by Alice Payne
The Arabian Horse News, Nov-Dec 1966
Carl Raswan, born March 7, 1893, at Castle of Reichstedt, near Dresden, Germany, died October 14, 1966, at Santa Barbara, California.
Carl, without a doubt in my opinion, had more influence on Arabian horse breeding than any man, living or dead. The part he played in saving the classic Arabian horse is well known in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. World politics did not chain him. He was equally known on both sides of the Iron Curtain. His knowledge was sought after all over the world. To the very end he was helping people world-wide in selecting animals, planning breeding and making importations. In the past he had been involved with the Brown, Dickenson and Kellogg importations into this country. In fact, he organized the Kellogg stud.
He imported horses from the desert for Americans, South Americans and Europeans. Carl wrote many books and articles about the Arabian Horse and the Bedouin, who survived because of the courage and strength, intelligence and endurance of his horse. The greatest contribution was his “Index,” for which he gathered information for 28 years. It required 11 years for him and his wife Esperanza to compile this information. In order to accomplish this, they isolated themselves in Mexico City and worked under the greatest of handicaps. This “Index” is now a living thing. Six volumes are out so far, and a seventh is in the process.
Carl was a gentle, kindly and humble man, dedicated to truth, especially about the Arabian horses. This later caused him to become the center of a fiery controversy. Even so, I personally never heard him say one unkind thing about anyone, even his bitterest critics.
During the 30s and 40s several stimulating articles appeared by Carl Raswan in the Western Horseman and other journals. These contained explanations, figures, photos, charts and descriptions regarding the breeding and pedigrees of Arabian horses. In fact, these articles stimulated me with a desire to know this man whose experiences were so vast and explanations so logical. I went to New Mexico with another Arab enthusiast to meet him. He was the most enthusiastic person I had ever met. His knowledge overwhelmed me. Carl had the ability to transmit this enthusiasm to others. He taught me simple ways to judge an Arabian and categorize him according to family stains. We talked for hours. When it came time to leave I looked up on the hill behind the stable and remarked: “Oh, you also raise Thoroughbreds!” “No, no,” he explained, “those are Mu’niqi. You must see!” He then brought these down and showed me the difference in head, legs and the hock structure, etc. From that time I never deviated from approaching an Arab in the manner which he taught me.
Carl was a dedicated man. He did not hesitate to tell what he believed to be the truth. I found his advice to be sound. Whenever I used a line of breeding which he had warned me against, sooner or later something undesirable turned up. So I learned to request his advice before making a purchase. I can truthfully say that I owe any success I might have as a breeder to Carl, and I am sure many others feel the same way.
I have been told that recently in Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe, renaissance among Arab breeders has occurred, and Carl’s teachings have become an accepted method of breeding. In Poland they said Carl was the first to bring from the desert any workable and concrete evidence as to the existence of family strains. He never referred to this as “Raswan’s theory,” but humbly passed it on as knowledge he had gained from the tribes.
As a horse photographer there was none equal to Carl. His ability as an author is displayed by the numerous editions of Drinkers of the Wind and other books. He used the scholarly form of Arabic in his Index. He was very facile in several languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Arabic and others.
Carl spent years in the desert with the tribesmen. Incidentally, his death was caused by silicosis (coal miner’s disease) which he acquired as a result of having been in sand storms with the Bedouin.
Carl met the great, the near-great and the lowly, and was the same gentle man with all these people. He gave untiringly of his time and knowledge to each and everyone who sought it. *RAFFLES, for example had been in this country five years before Carl could persuade American breedes to use him on purebred Arabian mares of the Kehilan family. His first colt was INDRAFF, the horse that became a legend in his own time. There are many, many other examples.
Carl put in endless hours on pedigrees for others. To offers of payment, his reply would be: “No, God gave me this gift and I cannot sell it.” Needless to say, he died a very poor man as far as material wealth is concerned—but not so, spiritually!
Carl Schmidt, his name by birth was given up when his horse *RASWAN was killed. At that time he said: “*RASWAN shall not die—I shall write under his name.” He then had his name legally changed to Raswan—in memory of a horse.
His life was filled with exciting adventures. In addition to his exploits in Arabia, he fought with the Turks at Gallipoli, was captured by the Polish reds in 1918 at Warsaw, imprisoned in 1937 by Hitler’s S.S. and served with the British Intelligence during World War II.
Carl’s wife Esperanza deserves much praise and credit, as she worked side by side with him on his “Index” and his later works, some of which have not been published—such as his auto-biography and Vol. VII of the “Index.” She is made of the stuff of which angels are made. He also leaves two dear and very young daughters, Chela and Beatriz.