Davenports: Return Individuality to Basics

by C.C.Craver
May Arabian Horse Express

In 1906, with the sponsorship of President Theodore Roosevelt and Abdul Hamid II, then sultan of the Ottoman Empire and ruler of the major portion of Arabia, an American named Homer Davenport went to Arabia in search of Arabian horses. He got 27 head directly from the best of the Bedouin horse breeding tribes.

Indie StarHis importation was remarkable because special consideration in making selections was given to obtaining horses that the Bedouins themselves used in their daily lives and considered to be “asil,” a term that meant they were of the highest caste of breeding stock.

In America, the horses of this Davenport 1906 importation and horses registered as entirely descended from them are spoken of as “Davenport” Arabians. They have played a major part in the development of Arabian breeding in this country. Their influence continues.

When the Davenport horses first arrived in this country, Arabian breeding was just getting started and the total number of Arabian horses was quick small. Davenport bloodlines were crossed with most of the other bloodlines present. As new bloodlines were imported, these were added to the mix, too. Eventually a combination resulted that was part Davenport and part everything else.

For many years, the overall Davenport percentage was a little over 12 percent, which is about the amount of genetic contribution of one great-grandparent in a pedigree.

With the recent emphasis on highly publicized imported bloodlines, that figure may have dropped somewhat, but Davenport source animals still contribute to almost 90 percent of the Arabians of American breeding.

The influence of Davenport breeding in a pedigree that is not entirely Davenport is

(1) to emphasize the good characteristics of other bloodlines,

(2) to maintain or increase amenability of disposition and overall athleticism,

(3) to return individuality to basic Arabian type.

The latter feature is especially important because so many Arabian pedigrees are composed of disparate elements that combine to produce animals that are not recognizably Arabian.

Davenport influence helps by tending to refine a skin coat, lower and enlarge the eye, moderate size and angularity, and improve overall body proportions.

As far as performance is concerned, it is difficult to find a field where horses with Davenport pedigree elements have not participated, producing many of the best as well as their share of lesser animals. Without part-Davenports, the number of horses at Arabian horse shows in this country would dwindle to almost nothing.

Park, English and Western pleasure, costume, trail horse, dressage, racing, endurance, cattle cutting: as the majority influence, part-Davenports do them all, and it seems that those with the highest percentage of Davenport ancestry excel in fields where intelligent interaction between the horse and rider is most called for.

While Davenport bloodlines were being used in combination with other bloodlines, the family of horses was also being preserved as a breeding group in its own right.

This was seldom done in a major way, but over the years enough Davenport horses were bred together so that the breeding group did not vanish altogether, as so many of our other foundation breeding groups have done.

In the process, great horses were produced contributing to many American bloodlines as well as to the preservation of Davenport breeding as something special in its own right. Horses such as Hanad, Antez, Letan and Ibn Hanad are known to all students of American pedigrees, where they frequently appear as ancestors.

The course of preserving the Davenport breeding group without outside blood has not been smooth. By 1955, there were only about 25 breeding animals of entirely Davenport bloodlines left alive, and few were in prime breeding condition.

Ivanhoe CFMost people who had the remaining Davenport mares were breeding them to stallions then more in vogue, producing lovely foals, but the end result was that with each foal crop time was being lost for Davenport breeding.

As an exception, Margaret Shuey of Sunny Acres was breeding the Davenport mare Gamil to Ibn Hanad, producing foals of foundation quality.

At this point, a systematic effort was begun by several breeders to preserve the Davenport bloodlines.

Initially, this started at Craver Farms, where the stallion Tripoli (Hanad x Poka) had been salvaged. This horse represented some of the best of the Davenport foundation lines and was so close to the desert breeding of the importation that both his grandsires had actually been born among the Anazah Bedouin of Arabia in 1904.

Other breeders also became active. Dr. and Mrs. Fred Mimmack of Aurora, Colo., Liz Paynter of Muscatine, Iowa, and Reba Troxell of Burlington, N.J., were among these. Davenport stallions were located and put into service.

A slow process was begun by which Davenport mares were acquired for re-establishment of the breeding group. A few were young and ready for production. Most, however, were out of the premium age groups, and their easy foals were behind them.

As a group, however, they turned out to have the vitality of survivors and to be excellent investments as brood mares.

The re-establishment of Davenport breeding started rather slowly. The number of mares involved was at first very limited, and foal crops were necessarily small. The quality of production, however, was obviously quite good and representative of what the Davenport bloodlines had produced in earlier years.

A rather low-key advertising approach was sufficient to attract enough new owners to provide outlets for surplus foals.

As time passed, the population of Davenport horses increased to the present figure of more than 400 (and growing). The number of Davenport owners has increased accordingly to more than 100. Davenport horses are owned pretty much across the country.

The major grouping of them is at Craver Farms, Hillview, Ill., which has taken leadership in re-developing the bloodline and which at present owns something more than 130 horses of exclusively Davenport pedigree, producing about half of the total annual foal crop.

Other breeeders are also of fundamental importance in producing foals and in other actions that are incidental to the success of the bloodline.

The requirements of breeding, research, training, coordination of activities and public relations are beyond what any one farm or breeding organization can efficiently undertake or direct.

One of the reasons Davenport breeding has been able to expand so successfully is that, in the 1950s, the use of surviving Davenport bloodlines was deliberately organized to provide for the best long-term development of Davenport breeding.

Individual matings were made more on the basis of where they would lead several generations in the future rather than on how to yield the greatest immediate benefit.

There were only a few breeding animals to work with in those days, but, fortunately, all eight of the female lines of the importation were present in pedigrees of then-living animals, as were the major stallions, *Deyr, *Hamrah and *Muson.

It was of the greatest importance that the Bedouin strains as represented in living individuals were still substantially intact because of excellent breeding that had been done by earlier American breeders.

Thus it was still practical to differentiate animals according to whether they were Kuhaylan-Haifi, Saqlawi-Jidran, Kuhaylan-Krush or *Hadban-Inzahi in Arabic strain.

Breeding of Davenport horses was deliberately reestablished using Carl Raswan’s strain-breeding techniques as guides. Where possible, the major Bedouin strain breeding groups were separated from each other in matings.

As certain animals proved to be especially significant in establishing type characteristics of their own, these, too, were treated as separated breeding groups within a larger context.

IMG_0408What resulted was the parallel development of a number of differing but related mini-breeding programs. The horses involved in each of them had almost identical distant ancestry but, because of differences in strain and intermediate pedigree patterns, the horses of each minor breeding group tended to have characteristics of their own.

This gave new breeders the opportunity to specialize in segments of overall Davenport breeding that were uniquely suited to their own tastes and that could be developed as their own individual projects, contributing to the preservation of the Arabian horse.

Each such breeder had the security of knowing that, if outcross help became desirable, it was available still within the Davenport context through breeding being carried on by other Davenport breeders.

The horses resulting from current Davenport breeding are of particular interest because they have so much similarity to the horses of Arabia of 1906 when their ancestors were obtained by Davenport.

Like their desert ancestors, most of them are about 14.2 hands in height, which was the size favored by the Bedouin breeders. They tend to have a fine skin, big eyes, considerable width between the jaws, large cranial boxes, the gift of athletic movement and amenable dispositions.

Most Davenports are bred systematically either within the Kuhaylan or Saqlawi Bedouin strains. The Kuhaylans tend to be relatively more muscular, to have moderate carrriage of head and neck and to have a prominent upper forehead and relatively flat profile below the eyes.

The Saqlawis tend to have higher neck placement, a straighter hind leg than the Kuhaylans, flatter musculature and a face that dishes somewhat below the eyes. These features correspond to standard definitions of type for individuals of the concerned strains.

Davenport horses are well accepted by breeders of other varieties of Arabians, who usually recognize them to be different from what they have but desirable. People frequently comment on the “Arab” character of Davenport horses.

Showing has been done mostly on a limited basis by amateur owners but there have been good successes in Class A competition in English pleasure, park, costume and dressage. Davenports have participated successfully in endurance competition.

They have had little opportunity for testing on the race-track in recent years, but one of the primary ancestors of all modern Davenports was Antez #448 (Harara x Moliah) who at the age of 12 in 1933 equalled the Arabian record for one-half mile in an official time trial held without pacemaker.

His son Sartez (x Saraf) set many records over a variety of distances in this country. Another Antez son, Hashem Bey, bred in Poland, was high-point racer for the Soviet races held at Lwow in 1940.

The major place for Davenport horses in the present world is with people who want a horse that is suitable for general purpose equine functions: a horse that can be competitive in show and other areas, used for pleasure riding, be an enjoyable companion for an amateur owner, and provide a worthwhile resource as a breeding animal.

In addition, there is the pleasure of owning something that is authentic and looks it. These are all reasons for which Arabians were brought to this country in the first place and they are still what most Americans want in an Arabian horse.

Today’s Davenport horses fill these needs very well, just as their ancestors did when brought by Homer Davenport from Arabia, acting under the joint auspices of the president of the United States and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.