Carl Raswan: Devoted to Davenport Arabians

by Carol Lyons
all rights reserved

Arabian horses fascinated Carl Raswan. Indeed, his interest was so intense that he devoted his life to learning as much as he could about every aspect of the history and breeding of Arabian horses wherever they were to be found.

By means of letters, articles, and books, he shared his knowledge with other Arabian enthusiasts.

There is little doubt that directly or indirectly, he influenced the course of more breeding programs worldwide than any other person in the century.

Carl Raswan’s close association with early Davenport Arabians, his great respect for their Bedouin breeding and his enthusiasm for them as individuals is a source of continuing pride for today’s Davenport breeders.

Currently, there are more than 75,000 owners of 300,000 Arabians in the United States.

Because more than 95 percent of these owners did not have Arabians during the lifetime of Carl Raswan and probably know very little about him, a very brief review of his life and accomplishments appears to be in order before proceeding with the story of his involvement with Davenport Arabians and their influence on the American-bred Arabian.

Carl Reinhart Schmidt (better known as Carl Raswan) was born near Dresden, Germany, 1893. He developed an interest in horses and especially Arabian horses as a child.

At 18, after completing a classical education, he accepted a position with his cousin’s export company in Egypt and later was employed as assistant plantation manager in lower (northern) Egypt.

During the next 10 years, he increased his knowledge of the Arabian horse, not only in Egypt but also through travels to Hungary, Poland, Russia and Turkey.

More importantly, he actually lived for periods of time with several of the Bedouin tribes of the extended Arabian peninsula.

Thus he learned about the Asil (pure) Arabian horse directly from the originators of the breed, the tribes that supplied the Egyptian Pashas, Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt, and Homer Davenport with their foundation stock.

In 1921, Raswan immigrated to the United States, where he was soon involved with Arabians horse breeders. During the next 16 years, he made several trips back to the desert, Egypt and Europe.

Articles by Raswan about the Bedouins, their customs and their horses began to appear in Asia magazine during the late 1920s and in the 30s and 40s in Western Horseman and other magazines.

He was a prodigious letter writer and maintained contact with Arabian breeders both here and abroad.

He authored several books including “Black Tents of Arabia,” “The Arab and His Horse” and the monumental “Raswan Index,” which was a compilation of his notes on Arabian horses throughout the world.

His articles, letters and later books introduced readers to the significance of Arabian strains, and to the concept of the Asil Bedouin Arabian horse which was rapidly disappearing.

On these subjects, he advised such well-known American breeders as W.K. Kellogg, W.R. Brown, W. Van Vleet, Dr. Doyle, Alice Payne, R. Pritzlaff, Mrs J. Ott and C. Craver, as well as Lady Wentworth in England and Dr. Skorkowski in Poland.

Skorkowski was responsible for reorganizing Polish Arabian breeding based on the strain concept. Raswan assisted in the Polish importation of the extremely influential desert-bred stallions Kuhailan Haifi and Kuhailan Zaid, among others.

When Raswan arrived in the United States, there were fewer than 500 Arabian horses here, the majority of which were imports or descendants of imports from England.

Most were of Crabbet Park breeding, although there were quite a few which traced to other English breeding programs such as the Huntington imports and horses that traced to Miss Dillon’s foundation stock.

Peter Bradley’s Hingham Stock Farm and others, including the A.W. Harris and F.E. Lewis breeding programs, were based on the Davenport importation of 1906, with some lines tracing to the Hamidie Society importation of 1893. By 1924, W.R. Brown’s Maynesboro Stud was by far the largest in the U.S. with more than 60 mostly “English” Arabians and the French Arabians he imported in 1921.

It was in 1924 that Chauncey Clarke established an Arabian stud farm in Indio, Calif. Carl Raswan was his advisor and manager and personally selected the foundation stock for this new venture, including the aged desert-bred stallion *Deyr, imported by Davenport, and Jadaan, a 5-year-old Davenport stallion by *Abbeian out of Amran (*Deyr x *Wadduda), both purchased from Peter Bradley.

Unfortunately, Clarke became ill and decided to sell all the horses before his program was even a year old.

Mr. W.K. Kellogg had visited the Clarke stud farm several times and had expressed an interest in purchasing Arabians from Clarke. The Arabians passed into the ownership of Kellogg.

As part of the purchase agreement, Raswan accompanied the horses to their new home. Before the year was out, Raswan and Kellogg visited the F.E. Lewis Ranch and purchased six more horses, including the Davenport stallions Letan (*Muson x *Jedah) and Antez (Harara x Moliah).

The part-Davenport stallions Mizuel (Narkhaleb x Sankirah) and Jeremeh (*Hamrah x Nanshan) were also purchased but none of their foals were bred. The Davenport stallion Ben Hur (*El Bulad x Rhua) was purchased from A.W. Harris, but never used at stud.

The straight Davenport foundation mares included the *Hamrah daughters Fasal (x Amran); Arak (x *Haffia); Hasiker (x *Reshan); Tamarinsk (x *Werdi); and Sottam (x *Farha) who had no foals; the Letan daughter Sherlet (x Sheria); and the *Gomusa daughter Killah (x *Hadba).

The part-Davenport mares were the *Hamrah daughters Amhan (x Dahura) and Sedjur (x Amran), and her daughter Mabruk (x Zizi, who was by *Hamrah and out of Sammit).

These Kellogg Arabian Ranch foundation horses were supplemented in 1926 with horses selected by Raswan and purchased from Lady Wentworth.

In a letter to Lady Wentworth (Pritzlaff collection), dated Jan. 29, 1926, Raswan noted that

Mr. Kellogg knows himself that we were offered $25,000 for Jadaan and $30,000 for Fasal (our best mare) and Mr. Kellogg would not sell for any price any of these two horses.

In another letter to Kellogg, Raswan commented that only two of Lady Wentworth’s mares were as good as Fasal.

These original Davenport and part-Davenport foundation horses, either alone or in combination with the 1926 Crabbet imports, have influenced the Arabian breed in America beyond the wildest dreams of either Kellogg or Raswan.

Raswan’s association with the Kellogg Ranch ended shortly after his return from England, but his interest in Davenports was far from over.

In 1927, Raswan again returned to the desert. In a 1929 Asia magazine article, he described how he found Ali ibn Ahmed (sic. Akmet) Haffiz, son of the old Bedouin who had assisted Davenport in his selection of horses.

Raswan was seeking Midjem ibn Muhayd, sheikh of the Fadaan Anezah tribe or his wakil (representative) in Aleppo (whose name was apparently unknown to him).

He found the wakil (Ali), and in the process of producing a letter of introduction he pulled from his pocket a copy of Homer Davenport’s sketch of “*Haleb’s Farewell to the Desert.

Ali immediately recognized *Haleb and also recognized his father among the Bedouins paying homage to the great stallion!

There was great excitement as Raswan explained the sketch and said that he was seeking Akmet Haffez, as he wanted to learn more about the horses which Davenport had imported.

Akmet Haffez was dead, but Ali was able to provide him with the information he sought.

Ali was one of the signatories on the Arabic pedigrees for several of the horses which Davenport imported.

Raswan and Ali became “blood brothers” in the Bedouin fashion, just as Davenport and Akmet Haffez had done 21 years earlier.

In addition, since Ali was highly regarded by the Sheikhs of most of the Bedouin tribes, he agreed to act as Raswan’s “rafic”, or special guide. Together they covered over 2,000 miles visiting the Shammar and Anezah tribes.

For the rest of his life, Raswan continued to sing the praises of the horses imported by Homer Davenport and their descendants.

Fads in Arabian breeding are not a new thing. During the 1940s and 50s, the Skowronek-bred horses were the most popular show horses. Most of the best mares of that era were bred to Skowronek-line stallions.

Yet Raswan continued to encourage owners to perpetuate the straight Davenports which he considered comparable to the Abbas Pasha or Ali Pasha Sherif horses of Egypt – and why not? They came from the same Bedouin tribes.

In 1954, Charles Craver, with the advice and encouragement of Raswan and Alice Payne (best known for her inbred *Raffles horses), began his straight-Davenport breeding program.

Today, all of the 400-plus living straight-Davenport horses trace to horses bred by Craver. In addition, all of these horses trace to the “Kellogg” horses selected by Raswan (as noted in italics).

There are two sire lines in the modern Davenport program, one tracing to *Deyr through Antez or Hanad, and the other to *Muson through Letan.

There are four strains tracing to four tail-female lines as follows: Kuhaylan Haifi to *Reshan via Hasiker, Kuhaylan Krush to *Werdi via Tamarinsk, Hadban Inzahi to *Hadba via Killah, and Saqlawi Jedran to *Urfah via Schilla. Kellogg purchased Schilla in 1928 and Hanad in 1929.