… to enhance public awareness of the Davenport Arabian Horse as Homer Davenport knew it.

At the Beginning (Part II)

By Charles C. Craver III
of Craver Farms,
Winchester, Illinois
used by permission of Charles Craver
The Arabian Horse News May, 1974

“An examination of the pedigrees of the Sewell horses forces me to admit that they are not as closely inbred as I had surmised, and that the finer specimens are not inbred at all. I do not yield an inch, however, in my assertion that I have brought from Arabia the finest bunch of Arabs that ever came out of the desert, Mr. Sewell’s not excepted, and welcome the opportunity to show mine against his before a jury of impartial judges.” [12. New York Times, December, 1906]

Sewell, too, made a final statement of the matter. It was about on a par with Davenport’s:

“The doubts cast upon the exact whereabouts of the wanderings of Mr. Davenport . . . I think may be settled by the admission that Mr. Davenport made a journey along the northern boundary of Arabia proper, up country from Aleppo. Whether he actually crossed the boundary line into Arabia is a matter of comparatively small importance, and one on which Mr. Davenport himself seems a little in doubt.

“What is of real importance is the fact that I now candidly admit that Mr. Davenport came in touch somewhere on or near, the boundary between Arabia and Mesopotamia with the great Anazeh tribe of migratory horse-breeding Bedouins, which last year, fortunately for Mr. Davenport, swung the circle of its Summer migration rather further north than usual, and that he was able to obtain from them a very interesting and valuable collection of their horses — possibly a better collection than has been procured by others of late years.

“My opinion expressed in late letters to the Times to the effect that the purest Libyan blood was no longer to be obtained from the desert has been confirmed by a careful study of Mr. Davenport’s beautiful animals. This conclusion is not intended to be in any sense disparaging. It has been pointed out by scientific students of the subject that pure Libyan blood has been practically unobtainable, and it is no disparagement to Mr. Davenport’s fine animals to say that in their veins does not course absolutely unadulterated the rare blood of the chariot horses of the old Assyrian and Egyptian Kings.

“It is possible that this blood, in its absolute purity, uncontaminated by even a drop of blood of the comparatively ignoble European horse, does not exist today or that if it does exist the individuals are so few in number and so isolated that their perpetuation is of doubtful assurance.

“We of the Huntington Arabian Stud fondly believe that our animals, or at least some of them, show more of the traits of these noblest, of necessity, oldest, and — alas! — passing, race than do the specimens of Mr. Davenport’s.” [13. Ibid.]

With that the great New York Times Arabian debate of 1906 was concluded. No contest between horses resulted. Davenport conceded that the Huntington horses were not so bad after all. Seward admitted that the Davenport horses were actual Arabians, even if they did not happen to be the pure and unadulterated descendants of the chariot horse of the ancient Assyrian and Egyptian Kings. In the whole exchange, neither side had changed position particularly, but better humor had resulted between the two parties, and, by fanning flames, the New York Times had obtained several very entertaining columns of copy.

***

The Davenport horses next came to the attention of the general public at a horse show at Rutland, Vermont, held the last of June, 1907. This was a show of some importance in the area. Among others, the Governor of the state was in attendance. The manner of his presence was not a complete political success because he had demonstrated poor taste in coming to the show in an automobile, and, of course, there was criticism of him on that ground. In a perhaps unrelated incident, the Morgan horse historian declined to exhibit his horses at the show because a representative of the show had visited him in an automobile. [14. The Rider and Driver, Vol. XXXIV, No. 16, July 13, 1907, p. 4.]

The show was a three-day affair. A number of the Davenport horses appear to have been there, and each day there was an exhibit of them as an Arabian collection. On the last day of the show,

“As a special feature during the afternoon three of the Arabian horses, MASOUD, HAMRA, and HAMDANI raced a half-mile, HAMRA winning. The Bedouin boy, who was riding one of the horses, jumped down from his horses after the race and kissed the winning horse, showing the Arab’s love for his horse.” [15. Ibid.]

From an Arabian breeder’s point of view, the main event at this show was a class in which the prize was awarded to the horse most closely resembling the original Justin Morgan type. The winner of this class was one of the Arabian horses of Davenport’s importation, *HALEB 25. This stallion had been a noted animal in Arabia, where he had been in extensive use as a sire by the Bedouins themselves. [16. Davenport Desert Arabian Stud, catalogue for years 1909 and 1910, Best Publishing Co., Boulder, Colorado, reprint of 1967, p. 30.] On the arrival of the importation in America, he was considered by horsemen to be the best individual of the group. [17. Albert W. Harris, The Blood of the Arab, The Arabian Horse Club of America, Chicago, 1941, p. 109.] At that time, the Morgan breed of horses was highly esteemed on the American scene and represented a fine tradition of domestic Arabian horse breeding. *HALEB’s victory in a class judged on resemblance to “original Justin Morgan type” was considered by Arabian breeders to prove both that the Arabian horse could compete with the best native horse of America and that, in Davenport’s words,

“horsemen are the same the world over, whether they wear the rough cloaks of the Bedouins spun under camel-hair tents or frock coats built on Fifth Avenue.” [18. Homer Davenport, My Quest of the Arabian Horse. B.W. Dodge & Company, New York. 1909, p. 223.]

This particular win has become a definite part of Arabian horse literature, commented on in Davenport’s writing, in Mr. Harris’ book, The Blood of the Arab, [19. Harris, op. cit., p. 109.] and in W.R.Brown’s The Horse of the Desert. [20. W.R. Brown, The Horse of the Desert, The Jay Shuler Co., Springville, N.Y., 1967, p. 166.]

For Morgan horsemen, however, *HALEB’s win may have had a somewhat different significance. Though the Morgan breed was at that time will established in America, it seems to have been at the beginning of a cross-roads in its history, and the event at the Rutland show provides a hint of this. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had become a factor in the perpetuation of the Morgan breed through its operation of the Morgan Horse Farm. This called for an official stand as to what the Morgan horse should be. The choice was whether to maintain the original type of the breed or to seek an improved kind of horse. The decision of the Department of Agriculture authorities was that

“it would be making a serious mistake if it should attempt to reproduce exactly the old type of Morgan horse . . . . The old Morgan type, the “Justin Morgan type,’ if we may so state, has served its day, just as the old types of beef cattle and hogs have served their day. In all successful stock breeding, progress is made slowly but surely. . . the Morgan horse of today and tomorrow should be a better horse than the Morgan horse of fifty years ago and a better horse than Justin Morgan. He should have the good points of conformation of the old Morgan and his indomitable spirit, but more size, more quality, and freer action.” [21. The Rider and Driver, Vol. XXXIV, No. two, August 10, 1907, p. 3]

To this end, an attractive stallion, General Gates, was purchased to stand at the Morgan Horse Farm. the editor of The Rider and Driver commented upon the foals of General Gates that their

“beautiful form and exquisite quality . . . won his unstinted admiration, but they were more like the ideal saddle horse than the harness horse in conformation. In fact, they very closely resembled thoroughbreds of substance, with bodies well made, straight top line, depth through the heart, short backs, clean flat bone and heads and necks that would delight a connoisseur. Upon inquiry it was learned that General Gates is himself part thoroughbred . . . . We should like to ask the Agricultural Department if, with this breeding and the results observed . . . as described, it is, after all, probable that the Justin Morgan type, if that is aimed at, will be reproduced.” [22. Ibid.]

Elsewhere, the same writer comments that

“the get of General Gates were of a very ‘breedy sort.’ Unfortunately, whether it came from the admixture of ‘saddle blood’ or some other cause, they were not very square trotters, being decidedly mixed in gait at the trot and exhibiting a tendency to amble and pace.” [23. Ibid.]

Where the Department of Agriculture represented a faction that had decided to “improve” the Morgan horse, there must have been an opposing faction whose aim was the opposite, namely, to preserve the good, old-fashioned Morgan horse. (The controversy would have been in many respects similar to the recurrent one with Arabian breeders: whether to preserve the “classic” type or to produce the “perfect” horse.)

With this information as background, we might take another look at *HALEB’s victory in the class for horses of original Justin Morgan Type at Rutland, Vermont. According to the editor of The Rider and Driver magazine, who was one of them, the judges at this show commented that the

“Agricultural Department and the managers of the show . . . have been at variance as to the ideal Morgan desired to be produced in the future.” The show management carried its point for the day, at least, by instructing the judges to “adhere to the type of the original Justin Morgan. It was for this reason that the little Arab pony *HALEB was given the blue ribbon as the horse of all others shown which came nearest to the type of Justin Morgan.” [24. Ibid.]

In other words, the class specifications had been deliberately worded to give a horse of *HALEB’s type the advantage. One wonders if the victory was not even somewhat more predetermined than that would indicate. In a letter to The Rider and Driver, Spencer Borden commented that

“The action of the Agricultural Society in paying Davenport to bring *HALEB (and perhaps some others) to Rutland in 1907 (is the) cause of much unfavorable comment by many of the Vermont people.” [25. The Rider and Driver, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 9, May, 1909, p. 4.]

From this it would appear that the antichange faction in Morgan circles, in addition to establishing class specifications of a horse of *HALEB’s type, had gone the logical step further of insuring that such a horse would be present.

When *HALEB was awarded the blue, the Morgan traditionalists won the day, and the course which they thought the Morgan breed should take was publicly established. Having the advantage of hindsight, however, we know that their success was a temporary one only. Over the intervening years, the Morgan horse has been “improved” to the point that one has to look far indeed to find an example within the breed of “Justin Morgan” type, although, of course, that breed does contain many fine individuals of other types. It is doubtful that *HALEB could win in a class of Morgans today.

***

In 1906, when the Davenport importation arrived in the United States, the only official stud book in which Arabians could be registered was the American Stud Book, maintained by the Jockey Club primarily for the registration of American Thoroughbreds. Many of the Arabian horses then in this country were not registered in that stud book, but the ones which could be said to be registered anywhere were found there.

Davenport applied to the Jockey Club for registration of his newly imported horses. The application was refused.

The conditions surrounding this and subsequent actions by the Jockey Club are complex. Probably the lapse of time which has occurred since then guarantees that no one is going to fully figure out what happened. Davenport’s side of the story was that he had published an unfavorable cartoon about August Belmont, chairman of the Jockey Club, and that Belmont was so offended that he would not permit registration of the horses imported in Davenport’s name, although their credentials were in adequate order. One horse of the importation, BEAMING STAR, was registered by the Jockey Club, but this horse belonged to Davenport’s companion on the trip, Jack Thompson, and Davenport’s name did not appear in connection with the application for registration. Davenport took this to prove that the objection was not to the horses he had imported but to him personally, because of the cartooning incident. [26. The Rider and Driver, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 11, June 5, 1909, pp 4,5.]

The more usually told side of the story is the version of Albert W. Harris:

“When Mr. Davenport applied to have these horses registered by the Jockey Club, he was told that, as they were not in the General Stud Book of England, they could not be accepted in the American Stud Book except under the rules of the General Stud Book of England, which required certain affidavits from Arabia and the American Consul. Now when one has spent months and gone through political and desert maneuvers and been adopted into the tribe of Anazeh Bedouins and is then asked to go back, figuratively speaking, and get an affidavit that he was there and that is where he got the horses, it is embarrassing, to say the least, but all according to Hoyle, as they say.” [27. Harris, op. cit., p. 84.]

W.R. Brown tells a somewhat different story yet.

“…On his return from Arabia…he asked the Jockey Club to register all of his horses. He had, however, only pedigree papers for part of his horses. The Jockey Club, very rightly, said they would register those for which he had papers, and asked him to produce the papers for the others including certificates of exportation from Alexandretta. He got mad and started to cartoon Belmont, then president of the Jockey Club, which did not help the case.” [28. W. R. Brown to H. V. Tormohlen, October 12, 1927.]

This version is probably rather close to the truth. As a matter of fact, if anyone had been able to read the Arabic documents which arrived with the horses from Arabia, it would have been found that their Bedouin origin was well established. Eighteen of these documents still exist, accounting for all but three of the horses subsequently registered by the Arabian Horse Club. There is no particular reason to believe that documentation did not also exist for the three horses not accounted for. The remarkable fact is that the documentation for the other horses was preserved. The more usual course is for such papers to be lost or discarded, and it is unfortunate but true that most desert-bred foundation animals recognized by Arabian registries all over the world are simply not documented by authenticated papers taken at the time of their departure from Bedouin hands. The sources of such horses cannot be technically “proven,” and they are accepted according to the reliability of their importers.

Some years after Davenport’s death, further light was cast upon the Jockey Club’s refusal to register the horses of the Davenport importation. W.R. Brown had found it to his advantage to reverse the decision in regard to the Davenport stallion *EUPHRATES 26, which he was able to do after meeting certain requirements. He corresponded with W.H.Rowe of the Jockey Club on the matter. Several comments by Mr. Brown are pertinent:

“I shall be surprised and earthquaked if the EUPHRATES application is not granted by the Stewards, even though it is a radical departure from our usual conditions, owing to the fact that the Arabian horse people paid no attention to registering animals coming as EUPHRATES did — excepting, of course, the late Mr. Davenport, and his gyrations did the Arabian horse proposition in general much more harm than good with our people, as you can well imagine. I hope and believe that the proofs and data which you collected, and your personal willingness and trouble to comply with everything we requested , will do a great deal to offset the unpleasant memories of Mr. Davenport’s conduct and defiance of our regulations and requirements.” [29. W. H. Rowe to W. R. Brown, October 30, 1918.]

In another letter:

“…as I have often told you, the previous indifference of the Arabian horse devotees and the antics of the late Mr. Davenport had naturally made a bad impression with our folks.” [30. W. H. Rowe to W. R. Brown, February 8, 1919.]

The complete truth of what happened between the Jockey Club and Davenport probably lies somewhere between all versions of the story. At the time of the importation, it is unlikely that real technical objections to the registrations of the horses existed because at that time the requirements for registration of Arabians with the Jockey Club do not appear to have been particularly strict. It is very doubtful, for instance, that the application of *NEJDME I, who was so registered, was ever supported by a pedigree or any official document concerning export from Turkey or Arabia. Similarly, it is doubtful that there was much if any documentation connected with *LEOPARD 233 or *LINDEN TREE 234, who were imported in 1879, and these were also registered by the Jockey Club. That BEAMING STAR was accepted by the Jockey Club when the others from the expedition were not is a further indication that something other than documentation was causing the trouble, especially since BEAMING STAR was the one horse of the importation which was not considered by Davenport to be a purebred. He does not appear among the registrations of the Arabian Horse Club.

It would not be fair to the Jockey Club to assume that its actions were entirely a matter of prejudice. To this day, if you call the Jockey Club office and ask a question concerning the registration of a horse, the response will be “Who were the sire and dam?” These were questions Davenport could not answer. True, he did have documents, but they were poorly understood, and it is easy to see how initial questions could have been raised, followed, perhaps, by the complications coming from a ruffled temper.

That there was no barrier of substance was indicated some years later when the Jockey Club registered the stallion *EUPHRATES 36 and the mare *URFAH, of the Davenport importation. W.R. Brown had acquired a son of *EUPHRATES, JERREDE 84. He was out of *NEJDME 1, who, although she probably lacked any technical documentation as to source, was registered with the Jockey Club. The only thing, therefore, that kept JERREDE from also being registered was that his sire was one of the Davenport imports. It was a matter of personal importance to Brown that his horses be “double registered,” that is registered by both the Arabian Horse Club and the Jockey Club. In order to obtain such registration for his own horse JERREDE, he set about removing objections which the Jockey Club might have to *EUPHRATES. He had an A.H.Harlan inquire concerning the Davenport importation at the Custom House in New York. It turned out that photographs of the Arabic pedigrees were there. Brown wrote to Harlan to

“please get a signed description of *EUPHRATES, that he came in on such a date as a 2-year-old, etc, I do not care anything about any other horse except *EUPHRATES’ mother. If they have a pedigree photo of *EUPHRATES get it rephotoed, but presume they will only have the mother’s pedigree.” [31. W. R. Brown to A. H. Harlan, June 24, 1915.]

By this time, the Jockey Club had taken the position that it would only register an Arabian horse if it met the current standards of registration maintained by Weatherby’s of England. Brown contacted Weatherby’s to see what such standards would be and was told

“Before we included the Arabian horses in the Stud Book we should require the statement on the certificate verified by the Consul or some other Government official in or near the place where the horses came from.” [32. W. R. Brown to Peter Bradley, July 11, 1917.] Apparently the Jockey Club or someone had already made the effort to get such a statement from the British Consul but it had “failed because he said that it would take a regiment of soldiers to find out the Shieks who filed the pedigree.” [33. Ibid.]

Brown took the alternative route of contacting the man who had been U.S. Consul for Aleppo at the time of the importation and secured the required certificate. [34. J. B. Jackson to W. R. Brown, October 8, 1917.] The final requirement for authentication was met “through Lady Anne Blunt’s personal representations to Weatherby’s in passing on URFAH’s pedigree.” [35. W. R. Brown to Spencer Borden, August 2, 1910.] This represented a considerable change from the cool stand she had taken on the Davenport importation when she had first heard of it. After all, quite a number of years had passed since those days, and during that time she had corresponded with Davenport himself, with Spencer Borden, and with W.R.Brown on the subject. No doubt she had made inquires from her own sources which we cannot know today.

Perhaps, too, one of the factors leading to her change of opinion was that she finally did meet Homer Davenport:

“…..Mr. Homer Davenport’s much talked of and written about visit to Crabbet Stud has actually come off, and, contrary to all expectations, it resulted in the purchase of a mare and two colts. I had not regarded him even as a possible buyer after the voluminous correspondence extending over several years which had never gone further than inquiries–very much to our amusement here, mine and Mrs. Lytton’s for it had indeed become a sort of joke with us–of which I could not help reminding Mr. Davenport. But he took it very well, and if you had been present on the occasion of his visit, as I wish you had, I am sure you would have found both amusement and interest in the conversation; he is really a brilliant talker besides being one of those persons who thoroughly understand what they are looking at and to whom it is therefore necessarily a pleasure to show one’s horses. Thus the visit passed off very agreeably.” [36. Anne Blunt to Spencer Borden, August 2, 1910.]

Footnotes

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