by CORALIE GORDON (Australia)
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The story of Crabbet Stud would make a fascinating screenplay.
It has everything - larger-than-life characters, complicated relationships, exotic settings, travel in distant lands.
Against this rich tapestry of colour and excitement was played out a mission of more practical purpose, the acquisition of Arabian horses of the finest types available for a Stud in England that would preserve intact the horse of the desert.
That mission was accomplished and the Stud existed for almost 100 years, during which time it bred horses that went to all parts of the world where fine horses are bred, leaving a legacy that is unmatched by any other Arabian Stud in history.
The Crabbet Stud was founded by two extraordinary people - Lady Anne and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Each was the product of an interesting and accomplished family background.
She was the granddaughter of the poet Lord Byron from a family of writers, mathematicians and artists. Her mother was a noted scientist. He was a sensitive, charismatic, if "difficult" man whose interests included politics, art, music and poetry.
They married in 1869. "Crabbet", a stately home set in rolling parkland at Crawley in Sussex became their base, but in fact the two spent much of their stormy marriage travelling abroad.
In November 1877 the Blunts began the first of their journeys into the Arabian desert, in search of the horse of the Bedouin tribes. Their plan was to acquire the best of the desert blood wherever they could find it, and the journeys took them to "romantic" destinations like Bagdad, Damascus, Hail, and into the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
They travelled across vast deserts mounted on camels or horses, living simply under the stars, experiencing the rigorous life of the tribesmen at first hand. They recorded their adventures in diaries, water-colours and poems, which are invaluable records in themselves. They also began to purchase, not without some difficulties, the first Arabian horses for their Stud.
When Lady Anne died in 1917 the Crabbet horses comprised the largest group of pure Arabian horses outside the desert. The dream had been realised. The Blunts' only surviving child Judith Lady Wentworth was born in 1873. She inherited her parents' talent for the arts, as well as an eye for fine horses, breeding both Thoroughbred and Arabian horses.
Her masterstroke was the addition of the classical white stallion SKOWRONEK to the Stud in 1920. She also bred some of her Arabians taller than they had previously been. People called them "the Superhorses".
They were horses like Oran, Grand Royal and Silver Drift, although in fact some of them were not as tall as their reputations. RIFFAL, the tallest of them all was actually bred by Lady Yule, albeit from Crabbet stock. Lady Wentworth also used the smaller stallions like DARGEE and SKOWRONEK.
Like her parents she understood the art of blending types and bloodlines successfully.
Lady Wentworth died in 1957. She left the Stud to her Manager Geoffery Covey, but as he had died
shortly before her, his son Cecil inherited Crabbet.
Though forced to reduce the numbers drastically, Cecil continued breeding Arabians until 1971 when a motorway was cut through the Crabbet fields. The Stud was then dispersed, and a great era had come to an end.
Each of the owners of Crabbet was a strong individual, though the history of the Stud was perhaps more of an evolution than the disjointed, sectional history one might imagine.
To begin with, Lady Anne gathered as many of the horses of Ali Pasha Sherif, whose purity she trusted, as she could, though even in the early days of the Stud horses were ruthlessly culled on the basis of quality and their ability to produce quality.
Large numbers of mares were always present at Crabbet, matched by large numbers of stallions-many more of the latter than even a large Stud of today would keep. This allowed for ample breeding choices to be made, but also accounts for some truly excellent stallions leaving fewer offspring than one would expect.
The Crabbet stallions were not available at public Stud until Cecil Covey's time, but Lady Wentworth did exchange services with particular contemporaries such as Lady Yule and Miss lanthe Bell.
There are numerous publications available to flesh out the story of Crabbet and its inhabitants for those who want to know more.
THE WORLDWIDE INFLUENCE
It would take more than these few pages to adequately detail the enormous influence of the Crabbet Arabians on the Arabian breeding scene worldwide. In general, Arabians from Crabbet Stud were exported to such diverse places as Holland, Spain, Russia, Poland, Portugal, Italy, India, Pakistan, Egypt, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and the United States.
Most of these sales were of single horses or small groups, although some larger groups that included both males and females formed significant breeding bases in such countries as Russia, Spain, Egypt and the United States.
The importation of the group of 25 Crabbet Arabians (6 stallions and 19 mares) provided a significant input into what is now known as the "pure Russian" branch of the breed. The most important among the consignment of stallions that included FERHAN, RASEEM and SHAREER, was NASEEM (Skowronek/Nasra) who was used at Tersk Stud for 17 years His sons NEGATIW, NABORR and SALON, and Negatiw's son BANDOS, have all become very important to Arabian breeding in modern times. Naborr, Salon and Bandos, after outstanding breeding careers in Europe, ended their days in the United States. Of the mares shipped to Russia in 1936, RUELLIA (Nureddin ll/Riyala), RUANDA (Najib/Rythma), RIXALINA (Raseem/Rissla), RISSALMA (Shareer/Rissla) and STAR OF THE HlLLS (Raswan/Selima) all established strong breeding lines.
The Duke of Veragua's importation of four Skowronek daughters in 1930, added no small influence to Spanish Arabian breeding. Unfortunately, with the demise of their owner during the Spanish Revolution, the Stud was "in limbo" for a time, but when the horses came back together (with the Veragua mares identified with the prefix "Vera" because of the difficulty in exactly identifying each one) they bred on into modern Spanish pedigrees.
Crabbet breeding returned to the desert when the Royal Agricultural Society of Egypt purchased 19 Crabbet Arabians in 1920. Almost half of the foundation stock of the Egyptian Agricultural Organization was bred either at Crabbet Stud in England or at Sheykh Obeyd. Among the stallions in the 1920 group was KAZMEEN who was foaled at Crabbet in 1916. His daughter, a mare named BINT SAMIHA became the dam of the celebrated Egyptian stallion NAZEER, thus ensuring that all Nazeer descendants have several crosses each to Mesaoud, plus the notable mares Queen of Sheba, Sobha and Nefisa. The most significant Crabbet mares used in Egyptian breeding were GHADIA (Radia), BINT EL BAHREYN, BINT ROGA, RAZIEH (Bint Rissala), RISAMA (Bint Riyala) and EL DAHMA.
The United States had the lion's share of Crabbet breeding beginning with such purchases as those of Mr. J.A.P. Ramsdell in 1895. Sheer number prevents the detailing of actual animals in this outline, but some of the better-known importers of Crabbet stock were Messrs Spencer Bordern, W.R. Brown, Homer Davenport, Lothrop Ames, Roger Selby and Mr. W.K. Kellogg.
Mrs. Bazy Tankersley bought the largest consignment, 32 horses, in one single group in 1957 after the deaths of Miss Gladys Yule (Hanstead) and Lady Wentworth. These included ROYAL DIAMOND, SILVER SHADOW, SILWA and SILVER GRAND. Mrs. Tankersley also owned COUNT DORSAZ, and later bought SILVER VANITY in partnership with Mr. Prange.
Among the most celebrated Arabians America gained were the stallions RODAN, ABU ZEYD (Lal-i-Abdar), ASTRALED, BERK, RASEYN, RAFFLES, NASIK, SERAFIX and SILVER DRIFT. Among the mares were ROSE OF SHARON, GHAZALA, FERDA, SILVER CRYSTAL, and so many more.
Despite all of these impressive importations, it is Australia today which has the strongest Crabbet lines, since in most of the other countries the Crabbet lines have received substantial infusions of blood from other sources.
WHAT IS CRABBET?
In these somewhat perplexing days when adjectives like "straight" and "pure" are used with literary licence in the pages of our breed magazines, a whole new generation of young breeders is asking for a definition of a "Crabbet Arabian".
It has to be remembered that we are talking about a breed that is already pure of itself, and whose various family branches, wherever they occur in the world, are mostly only different combinations of the same basic bloodlines.
All Arabians are "brothers and sisters under the skin" so to speak, which means that the real debate is probably whether the Poles or the Spanish, the Arabs or the British, were the more gifted breeders.
Having somewhat qualified this explanation then, and in terms of what is considered today to be a "straight Egyptian", "pure Polish"or "pure Russian", a "pure Crabbet Arabian horse" is one that traces in all lines of its pedigree to a Pure Arabian either owned by, or bred by, Crabbet Stud.
This includes all three eras of Stud ownership- that of its founders Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt, whether in partnership or as individuals; their daughter Lady Wentworth who carried on her parents' breeding vocation; and Cecil Covey who inherited the Stud after Lady Wentworth's death.
The definition includes horses domiciled at Crabbet Stud in England, as well as those kept at Sheykh Obeyd, the Blunts' desert home in Egypt where Lady Anne spent her last days. It includes horses brought into the Stud by the Principals at any stage of the Stud's development, notably perhaps SKOWRONEK who was bred in Poland, but also horses like DARGEE (with his non-Crabbet line to Dwarka), ORAN and BRIGHT SHADOW.
It is obvious that there are many different "types" of Arabian within the breed.
This was so even in the desert 100 years and more ago, and was acknowledged by European travellers in the East.
"Type" refers to conformation, and more specifically to those conformational characteristics peculiar to the Arabian horse. Apart from the particular breed attributes, such as the dished head that may be more or less "extreme", the croup which may be more or less level, the tail carriage which may be more or less pronounced, the fine skin with its silky coat, and the action which is a hallmark of the breed, the basic characteristics of good horse conformation apply.
When referring to "type", people usually combine the breed characteristics with certain others such as height, "bone", length of body, etc. In general, the over-all appearance of any Purebred Arabian should be one of quality, refinement and balance.
The very best Arabians have a certain charismatic quality as well, and that is a quality that almost defies description, although one tends to recognize it when one sees it. I particularly like the quotation which is ascribed to Wilfrid Blunt on this matter: "I make it a rule now, after much experience, never to buy unless at the first glimpse of the animal walking by, I have felt a certain almost electric thrill, the sense of sudden admiration.
The thrill of course may deceive you on a nearer inspection, for you may discover defects, but without it, and the power of thus "striking the eye", an Arab horse can hardly be of the first quality. He may be speedy, he may be sound, he may be useful, but he can hardly be the horse to breed from."
Breeders tend to have their own ideas about what is Crabbet type, but in fact the Crabbet horses themselves elude attempts to categorize them absolutely under any one breed type.
In a generic group that includes a Sharima and a Silver Fire, a Riffal and a Dargee, there can be no real generalizations. What these animals do possess in common is their outstanding quality, a tribute to the genius of those who assembled their forebears in order to produce them.
Nor are these horses "freaks of nature" or "one-offs". Despite ruthless culling, including times when large groups of horses including many of the best were lost in forced sales overseas, superb quality horses continued to appear in generation after generation at Crabbet. These were horses that were not only superior examples of the breed themselves but which could and did reproduce themselves on through further generations in new breeding situations.
Some breeders equate differences in type to differences in strain - "the strain-type theory" - arguing that within a particular strain one is more likely to find uniformity.
However as an Arabian takes its strain name from its tail-female ancestor only, it is possible that this strain represents only an infinitesimal percentage of a range of strains involved in the pedigree.
Of course, some breeders have deliberately in-bred within a strain and some few exceptional breeders have achieved a certain uniformity of type by breeding stallions of a particular strain to mares of that strain.
It is certainly theoretically possible to work out the authoritative strain in a pedigree by analysing that pedigree. The strains have their origins in the desert. The word "Kuhaylan" (or Kehailan) is the Arabic name for horse, and to this strain were added others like "Saqlawi" (or Seglawi), and "Mu'niqi" (or Managhi).
Substrains to all of these evolved as the horses of one tribe or another became well-known for certain reasons-their speed, courage, great beauty, etc. All pedigrees eventually trace back to desert horses of one strain or another, but most Arabians of today are of very mixed strains.
As far as characteristics are concerned, recessive genes can lie dormant for several generations before re-appearing. Dominant characteristics can be more easily and usually traced to certain dominant individuals than to strains, and these individuals need not be line-bred at all. Such is the mystery of horse-breeding. Breeders like the Blunts knew how to blend the different types and strains successfully.
Of dominant individuals there are many examples. In Australia dominant stallions like RIFFAL, COUNT MANILLA, SINDH and SILVER MOONLIGHT all founded quite easily identifiable family groups, all quite different in type
On a world scale a few individual stallions and mares are acknowledged as supreme progenitors, or horses that have contributed conspicuously and inestimably to the breed.
The three most universally agreed-upon stallions are MESAOUD, SKOWRONEK and NAZEER. Two of these are Crabbet sires while the third owes much to Crabbet breeding.
Our present-day Arabians tend to have travelled forward many generations from Mesaoud, but Skowronek and Nazeer "type" has been more carefully cultivated and is still very recognizable in its twentieth century form.
This century also seems certain to add some new names to the list of supreme progenitors, and so it should be.
Of the Crabbet female families those of DAJANIA and RODANIA are the largest by far-the "N" and "R" lines respectively-followed by the family of SOBHA (Silver Fire's family).
In Australia, our oldest, and one of our largest families, is that of Judge Boucaut's mare DAHNA, through two sources. One source is her Australian-bred daughter SHERIFA (by Rafyk). Sherifa's daughters LABADAH and SAADE were by the stallions Mahboub and Magistrate which were imported from the desert via India, so this is not a "pure Crabbet" line. The family contains some of our most renowned mares - DERYABAR, and her daughters DAHANA, MEYMOONEH, MATOUFA and MELIHA, and their daughters SENABRA, DAFFAL, MINIFER, MEDINA, MUTRIF, TOU-FAIL, MERIAL and ELECTRIMEL, to choose a few. A second line from Dahna comes through her English-bred grand-daughter EL LAHR. That mating was made by the English breeder the Hon. Miss Ethelred Dillon, and is also not "pure Crabbet". This second family of Dahna is all descended through El Lahr's daughter AL CASWA (by Rafyk), whose descendants founded Mr Jos. Jelbart's Stud and whose name is found in the pedigrees of all horses bred by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture.
The Dajania family was established in Australia through such mares as NASIRIEH (Skowronek/ Nisreen), NURALINA (Hazzam/Nasira), and NAMUSA (Ahmar/Nargileh). That of Rodania came through RAFINA (Rustem/Risala), ROSINELLA (Oran/Rosalina) and MIRIAM (Nadir/Ranya). Sobha has quite an extensive family, principally through the mares SILVER MAGIC (Indian Magic/Silver Fire) and ROYAL RADIANCE (Royal Diamond/Silver Gilt). There are, of course, several other female families, but not as many as one would think. Breeders have always tended to import a greater proportion of stallions than mares.
One of the largest Australian families is that of the bay mare BARADA II (Raisuli/Gadara) bred by Mr A.J. McDonald and bought in 1945 by Mrs A.D.D. Maclean for "Fenwick Stud". This is a sub-group of the Dajania line through Nefisa, Nargileh, Namusa, Rabi (Rafyk/Namusa), Zarif (Faraoun/Rabi) and Gadara (Harir/Zarif), a most interesting line of descent, combining most of our early Crabbet bloodlines.
By Georgia Cheer
First printed in the April 1992 issue of "The Crabbet Influence magazine Why should someone buy an Arabian of Crabbet lineage? That interesting question was posed to me by the International Arabian Horse Association publication, resulting in this article.
To properly answer that question, I tapped upon many of my resources. These include: the numerous close relationships with horse owners and breeders that I have established in my 10 years of Arabian horse ownership; my eight years of publishing experience in which I personally observed Crabbet Arabians in the U.S. and abroad (Great Britain, Australia) via attendance at specific Crabbet symposiums, conventions, Crabbet horse shows and Crabbet "Days"; and lastly, by attempting to answer this question myself 11 years ago when I began my quest to buy a purebred Arabian horse.
A Breeding Program of Historic Proportions
Initially, if you desire to gain a proper perspective on the history of the Crabbet Arabian, you should read good books on this subject. The most outstanding and my personal favorite is The Crabbet Arabian Stud, Its History and Influence, by R. Archer, C. Pearson and C. Covey (published in 1978 by Alexander Heriot, Ltd.). In this excellent book, the Stud's history is examined in detail, from its beginnings in 1878, to its complete dispersal in the early 1960s.
In this book, you will learn that the Crabbet Arabian descended from Arabians bred at Crabbet Park Stud in England. The foundation horses of Crabbet Park Stud were selected directly from the Arabian desert by the Stud's founders, Lady Anne and Wilfrid Blunt. The Blunt's specifically traveled to the mid-east desert to find, purchase, and ship back the best Arabian horses available. The pedigree of each horse purchased was authenticated by the Bedouins, and included historic accounts of several of the horses heroic loyalty during the all too common tribal desert battles and wars. After the Blunt's death, the Stud passed onto their daughter, Judith, Lady Wentworth, who's mastery at breeding Arabians is well documented in history books.
The Crabbet breeding program created by the Blunt's and Lady Wentworth has greatly bolstered the quality of Arabian horses bred worldwide. Nearly all the world's Arabian horse breeding countries have been influenced by the Crabbet lines, including Poland, Canada, the U. S., Australia, and Spain. In fact, Crabbet horses have been sold to Italy, India, Argentina, Holland, South Africa, Pakistan, Mexico and Chile.
The Crabbet Value as an Outcross
In my opinion, the Crabbet Arabian is the "chicken stock" of bloodlines from which all good soups are derived. They have the exceptional value of being the best (and most reliable) blood from which to outcross. Prove it to yourself: try examining the pedigree of many national champion horses (halter or performance), or examine the pedigree of a horse that you admire. You will likely find that Crabbet blood is within their pedigree, quite often through the tail-female line. For example: if the horse is said to be Polish; see if he has Negatiw blood through *Naborr or *Bandos. If so, he traces back to Naseem, bred at Crabbet from Nasra by Skowronek. If the horse is said to be Russian; see if he has Priboj in the pedigree. Priboj was sired by Piolun out of the Crabbet bred mare, Rissalma. *Padron and *Salon are two other Russian Arabians that have Crabbet lineage. If the horse is Egyptian, most likely you will see Aswan (who is by Nazeer) or Nazeer in his background. Aswan's tail-female goes to Bint Rustem, a Crabbet bred mare. Nazeer's dam, Bint Samiha, was by Kazmeyn (also Kasmeen), the grandson of *Astraled, who was bred at Crabbet. These days, it is extremely difficult to find an Arabian that hasn't got a Crabbet horse for an ancestor (to their credit).
Qualities of the Crabbet Arabian
To this day, the foremost character trait of loyalty and devotion to his master in the Crabbet Arabian are still very much evident. They seem to thrive when owned by considerate, loving owners. These Arabians are unique in temperament; they are "people-lovers." They seem to have the magical power to "possess" their owners, enabling them to extract from their owners the same loyalty and dedication they so generously give. When I'm asked to describe the best feature of the Crabbet Arabian, I respond, "their temperament." Many young riders got their best start aboard a gentle Crabbet Arabian.
Crabbet Arabians are remarkably high-achievers. Ask them to respond to a request, and they try very hard to do it. They want to please their owners. This is why so many Crabbet line Arabians achieve high marks in the performance world. If you are looking for a super trail horse, race horse, first place endurance horse, top cutting, reining or stock horse, look for Crabbet breeding in the pedigree.
Crabbet Blood Has Survived Trying Times
If you were to dig further into Crabbet lines, you would find the most successful breeders have incorporated Crabbet blood into their herd. Most of these breeders survived the 1980s slump in the Arabian horse market. In your research, you may notice that many of the larger farms that started breeding pure Polish or pure Egyptian in the 1970s and 1980s have gone out of business. In today's market, you may have certainly noticed that there are less of these farms advertising in the all-color magazines. But where are the Crabbet breeders? Where they have always been, that is, steadfastly nurturing their horses. Perhaps they are breeding less, while selectively selling their horses to only "deserving" homes.
If you looked closely, you would find that there are many more small farms with Crabbet line Arabians than you thought possible. Although these small breeders or farms may not have huge advertising budgets to make them more noticeable, they have maintained value and consistency, and most evidently, the Arabian type, by not over breeding. Thus, they have insured their chosen bloodlines continued success. It's as if these breeders were never affected by the Arabian market's crazed days in the late 70s and 80s. The Crabbet breeders held by their principles, by not switching from one bloodline to another and then back again to follow what is "in fashion." As such, they lost very little in comparison to the large farms who overproduced to gain profits. Crabbet breeders think in the long term and not the short haul. Crabbet Arabians are still the best (and proven) value for the money.
Preparing Yourself to Buy Selectively
What if you are new to Arabians, or considering your first Arabian horse purchase. What should you look for? What about all those pedigrees with strange or unfamiliar names? How to get through all this information?
My first piece of advice: examine your own tastes to discover in your own mind the "look" of the Arabian horse that you enjoy. Keep your "look" in mind as you examine prospective horses advertised in magazines. Usually it starts with how the head is shaped, the size of the eye, nose or ears, followed by your preference for color, and body style. With your ideal in mind, you can begin to formulate a clear objective, and keep your search selective. When I began my search for an Arabian horse, I found the "look" that appealed to me, which I soon discovered were horses of Crabbet lineage.
Before making a purchase, decide the things you want to do with your horse. Ask yourself: will you be trail riding; will you be involved with breeding, or will you have your horse compete in shows or competitions? Which classes: halter or performance? You should keep in mind that Crabbet line Arabians are very will known for their performance ability. Their disposition is well suited to withstand performance rigors, whether it be in the halter or performance ring or on the mountain trail.
Secondly, do your homework: study up on established breeders, horses, pedigrees and prices. The more you are aware of what is selling and for what price, the better you can assess your selection in today's market. Subscribe to the current Arabian horse magazines in circulation, read books, visit horse farms, ask questions, in short, become a "sponge."
My last piece of advice: consider seeking professional advice. This is very important, especially if you are not very knowledgeable with Arabian conformation or pedigrees. Choose an established breeder, horseman, researcher or trainer who has years of involvement in the Arabian horse field. This person should have a good reputation, and provide accurate, quick guidance at a nominal fee. This person could save you both time and money in your search to find the ideal horse. Please remember: you may have limited knowledge whereas the professional's knowledge of a horses conformation, its champion background, its influential ancestors, would help paint a better picture of the capabilities of your chosen horse (whether it be in performance and/or breeding). Their guidance can help to customize your choice on the correct horse to purchase, and it could even make the difference in your future happiness in becoming a horse owner.
Owning any Arabian horse should be a rewarding and pleasurable experience. There are many Arabian horses, of many bloodlines, in many price ranges, waiting to be purchased. Many of these Arabians would make good future horses for their new owners. Know the "look" you want; do your homework; seek professional advice, if necessary, and be selective. After all, you and your horse will be forming a mutually beneficial partnership for many years of fun and love.
So, from my experience, if you are looking for a wonderful Arab, with a people-loving disposition, who can not only give you love and loyalty, but has historically proven bloodlines, you should definitely buy CRABBET.