Preservation Breeding

Copyright 1991 by Charles Craver
used by permission of Charles Craver
from Arabian Horse World July 91

Craver Farms
Charles & Jeanne Craver
RT 2, Box 262
Winchester IL 62694

The concept of “Preservation Breeding” is one of the oldest treasures in Arabian breeding. The first person who bred two Arabian horses together because they were Arabians was a “preservation breeder.” One of the oldest instances of “Preservation breeding” in the literature among the Arab Bedouin breeders was when the Jellabiet Feysul line was sent from Arabia to Bahrain during the Wahhaby wars so that it could be safeguarded.

Many modern bloodlines are based on episodes of preservation breeding in their history: Egyptian breeding would be vastly different had not Ali Pasha Sherif preserved Abbas Pasha bloodlines. After Ali Pasha Sherif, the Blunts performed the same function both for Egyptian and Crabbet breeding by preserving elements of Ali Pasha Sherif’s stud. In continental Europe — including France, Germany, Hungary and Poland — there were repeated instances of importation of Bedouin-bred horses to preserve the authentic character of European Arabians. One of the all-time great achievements of preservation breeding was the reconstruction of Polish Arabian breeding from the few Arabian horses of Poland that survived World War II.

From the beginning of Arabian breeding in the U.S., we have had a strong tradition of preservation breeding which has, in fact, shaped the way the breed has developed in this country. It was not enough for our earliest breeders just to breed Arabian horses. Some of them had very strong opinions about restricting their bloodlines in certain ways. They bred accordingly. The Arabian horses of today are still influenced by what they thought about double registration (joint registration by the American Jockey Club and the Arabian Horse Club), by the kind of breeding stock they imported, and by how they fostered some bloodlines and let others drop. Much current breeding still continues the patterns they established: Crabbet breeding, Davenport breeding, Babson Egyptian breeding, CMK breeding — these are all active, successful “Preservation” breeding programs which were substantially in place in the United States by 1932.

Other active “Preservation” programs also existed, of course, and have been lost with time except for their sometimes powerful effects in pedigrees. They have been much more than replaced as new programs have been developed.

There is nothing about “Preservation” breeding that has to be ancient. Whenever some special combination of horses turns up which somebody recognizes as being worth preserving for its own sake, a new preseveration program has the chance to start.

Thus we have “new” programs known to us all such as the one based on McCoy breeding and extending to the later “Gainey” horses. We have the “Double R” program, various *Raffles preservation groups, and several variations within the Polish, Russian and Egyptian groups. Not all “Preservation” breeding programs are large-scale or famous. Many a breeder works quietly on a limited project, making a contribution to the Arabian horse which may seem modest at the time but eventually could be of great importance.

Preservation breeding is not for everyone. It does not replace the worthwhile efforts of the larger number of breeders who are instead interested in working towards the perfect Arabian horses by combining various bloodlines. Even these breeders benefit from “preservation” efforts of others who furnish breeding stock of intensified genetic character to their programs.

Furthermore, “Preservation” breeding furnishes a means by which certain specific “types” of Arabian horses can be preserved for us all to enjoy. In this world of beautiful show champions of blended bloodlines, it still a thrill to see an example of *Raffles type, or something such as *Fadl was, or Hanad, or the Crabbet horses of years gone by. The Arabian horse never has been nor is it now just one kind of horse.

Nor are Arabian owners just one kind of person. We each like our own kind of horse. “Preservation” breeding is a way of insuring that kind of horse will still exist when we want it.