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

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

[Author’s Note: in the following 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.]


In 1977 I met my first straight Davenport and I bought him in 1978: JANAN ABINOAM (TRIPOLI x DHAREBAH) a 1960 grey stallion, full brother to SIR, PRINCE HAL, LADY GREY, PERICLES and LADY FAIR. I entered into a casual correspondence with the Cravers at this time, but in my heart I was suspicious of things like “strains” and “Al Khamsa”, though I very much enjoyed Charles’ films and informative letters. I had a nice herd of Arabians of my own breeding and in this context JANAN ABINOAM bred on well, in addition to being a delightful mount (and winning dressage competitor, despite his age). Then in 1982 JANAN ABINOAM underwent surgery for colic. I suddenly faced the prospect of losing him, with no replacement in sight. As soon as he was safely home from the hospital I made my first visit to Craver Farms.
Janan Abinoam
A mid-western farm in late November — a herd of horses in winter fur, throwing up clumps of frozen mud as they dash about — these are not the seductive images that have led so many to become Arabian horse owners. There was no red sawdust, no cloud machine, no baby oil, no flowers — there wasn’t even a hint of a brush or curry comb. But the horses were round, healthy and lovely, with beautiful faces and exciting movement, and the hospitality was unmatched. At last I understood that JANAN ABINOAM, much as I loved him, was not a miracle but the product of an established breeding program. I saw Saklawis that could only be Saklawis and I saw Kuhaylans that could only be Kuhaylans. I bought four Davenports and have been hooked ever since.

Although most of Charles’ breeding program was established during the long years he lived alone, it would be hard now to separate him and Jeanne, even for purposes of discussion. (Jeanne has managed to maintain her own horses and her own Al Khamsa breeding program, under the name of Thornhill Arabians. Inevitably, however, there has been a Davenport influence there as well.) For more than ten years the two of them worked together on every aspect of Davenport breeding. The herd’s physical maintenance, feeding and watering, immunizations, injuries, diseases, geriatric care, breeding and foaling; the everyday unceasing needs of nearly 150 horses rest on Charles and Jeanne. In addition there is publicity, advertising, photographs, record-keeping and research. There is a large correspondence, constant visitors and frequent telephone calls. (Fortunately there have been no recent repeats of the complete evacuation necessitated by flood-warnings in the early 1980s.)

Despite the long days and constant round of chores Charles and Jeanne have continued to examine and research the Davenport horse, on paper and in fact. Charles’ mother Bertha Craver is still supportive despite the transformation of her neat modern cellar into an Equine Catacombs. There are arrayed the skulls of TRIPOLI, EL ALAMEIN, DHAREBAH and so many others. (Gifts from other breeders include a generous presentation from Richard Pritzlaff, the skulls of *RASHAD IBN NAZEER, and *BINT MONIET EL NEFOUS.) The skulls are measured and recorded and their differences studied. One of many interesting observations is the physical differences between the skulls of highheaded horses and those with more moderate carriage. In many cases the angle at which the cervical vertebrae enter the back of the skull can be seen to be dictated by skeletal conformation. (An observation which makes one begin to question the wisdom of trying too hard to change an animal’s natural way of going.) The skulls also clearly show how much of the expressive difference between individual horses is the result of soft-tissue formation and can hardly be observed in the skeleton: for example, apparently big eyes and apparently small eyes may lie above skull openings of similar size.

Despite the many calls on their time and attention, the Cravers are unfailingly hospitable and generous with their time and experience. If Jeanne is successful in her current campaign to bring the Craver herd down to a manageable size — ideally under one hundred — they may be able to spend more time in writing and sharing their observations, as well as in continued research, though they are unlikely ever to be free of the apparently welcome burden of constant visitors. I have to admit I look forward greatly to my next visit. The Cravers add as much to the human Arabian community as Davenport horses do to the equine Arabian community: both are major contributions.

copyright 1987 Joyce Gregorian Hampshire

(With special thanks to R.J. Cadranell II for his assistance and for the research contained in Davenport Desert Arabian Herdbook. Any errors of fact are mine alone.)