At the Beginning (Part IV)

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

One wonders, too, if the concept of “double registration” did not play some part in the selection of the stallion battery at Traveler’s Rest. There were prominent exceptions, but many of the stallions used in that breeding operation were double registered. The two best known of the Traveler’s Rest stallions were *NASR 889 and *CZUBUTHAN 1499. Both stallions were imported to the United States after the Jockey Club had ceased Arabian registrations, so, of course, they were not registered with that organization. It would be extremely interesting to know whether they were imported in such a way that they met the technical criteria for such registrations in the event the Jockey Club should re-open its stud books to Arabians. In any case, General Dickenson took “double registration” seriously enough so that the Traveler’s Rest Catalogue indicates which of the horses were registered by the Jockey Club as well as by the Arabian Horse Club.

There is no way of knowing how many other farms were in some way influenced by the possibility of Jockey Club registration. From personal conversations, the writer knows that it was very definitely a factor with some of the older breeders. As recently as within the last year, one of our national Arabian magazines carried an ad for stallions for which one of the recommendations as that their sire was registered by the Jockey Club.

The idea of “double registration” was a legacy from Spencer Borden to W.R.Brown. Towards the end of his career as a breeder, Brown rather ruefully wrote,

“No one really breeds Jockey Club stock, except myself, and there is only one breeder in England, Lady Wentworth, who handles Weatherby’s stock exclusively.”[67. W. R. Brown to H. V. Tormohlen, October 12, 1927.]

At about that time, the Jockey Club ceased registering Arabians altogether. Since then, the matter has become a non-issue, and only old-timers in the breed think about it. If the Jockey Club would still register Arabian horses according to its former standards of eligibility, a very minor percentage would still be eligible — at the most under four percent, and probably less than that.


It is obvious that these founding members of the Arabian horse community in America had strong, highly individualistic personalities. They lived in an era when public debate was not always of the kid glove variety. Each of them in his own way was an efficient and determined promoter of what he took to be the Arabian horse. With such founding fathers, it is no wonder that this new breed was able to establish itself in America at a comparatively late date as far as horses were concerned and to continue to grow at a rate which no one could logically have foreseen. In ways, time has more or less smoothed over the early disturbances, but this is not to say that they had no effect. In order to attempt to measure their effect, some figures concerning the Arabian horse as the breed occurs in America at the present time are offered in accompanying charts.

As a base point for understanding the charts, the writer attempted to determine the influence of the Homer Davenport importation of 1906 by doing pedigree analysis of representative animals from Volume XX (1971) of the series of stud books published by the Arabian Horse Registry of America. Pedigrees were completely drawn for each 100th animal in the series of registrations in this volume. The percentage of genetic contribution to each animal by individuals imported by Homer Davenport in 1906 was calculated. In all, sixty pedigrees were considered. Of these, fifty-eight (96.6%) were found to trace at some level to the Davenport importation. (In other words, only two (3.4%) had no Davenport background whatever.) Of the horses which did trace to the Davenport importation, the average level at which they did so was 12.56%. In a simple pedigree, this is approximately equal to the contribution made by one great-grandparent. Most experienced breeders would probably agree that, in a group of Arabian horses where all other pedigree and environmental factors are similar, it is possible for the reasonable informed observer to distinguish a difference in genetic background of about 3%.

The Davenport influence in the horses studied would therefore be about four times the minimum observable level. This would make it a significant, though, of course, not controlling, factor in the individuality of the animals themselves.

If the average foal registered in Volume XX (1971) was 12.86% Davenport in ancestry, the next logical point of inquiry is how that figure compares with a similar calculation for horses which are considered to be successful representatives of the breed. Of course, there are different standards for success with Arabian horses. By using several of these, it was thought that some valid insights into the contributions of the Davenport importation and other aspects of Arabian breeding might be developed.

One important standard of success for an Arabian stallion has to do with the extent to which it is used as a sire. For some years now, as the Arabian Horse Club has published new volumes of its stud book, the Arabian Horse World has published a listing of the stallions in each volume siring ten or more of the foals registered in that volume. From stud book to stud book, the horses on these lists vary, but generally speaking the listings indicate the stallions to which mare owners look as the most successful sires available. An analysis for the AHC stud books Volumes XVII, XVIII, XIX and XX is shown as chart A.

Chart A: Sires of Ten or More Foals
Chart A

It will be seen that the percentage of these stallions which trace to Davenport ancestry is much lower than was the case with the foals registered in Volume XX. The average figure for the four years is only 56%, whereas the average among the foals of Volume XX was 96.6%. The difference is attributable mainly to the popularity with mare owners of imported stallions or stallions which are immediately descended from recently imported stock. However, of the sires listed, the majority still trace to the 1906 Davenport importation, and it is an interesting point that, for the four volumes studied, they do so at the level of 15.42%, which is a significantly higher level than shown by the average foal studied in Volume XX (12.86%).

In the United States, the most public evaluation of Arabian horses occurs in the show ring. Two studies have been done by E. Tanson in order to establish the influence of Davenport background in the modern Arabian show horse. Chart B was prepared from the 1971 International Arabian Horse Association Purebred Eligibility list of April 22, 1971. The pedigrees of all horses were considered, a total of 1,307. Stallions and geldings traced to Davenport at a level of 75.66%, mares at a level of 77.43%. It will be observed that the percentage of non-Davenport related stock is considerably lower than was the case with the listings of Sires of Ten or More foals. This probably reflects the tendency of imported stallions to be bred to American bred mares which are already part Davenport.

Of the horses which were eligible for the 1971 national championship competition, the part Davenport majority traced to its Davenport ancestry in varying degrees according to the category of competition, ranging from 10.8% for the Formal Combination stallions and geldings to 20.8% for the Costume mares. Some categories were small, involving only a few individuals, but others such as Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Park, and Halter were large. In each category except for two of the minor ones, the level of Davenport breeding in the part-Davenport horses was higher than was found in the average foal studied from Volume XX of the stud book. In several of the categories the difference exceeded the 3% level of significance, as was the case with English Pleasure stallions, Stock Horse mares, Costume, and Trail.

As far as halter competition was concerned, the Davenport influence among the part Davenports was about on a level with the average from Volume XX of the stud book.

Chart B: Davenport Influence in Arabian Show Horses
Chart B

One of the places where the total show experience for the Arabian horse is best summarized is in the Legion of Merit award. Horses which have achieved this have differing attributes and abilities, but each one of them is a campaigner and a successful show horse. E. Tanson analyzed the pedigrees of the 365 winners of this award from 1961 through 1972. The results are shown as chart C. It will be observed that these horses were not substantially different in background from those eligible for the 1971 national classes. Slightly over 71% of the mares traced to Davenport origins, over 80% of the stallions. The percentage of Davenport genetic material among the part Davenports was 15.85% for the mares, 15.71% for the stallions and geldings. For both categories it approached the 3% difference from the average estimated to be required for observation.

Chart C: Legion of Merit Winners
Chart C

So, after sixty-eight years, it can fairly be said that the breeding stock which Homer Davenport acquired from the Anazeh Bedouins for American breeders has thoroughly integrated into the breeding of Arabian horses in America, and continues to make its contribution to the horses that are bred at the present time. In fact, the case can be made that it is the Davenport element which is the distinguishing feature of the pedigree of an American Arabian horse. Other countries breeding Arabian horses have often exchanged bloodlines among themselves, but none of them to any significant degree have the Davenport ancestry among their horses. When looking at American pedigrees, one can find examples of Polish, English, Egyptian, Hungarian, and almost every other kind of foreign breeding imaginable; chances are, if the animal studied has two generations or more of American breeding, it will also have the Davenport influence at a significant level.

In our breeding of Arabian horses, we are by nature a country of importers. This has been going on since the breed was established in America at the turn of the century. Of course, all the early foundation stock had to be imported, and Homer Davenport was among the first Americans to go abroad for such stock. What he brought was highly publicized for its day; that day passed, and other importations were also made. Since then, every decade has seen one or more importations of Arabian horses, each of which has been highly publicized, and each of which up to the present time has tended to lapse into obscurity.

Out of this has come the Arabian horse of America, as we know it. Sometimes it has seemed a hard thing that the new importations have crowded the horses already here out of the public eye. There have been good reasons. Probably the most important of them is that the imported horses for the most part have been excellent animals – the best that their breeders would sell for export — and this excellence has deserved recognition. Also, there is the matter of fashion: as with clothing, there are times when some horses are ‘in’ and others are “out.” The *RAFFLES type horses of the early 50’s were just as good as Arabians as the Polish and Egyptian winners of today, but at this moment in time they do not get the recognition they once had. Fashion changes, however, and their opportunities will no doubt come again.

With all the additions of bloodlines and the changes in fashion, it would only be reasonable to expect that the handful of horses which Homer Davenport bought in Arabia in 1906 would be submerged in the current of Arabian breeding. This has not been the case. Their influence, to be sure, has been temporarily diluted by each new importation, but there appears to have been an automatic process of selection operating in succeeding generations which has caused it to reconcentrate.

Perhaps over a period of years, the Davenport influence could diminish from its present point, but this would require the greatly expanded use on a national scale of recently imported stallions and stallions bred exclusively from such stock. It is unlikely that this will occur because there are certain advantages to some Davenport ancestry in a pedigree which are lacking in horses from other countries. For sixty-eight years, now, the American horse breeding public has demonstrated that it desires those advantages.

It is only fair in considering the contribution which the Davenport importation of 1906 has made to acknowledge that it has done so against obstacles. When the horses first arrived in this country, they received some public attention. Before his death, Homer Davenport wrote his book about the importation, My Quest of the Arabian Horse. Beyond that, the importation has received very little publicity, and its influence has had to make its way pretty much on the year-to-year basis of foals produced. This has been especially a problem because the amount of 100% Davenport seed stock to produce outcross foals has always been extremely limited, owning to the habitual failure of American breeders to preserve seed stock from almost each intact breeding group that has come to this country, Davenport or otherwise.

The other great adverse influence has been the outgrowth of the points at issue between Spencer Borden and Homer Davenport. These were resolved into the matter of Jockey Club registration. That is something with which few breeders now concern themselves. It was, nevertheless, a determining factor in how the breed developed in the United States because it was a consideration upon which a number of the earlier breeding establishments were planned. There is no doubt that it tended to restrict the use of Davenport bloodlines, especially in the case of stallions. From an historical point of view, the early stages of the breed’s development were very sensitive to differences in foundation stock. More liberal usage of non-Jockey Club stallions could easily have doubled the Davenport influence on the breed today. That would very definitely have changed the appearance of our horses.

If this is the case, it can be seen that the quarrel between Davenport and Borden was really one of the important issues in all of American Arabian breeding. Whether they knew it or not, the two men were arguing as to which of them was to lead the Arabian horse into the future. As matters worked out, neither won and neither lost. The Arabian horse we proudly own today is a different animal than it would have been if either of these men had been less far sighted, less dedicated, or, perhaps, a little more inclined to see the other fellow’s point of view.


Most particular thanks are expressed to Mr. Peter R. Sarra for making available for publication a number of pictures from his fine collection. So far as the writer knows, a number of these have not been published elsewhere, and they furnish a definite addition to what we know of these early horses. Mr. Sarra has performed a valuable service for the Arabian horses in collecting information and other material concerning the history of Arabian breeding in America. Without his interest, much of this information would no doubt have been lost through the normal processes of time. It is hoped that Arabian breeders will continue to cooperate with Mr. Sarra as well as with others who seek to preserve the history of our breed of horses, since a realistic knowledge of this history is essential for a full appreciation of the horses which we now have.

Thanks are also expressed to Miss Margaret Dietz, executive secretary of the Arabian Horse Owner’s Foundation. Miss Dietz has been most helpful in furnishing letters and other material from the Foundation’s extensive collection concerning early Arabian breeding in America. It has been a privilege to have access to this material, and the writer hopes that the use which has been made of it will remind readers of the service performed by the Arabian Horse Owner’s Foundation in acting as a repository for historical material about the Arabian horse.