Preserving the Bedouin Horse — Charles Craver’s Contribution (Part III)

by Joyce Gregorian-Hampshire
copyright 1987 by Joyce Gregorian Hampshire
Khamsat: Vol. 5 Num. 1 Jan. 1988

[Author’s Note: in the folowing article, Al Khamsa horses are printed in capital letters, e.g., ARABESQUE, LADY FAIR. Those Davenports known as the “Second Foundation” horses have their names bold-faced as well, e.g., TRIPOLI, DHAREBAH.]


From the above brief sketch of “Second Foundation” horses it can be seen that the renaissance of Davenport breeding involved considerable group effort and cooperation among a number of interested owner-breeders. Craver Farms gave the movement a focal point and a reservoir of bloodlines, but it was never a one-man effort. Today in the 1980s this has become even more true, as interested breeders across the country continue to work with Charles Craver for the continued success of straight Davenport breeding.

AsaraAt present there are fewer than two hundred stallions of straight Davenport breeding; almost one-fourth of these are at Davenport Farms. Of the two hundred fifty or so straight Davenport mares, more than one-third are at Craver Farms. So Charles continues to provide a major resource to Davenport breeders as well as a focus of information, research and generously given time and counsel. But there are now, thanks in large part to his efforts, enough Davenport horses of differing types and strains to allow many smaller breeders the pleasure and challenge of creating their own breeding programs, based on straight Davenport bloodlines. This diversity, and the challenge it entails, is Charles Craver’s greatest gift to others as a breeder, and is in my opinion a far greater triumph of far greater merit than the more popular goal of “consistency”.

“Consistency”. How often one hears those familiar words of praise, “a consistent herd”. Breeding programs are founded on consistency, halter showing rewards consistency, the Registry issues a booklet with a drawing of the “ideal” type of Arabian towards which we may all consistently breed. But fashions change. Horses bred consistently to a single aesthetic ideal may be out of style twenty years hence. A herd of horses bred to resemble the Registry’s drawing of twenty years ago would not look much like today’s halter winner. And if we do know anything about the desert horse of the Bedouin we do know this – it was a horse of highly varied type.

As those of us who support Al Khamsa are well aware, there were many strains in the desert and each had its own distinguishing marks. While many of these families have been lost through attrition or too much intermingling, miraculously a few strains do survive, bearing characteristic differences. The G.B.E. drawing of a very tall intermediate Dahman-type of horse with a very small head and sweated neck is not the only type of horse to come from the desert, nor should it be the only goal of a breeder.

From the very beginning Charles Craver was aware of the need to discover and strengthen the differences hidden with the genes of the “Second Foundation”. I am sure that many breeders, given a stallion of TRIPOLI‘s quality, would simply have collected mares for him and continued to breed him to those mares and to his daughters and granddaughters. But Charles sent the first Davenport mare he bred to New Jersey, for RALF; and he put other stallions into service as they matured and as breeding opportunities became available for them.

Thus in the first decade of “Second Foundation” breeding, TRIPOLI sired only one third of the seventy-six foals produced, which is to say twenty-five. RALF sired four, SIR (TRIPOLI x DHAREBAH) sired twenty, ARAMIS (TRIPOLI x DHALANA) sired five, TRIAN (TRIPOLI x EHWAT ANSARLAH) sired one, EL ALAMEIN sired fifteen, TYBALT (TRIPOLI x ASARA) sired three, PORTHOS (ARAMIS x ASARA) sired one and PERICLES (TRIPOLI x DHAREBAH) two. This pattern of always trying to choose the right stallion for each breeding, trying not to play favorites no matter how fine a stallion that favorite is, distinguished Charles Craver’s breeding of Davenport horses from the very beginning. All of us who breed Davenport horses have benefitted from Charles Craver’s wide-ranging intellectual curiousity, and Charles Craver has for his part benefitted from the extraordinary genetic richness locked within those few closely related animals we call the “Second Foundation”.

In an introduction to the non-Fasal group, Charles Craver wrote:

“… it was feared that certain elements of desirable diversity in the beginning group would be overwhelmed by other elements unless a specific effort was made to safe-guard them.

As an answer…it was decided to develop the overall breeding group of Davenport horses by separating it into major pedigree elements and to attempt to develop each of these elements as an independent project in its own right. That way, each element would have the opportunity to express its own best characteristics. At the same time, the different routes of development would provide breeding groups in the overall all-Davenport context which were separate enough from each other genetically so that there would be out-cross effect when they were eventually bred together.

(These groups)…are neither better nor worse than other Davenports, but they are different.

The diverse groups encouraged by Charles Craver within the context of straight Davenport breeding include conventional strains (e.g., Kuhaylan-Haifi, Saqlawi-Jidran), exclusionary breeding groups (e.g., non-TRIPOLI, non-FASAL) and rare elements groups (e.g., BINT RALF). Each strain could as well be named for its tail-female ancestress, since each descends from a single imported mare. Kuhaylan-Haifi (the family of *RESHAN) is the most populous strain, understandably since six of the ten “Second Foundation” mares were daughters or granddaughters of ANTARAH. Saqlawi-Jidran (the family of *URFAH) is the next largest group, tracing through two “Second Foundation” GAMIL daughters. Kuhaylan-Krush (the family of *WERDI) is smaller, tracing through ASARA‘s three daughters and Hadban-Inzihi (the family of *HADBA) is the smallest. It should be noted that the effort to preserve the Hadban strain, while supported by Charles Craver, took place outside Craver Farms. Carolyn Case bred TRISARLAH to EL ALAMEIN twice, and it is through the resulting two mares, LETARLAH and WADDARLAH that all modern Davenport Hadbans trace.

While inevitably there are many “intermediate” types among the Davenports bred-in-the-strain (and it must be noted that Davenports are freely, and successfully, bred across strain lines as well as within them), there are many Davenport horses today showing marked strain characteristics. This simple fact is highly encouraging for those of us who believe in strain theories, for most modern Davenport horses have what would appear to an outsider’s eye, very similar pedigrees. In general, Davenport horses tend to share certain classic desert characteristics: fine skin and hair, large, low-set eyes and shapely ears; large nostrils; moderate size. But the Saglawis tend to higher head carriage, a different angulation of the hind limbs, and a head with a more prominent jibbah and longer foreface. The Kuhaylans tend to have more of a “three circle” build and their foreheads are often enormously broad, with a greater tendency to be flat. As one would expect, the Kuhaylans tend to be built like sprinters and the Saqlawis like stayers.