Arabian Horse History – Domestic Bloodlines
“Domestic Arabians” is the name given to Arabian horses bred in the United States. The bloodline for Domestic Arabians, like that of most Americans themselves, is a melting pot of influences from all over the world. However, the single most important event in the history of purebred Domestic Arabians was held on American soil.
THE 1893 CHICAGO WORLD’S FAIR
Forty Arabian horses were exported from the desert, along with their Bedouin handlers, to be part of the Ottoman Empire exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair. They made a huge impact on the American horse breeders who witnessed them at the fair.
SULTAN ABDUL HAMID II
Abdul Hamid II was, from 1876 to 1909, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and he maintained a stud of Arabian horses whose ancestry was well documented. The Arabian Horse Club of America registered two of his stallions, *Leopard and *Linden Tree, after he donated them to President Ulysses S. Grant. The Hamidie Hipppodrome Society was a group of wealthy Arab investors which took its name from the Sultan and in which he had an interest. The Hamidie Society sponsored the equestrian portion of the Ottoman Empire exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the Sultan contributed two of his prized horses. He later permitted the exportation of desert-bred Arabian mares to America as a favor to President Theodore Roosevelt.
THE FATE OF THE WORLD’S FAIR HORSES
Financial difficulties forced the Hamidie Society to sell all the horses from the Ottoman exhibit at the end of the World’s Fair. Many of the horses put up for sale were young stallions. One mare among the Hamidie horses was a grey beauty named Nejdme, who commanded $1200 at auction, an enormous price for a horse at the time. She was bought by J.A.P. Ramsdell, and went on to become the dam of eleven registered foals. Her blood is a common factor in many Domestic Arabians.
THE REPORTER WHO LOVED NEJDME
Homer Davenport was a journalist covering the World’s Fair for the Chicago Herald. He developed a fascination with the Arabian horses on display, and spent years after their auction tracking them down and studying their ancestry. He bought two of Nejdme’s foals and founded the Davenport Desert Arabian Studs. One of Davenport’s political cartoons had helped Theodore Roosevelt win the 1904 election. In return, Roosevelt lent his political clout to Davenport’s expedition to the desert in 1906. The result was that Davenport was able to not only bring back a quantity of stud colts, which were easy to obtain, but also eight purebred mares. Mares were illegal to export and required special permission from the Sultan. By 1910, Davenport had bought Nejdme, had imported Crabbet Park Arabians, and was well on his way to becoming one of the best-known breeders of Domestic Arabian horses. “Davenport Arabians” are direct descendants of his horses.
THE ARABIAN HORSE REGISTRY
In 1908, Davenport and his colleagues formed the Arabian Horse Registry of America. Nejdme was the first horse listed, as AHR-1. The number of horses registered with the AHR was half a million by 1994. Today, the number of Arabian horses registered in North America exceeds that of all the rest of the world put together.
THE CMK TRADEMARK
CMK is a working preservationist movement and trademark, the letters standing for Crabbet Maynesboro Kellogg. In 1982, the first CMK catalogue declared that it was listing stallions whose pedigree traced at least 75% to the foundation stock of the following breeders: Crabbet Park Stud in England and the Sheykh Obeyd Stud in Cairo; the Hamidie Society horses from the World’s Fair; Homer Davenport; Spencer Borden; W.R. Brown; Randolph Huntington; W.K. Kellogg; Roger Selby; William Randolph Hearst; and J.R. Dickinson.
A CMK Arabian must trace in tail female to a purebred family established before 1950 in North America, and to a CMK sire line in tail male.
CMK’S EARLY BREEDERS
Aside from the Crabbet Park Stud and the Sheikh Obeyd Stud, which were started by Lord and Lady Blunt of England, the other early breeders that would become the foundation of the CMK trademark were based in America:
o Homer Davenport, whose 1906 expedition to Arabia had as its goal to bring home exceptional purebreds in order to produce a line of unbeatable polo ponies. Peter B. Bradley financed the desert trek. He was a Boston industrialist who had bought many of the World’s Fair stallions, including Obeyran (AHR-2.) Upon Davenport’s death in 1912, his horses became the property of Bradley, who continued to breed Davenport Arabians up to the 1920’s.
o Spencer Borden traveled to Egypt soon after his exposure to the Arabian horses at the Chicago World’s Fair. He founded the Interlachen Stud with his importation of 20 horses between 1898 and 1911.
o William Robinson Brown was an early player on the Domestic Arabian scene, establishing the Maynesboro Stud in New Hampshire in 1912. The financial devastation of the great depression required him to sell his 33 horses, imported from Crabbet Park, Egypt and France, to the other major breeders of the time: Kellogg Ranch, William Randoph Hearst, Roger Selby and J.M. Dickinson, among others.
o Albert W. Harris was a Chicago banker whose Maynesboro-purchased horse won the first major endurance race held in the United States. Harris established the Kemah Arabian Farm with a Davenport import, and descendants of his farm are called “Harris Arabians.”
o Randolph Huntington of Oyster Bay, New York left his mark on the Domestic Arabian by breeding his imported desert-bred mare *Naomi to President Grant’s Leopard. They produced Anazeh, the sire of foals who still appear in the pedigrees of modern Domestic Arabians. Khaled 5 was another important sire bred by Huntington.
o W.K. Kellogg, the cereal magnate, founded the Kellogg Ranch in Pomona, California in 1925. He began with imports from Crabbet Park, and held weekend exhibitions of his highly schooled Arabian horses, spreading the popularity of the breed. Many of his horses sired champions.
o The Roger Selby Stud, based in Portsmouth Ohio, was just as important in the East. Many of Selby’s horses were well-known, prolific sires, especially Skowronek’s son *Raffles, a grey stallion imported from Crabbet in 1932. *Raffles was influential in the development of the Domestic Arabian, begetting 122 foals.
o An eclectic breeder was J.M. Dickinson, a Brigadier General who founded Traveler’s Rest Farm in 1930 on his family’s estate in Franklin, Tennessee. An accomplished horseman, General Dickinson blended Kellogg, Maynesboro, Crabbet and Harris stock, as well as direct imports from Egypt, Brazil and Poland. Along with Selby and Brown, General Dickinson meticulously catalogued his breeding herd.
o William Randolph Hearst, the storied newspaper magnate, established one of the largest herds of Arabians at San Simeon from the 1930’s until his death in 1951. His first horses were procured from Maynesboro and Traveler’s Rest.
THE EXPANSION OF THE BREED
Henry Babson saw his first purebred Arabians as a young man working at the Chicago World’s Fair. But it was not until he was 57 years old that he began his stud farm in Grand Detour, Illinois, with the purchase of seven purebred Arabian horses from Egypt. Babson imported Polish Arabians a few years later, but by 1960, he decided to adhere to Egyptian bloodlines exclusively, and sold off all of his non-Egyptian Arabian stock. The descendants from his Egyptian Arabian breeding program are known as “Babson Arabians.”
In 1945, the U.S. Army evacuated, to the Kellogg Ranch, a small group of Polish Arabians that had been held by the German army. Among the evacuees was *Witez II, who had been sired by Ofir out of Federacja. Although his parents were shipped off to found the Tersk stud in Russia, *Witez II found his fortune in America. He sired 223 foals in his lifetime, making a significant contribution to the bloodlines of the Domestic Arabian horse.
Bazy Tankersley imported 32 Crabbet Arabians in 1957, and became an important breeder of the CMK bloodlines.
NOT JUST ANOTHER PRETTY FACE
Domestic Arabian breeders were first located in the Midwest, near the inciting incident that was the Chicago World’s fair. Interest then radiated out to the east coast. The center of activity next migrated to California. Today, Domestic Arabian breeders are located all across the United States. Early breeders were quite willing to cross bloodlines, adding to the melting pot of the gene pool. The primary goal was to create beautiful, useful horses with great endurance that were exceptional jumpers and polo players. Idle beauties had no role to play in the development of the Domestic Arabian horse.