluding to those for racing as having a swiftness beyond comprarison. These Tartar horses have been crossed again and again with Arabs.
Mr. Adye says that General Walker, Military Attache to Berlin some years ago, when probably English cavalry were better mounted than now, was much exercised to account for the superior endurance of the Prussian troop-horses over the English. He was given as the chief reason the nearer affinity to pure Arab blood. He says that, when favouring the Arab, he was asked, Why go to the Arab when the English thoroughbred was a perfected Arab? To which he replied that the Arab was much hardier, that the thoroughbred was a more useful animal a hundred years ago than he is now, and he expressed his regret that the Arab was not properly appreciated in England; and then he prophetically added:
‘Some day, perhaps in some future campaign, in which he happens to be brought into direct comparison with our present trooper, and is found to be going on for months after the latter is hopelessly done up or dead, we may have our eyes opened to his extraordinary merits.’
This was written before the Boer War. Alas that he should have been so accurate! To say that the English thoroughbred is a perfected Arab is nonsense, the jargon of the bookmakers; he is an Arab deteriorated — deteriorated by his being bred for sprinting, and spoiled by base blood.
In the Leisure Hour (May, 1902), W.J.Gordon, in ‘The Horse-Supply of the World‘ writes that in the Napoleonic wars the Russian horse (an Eastern horse), lived while the French horse died; that the only others that stood it were the little Arabs from the islands of the Levant. And he says that in the Austrian army much of the quality of their horses was due to careful breeding, especially in those from Hungary, which had a strong infusion of the Arab. And he shows the excellence of the Arab as a sire by the fact that the small Burmese tat, sturdy and sound, is, since the introduction of Arab stallions, developing into that useful but larger breed, the Indo-Burmese. And he adds that the riding-horses of Persia and Syria (allied races to the Arab, if not pure Arab, for the Arabs conquered all those countries) are better in quality than even the rough customers like Burnaby’s wonderful Arab, which he bought for 5 Lbs.
Chamber’s Journal (September, 1901, p. 609) says that the Connemara ponies are geatly indebted to the infusion of Arab blood, as also are the Orloff trotters and the Achil pony.
Mr. Wilfred Blunt stated to his purchasers at his sale at Crabbet Park, in July, 1901, that the British Government had at last entered its name on the list of his customers, that the Scotch Breeding Commission had taken three of his best stallions to improve the ponies of the western Highlands, and that the Government of India had decided on reorganizing its military studs, and true Arab stallions were to be used.
The Register (August 14, 1901) states that at this sale the Dutch Jockey Club of Java bought some Arab stallions.
Mr. C.B.Fisher states that he believes that the Arab and Timor are the only two pure breeds there are. Where comes in the purity of the boasted thoroughbred if this belief of one of the most experienced and respected breeders of horses in Australia is well founded?
The Australasian (July 6, 1901) states that the breed of ponies which originally existed in Basutoland are supposed by the settlers to have been brought thither by Arabs from the northern regions of Africa, which is corroborated by a writer in the South Australian Register of June 10, 1901 on the Boer ponies, who says that, ‘as most of them are descendants of Arab stock, they are unrivalled for hard usage‘; and ‘Bruni’ writes (September 6, 1903) that ‘Boer ponies are said to be half-bred Arabs.’
These newspapers might have been more positive as to the Arab blood in these celebrated ponies, for Professor Wallace of Edinburgh, in his book on ‘The Farming Industries of South Africa,’ published 1896, after his official visit on the invitation of the Cape Government to report upon and advises as to those industries, show that these wonderful South African horses are for the most part of Arab blood. He states that the first horses at the Cape were imported, soon after 1650, by the Dutch East India Company, and consisted of Arabs and Gulf Arabs. Note that he distinguishes between Arabs of the pure breed, like Mr. Wilfrid Blunt’s, and the inferior breeds of the Gulf, such as are occasionally palmed off on India. Then he continues that, when inbreeding led to deterioration, the same company introduced Persian Arabs about 1688, that these became crossed with other stock, including Spanish horses (which, as I have shown, have a good sprinkling of Barb blood), and that recently the breed has been improved by crossing with Arab stallions.
On October 11, 1902, ‘Bruni’ writes:
‘Since I wrote on the Arab as a sire, I have received several letters from horsemen in widely different parts of Australia, bearing testimony to the value of the Arab as a sire calculated to improve the value of the Arab as a sire calculated to improve the stamina of our horse stock. The most interesting of these letters is one received from Mr. R.R.Hogarth, a resident of the north-west coast of Tasmania. He gives the following instance of the poweres of endurance of the high-class Arab:
“In December, 1900, my brother, weighing about 10 stone 7 pounds, rode a pony standing 12.2 hands from this place to Evandale Junction in one day. The distance is ninety-two miles. He left here at 4 a.m., and arrived at Evandale Junction at 8 p.m. He stayed an hour at Latrobe for breakfast, and another hour at Dunorlan for dinner, leaving the main-road a maile to call on Mr. W. Wyatt.”
To show that the pony was not injured by his long journey Mr. Hogarth rode him into Launceston and back — a distance of twenty-two miles — the next day. The road Mr. Hogarth describes as macadamized, and exceptionally hilly in parts. The pony was taken out of a grass paddock the day before he did the journey, having been running there for some time. The pony was by Dagobeirt, imported from New South Wales from a three-quarter-Arab mare by Maharajah, an Arab horse well known in the Evan dale district. The feat performed by this pony far exceeds the European military race of seventy miles, in which no less than thirteen of the competitors were killed. Of the pony himself Mr. Hogarth says:
“His walk and canter were perfect, while as to his trot — well, it was indescribable.”
An article in the South Australian Register, September 9, 1898, after quoting various favorable opinions, observes that in Febuary, 1862, at Calcutta, the Arab Hermit, though defeated, gave Voltigeur’s daughter such a stretching that the following day the mare had to be kept home, and the Arab proved the winner. Their hardiness was such that many an Arab has continued year after year to add to his laurels in spite of a thickened suspensory ligament.
Mr. De Vere Hunt cites with approval an authority which asserts that none but a people long possessed of numerous and well-trained chargers could have planted the victorious banners of Islam on the Pyrenees as well as on the banks of the Ganges. He might have added — ‘and carried them to China.’ He then sets out a letter from Lord Gifford, who was for twenty years a master of foxhounds, wherein the writer says that his little Arab was worth fifty of the gray, he rode him cub-hunting with Mr. Greaves, and he was active as a cat, and could put a leg anywhere. The horse was apparently not? an Arab.
In the South Australian Advertiser. it was lately stated that the Arabian horse has been used in developing the military horses of all the European countries, and that the thoroughbred had deteriorated to a mere shadow, while the Arab had remained the same and was increasing in popularity in Grat Britain.
‘Cecil,’ whom I have mentioned above, while supporting Mr. Day in supposing that the Arab could not improve the racehorse — as a racehorse — admits that: ‘For riding-horses, however, it is another affair.’ For the army and the general public that is the whole question.
Major Arthur Griffiths, in an article in the Fortnightly, September, 1898, writes that another great merit in the Egyptian cavalry is their horse-flesh, sturdy little Syrian Arabs which have done an immense amount of hard work, and, although small for their loads, are so strong and full of spirit that they have never been sick or sorry all the year.
At the Battle of Omdurman the Egyptian cavalry, mostly Arabs and Arab crosses, were out all day on September 1 from daybreak on August 31, and not in till 3 p.m., and on September 2 they were heavily engaged wih the Dervishes for several hours. They then advanced on Omdurman, and were sent in pursuit of the Khalifa; and the writer adds that it is really wonderful wht the Arab pony will do.
The passage from Mr. G.W. Steevens’ book above quoted as to the cavalry march to Omdurman shows the weight-carrying power of the Arab horse; for the ‘little Syrian’ is three-parts Arab — often, indeed, called Arab. This little horse with a light rider carried 18 stone on his back; with a heavy rider he carried 20 stone. I also cited the passage because it shows to demonstrat the utter inferiority of the English horse, ‘which had to be left behind at Cairo.’ Mr. Stevens was only describing what he saw. He does not appear to have had any idea of lauding the Arab. It does not appear that he knew how nearly Arab the little Syrian is, nor does it appear that he had any idea of disparaging the English horse. He was describing a picturesque scene, and the reference to the English horse seems to have been quite an aside. ‘Their own big, hungry chargers had to be left behind at Cairo!’
Dinah Sharp, in the New York Times, November 14, 1891, shows that the Arab has not deteriorated. She relates that Omar (who afterwards belonged to the late Empress of Austria, the finest horsewoman in Europe), travelled three days and nights over the hot and barren plains of the Arabian desert, with but 2 quarts of barley for food, and an occasional tuft of Sahara clover.
Miss Ella Sykes, in her recent work ‘Through Persia on a Side-saddle,’ writes that the horses they usually had were wiry little Arabs, about 14 hands high, plucky, enduring, and very easy to manage by their riders.
The Vienna correspondent of the Mail, recently wrote that the Hungarian horse had special qualities of endurance, which he attributed to his dash of the Arab blood, and that it was a great matter to have a certain strain of Arab blood in the troop-horse; for the Arab horse and the horse with the Arab blood will feed on indifferent forage which the English horse will not look at, and would retain condition when the latter was reduced to a bag of bones. The Hungarian horse had extremely hard bone, like the Arab, and consequently was seldom troubled with spavin, which was but too common among our own horses, whose bones are softer.
The Windsor Magazine, January, 1903, has it that the horses which are common to Hungary and Roumania are famous for their extraordinary strength, pluck, and sure-footedness. They both have a strong Arab dash.
In the ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica‘ art. ‘Arabia,’ it is said that trained European racers would easily distance a thoroughbred Arab on any ordinary course, but for perfection of form, symmetry of limbs, cleanness of muscle, beauty of appearance, for endurance of fatigue, for docility, and for speed maintained for distances so long as to appear incredible, the Nedjie horse acknowledges no equal.
Mr. Harold Leeney, M.R.C.V.S., in the Live Stock Journal Almanack for 1898, writing a scientific article on the castration of horses, showing its desirablity, says that if exception — i.e., noncastration — could be made to any particular breed, he would say that the Arab was the one with fewest objections as an entire. No other reference is made to the Arab in the article, and this incidental reference of course testifies in an unusual manner to his docility. It is said that if they have never been at the stud they are perfectly quiet; and I believe that they are not usually gelded in Egypt. I often show off the docility of the breed to my guests by mounting — I ought to say, at seventy-three, by climbing on to — my old sire, now twelve years old, in the paddock, without either saddle or bridle, and I have done this though close to him on the other side of the fence was another stallion. I have riden him in great crowds and tents and shows and sports at Glenelg on Commemoration Day, and when he has got excited I have only had to speak to him to calm him down. This after several years at the stud.
Mr. W.G.Palgrave says that it is well known that in Arabia horses are much less frequently vicious or refractory than in Europe. Why, that is in the breed! Then he adds that this was the reason why geldings there were so rare. Miss Sara Linard, in her recent book on the horse, 1902, quotes a horse – parade described in the Daily Graphic of October, 1896, where four young ladies rode four Arab stallions, which, she says, before going to the stud are entirely safe, and which she also says is the case with Arabs only, ‘who know how to behave themselves as gentlemen.’ Many young ladies, visitors at my farm, from six or seven up, love to give my stallions sugar. But they are pure-bred. They are ‘gentlemen.‘
I have read that the docility and the cleverness of the breed are such that, in Arabia, they lead the animal to bite and keep in the path those which stray. Now, it so happened that, when the grass began to spring, the horses, working bullocks, and cows, at Kingsford, where I used to be stockkeeping in the forties, used to wander — there were no paddocks — and it was my duty to go out in the morning and bring them home, sometimes a distance of three or four or more miles. There was always a tendency in cattle and horses under these circumstances to edge off from a man on foot, and so surely as any of the other horses, or any of the cows or bullocks, did this, my old stock-horse, half Arab, as I have said, was as prompt as a cattle-dog to rush out and bring them back by a nip. I often used to wonder how he acquired the habit. This was, of course, when he ‘wasn’t on‘ himself for a gallop. Occasionally some of those uncanny creatures which entered the Gadarene swine possessed him, and at such times he was the ringleader. that was when the ‘old Adam‘ came out; but he would not ordinarily allow any of the others to lead or to depart from the right path.
In Dr. Liddon’s ‘Tour in Egypt and Palestine in 1886,’ a description is given of a Bedouin Sheikh, a worthy descendant of Sir Walter Scott’s Saladin. When he struck his spear into the ground, his horse stood and watched him like a dog. When he returned after his rounds, his horse lay down and gave a low whinny, then the Sheikh lay down by his side, making a pillow of the horse, and they both slept, apparently, for half an hour. The Sheikh again went his rounds, and the horse, finding his master had no further intentions of going to bed, got up and stood by the spear all night. My groom often lies down between the legs of my stallions, which then walk round him inquiringly and caressingly, apparently pleased at his confidence.
Mr. R. Fitzroy Cote, a considerable author, in his ‘Peruvians at Home,’ says that at the Lima bullfights all the horses permitted to enter the arena must be of pure Arab blood, and owing to their sagacity and the agility of their riders they seldom fail to escape the bull’s horns. Mr. Cote was not writing up the Arab horse, and only mentions him incidentlally; but doubtless the Peruvians had discovered his wonderful powers of twisting and turning, which have been illustrated in his boar-hunting in India.
The great traveller J.S.Buckingham, who at one time commanded a ship which made a long stay at each of the great marts of trade in the Persian Gulf, in giving an account of the trade there to India, and explaining the easy mode in which horses might thence be shipped, says that it was the usual thing for Arab horses to sleep standing, and to do so for years in succession, without ever lying down except when sick.
‘Bruni’ points out, on the authority of Mr. W.G. Hughes of Texas, that the foundation stock of the celebrated Mexican mustangs was the Moorish horses (Barbs) turned loose by Cortes. Desiring to breed from these mustangs, Mr. Hughes travelled over a large part of the United States, and finally found the horse he wanted in Nimrod, by a pure Arab sire, Nimr.
As showing the growing favour of the Arab, the racing gentlemen notwithstanding, the Ladies’ Field, October 28, 1902, has an advertisement that ‘a perfectly-shaped child’s pony 11.3 hands, rising five, like a miniature Arab, jumps high,’ was for sale. A racing man would probably laugh at this, but even supposing the man or woman who inserted this advertisement had been impressed by some drawing-room or fashionable novel, none the less does it show that the present general trend of opinion towards the Arab which ‘Bruni’ testifies to. It shows a belief that Arab blood is a recommendation, that there is a growing recognition of the excellence of the breed, a belief that it is the best that can be obtained in horse-flesh, and breeders who want to sell will be wise if they note it. If it be only a straw, it is the sort of straw which shows the way the wind is blowing. It demonstrates, in fact, that belief in the Arab is ‘sinking in.’ Can anyone wonder at it when he reads the facts collected in this little book?
‘Faneargh,’ in the Sidney Mail, writes that the old stockhorse of the overlanders of the early forties and fifties were largely bred from Arabs, that these old horses were of wonderful stamina, and their staying powers were marvellous.
The Register, September 7, 1901, reminds the public that the Arab horse stands cold as well as heat, and will eat anything that is given to him; that on half-rations or less his brave heart carries him through almost all imaginable difficulties; that it is difficult to overweight him, and he has always been more appreciated by foreigners than by Englishman — of course because of sprinting.
Professor Watson writes that the African horses were smaller and shorter in the body than those bred in Australia, and, as most of them were descendants of the Arab stock, they are unrivalled for hard usage.
At Waterloo the Emperor Napoleon was mounted on Marengo, a beautiful little Arab, only 14.2 hands, and when wounded Napoleon mounted his white Arab mare Marie; and in another sketch of Napoleon it is stated that Marengo was brought by Napoleon from Egypt in 199 (sic), and riden by him at Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram, in the Russian Campaign, and at Waterloo, and that his skeleton was still in the Royal United Service Institution.
The German Emperor at the army manoeuvres in 1902 led the cavalry ‘mounted on his Arab charger.‘ He may be a poet, but he is no dreamy simpleton. He is probably the hardest-headed man in Europe.
Lord Roberts at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was mounted on ‘his celebrated Arab.’ Lord Roberts is not a drawing-room General, but, as stated by Lieutenant-Colonel Maude in Macmillan, May 1, 1902, ‘a perfect horseman– one of the best in India — a man of the widest experience as to what hores can do in the field.’ Colonel Maude states that General Roberts rode his Arab all through the Candahar forced march — ‘a type of the highest class of Arab.’ By special permission of Queen Victoria, this horse, Voronel, wears an Afghan medal with four clasps, and the Cabul-Candahar star.
Abdur Rahman, late Amir of Afghanistan, writes in his autobiography (one of the most remarkable books of the day, 1900):
‘At the end of our march both men and hroses were well-nigh exhausted. I myself cooked some meat and distributed it among the men, who were almost fainting; the horses meantime lay down, unable to rise again. Only one horse, my own Arab, remained standing.’
Abdur Rahman was fighting for his life, and, like the Bedouin, had to rely on his horse for his preservation. The odds on the Cup and the Stud book were nothing to him. A racing sprinter would have been destruction to him. He wanted fact, not fancy; solid work, not delicate prettiness; and it can be hardly suggested that the German Emperor did not know a good horse. Why did they ride Arabs when the pick of the whole world was at their service?