What is a Davenport Arabian horse?
DEFINITION: Davenport Arabian horses are descended entirely from the historic Davenport Desert Arabian Stud. The group consists of individuals descending from horses imported by Homer Davenport in 1906 to the U. S. from Arabia, and, in some instances, in possible combination with pedigree elements from the Hamidie Society importation of 1893 to the U. S. from Arabia.
DISCUSSION: Pedigrees of modern Davenport Arabian horses are derived from the studbooks of the Arabian Horse Association. Published DNA research indicates a possible switch of pedigrees for the mares Saleefy #70, registered from parents of the Davenport importation of 1906, and Freda #20, registered as descending from the Hamidie Society importation of 1893. If such a switch occurred, Davenport horses tracing to the mare Schilla (Letan/Saleefy) would be involved, at this writing amounting to roughly a third of living Davenport horses (3/18/2001). Quality of pedigree would not be changed, because both the Hamidie and the Davenport importations came directly to the United States from the same general area of the desert at approximately the same time frame.
What is a “Davenport+” horse?
A Davenport+ horse is 50% or more Davenport by pedigree. They are often, but not always, purebred Arabians.
Please explain the Davenport breeding groups?
All living Davenport horses belong to one of four tail-female lines (Kuhaylan-Haifi, Kuhaylan-Kurush, Hadban, or Schilla). The breeding patterns used to develop these four families are on record in the stud book going back to the 1950s.
1. The Haifi horses were bred from the Second Foundation animals of the Kuhaylan-Haifi strain (Dharebah, Dhalana, Tara, Dharanah, El Alamein, Saranah, Dhanad, and Dharantez) with (in almost all cases) the stallion Tripoli. Although there are other Davenports of the Kuhaylan-Haifi strain, horses bred from just these Second Foundation horses and no others are known as the Core Haifi group.
2. The Kurush horses were developed from the mare Asara using Tripoli and the stallions from the Core Haifi group. For example, all 37 horses of the Kuhaylan-Kurush strain bred by Charles Craver were from this combination. All 24 horses of the Kuhaylan-Kurush strain bred by Jackson Hensley were of this combination. The same is true of the 19 horses of the Kuhaylan-Kurush strain bred by Ralph and Berneita Bivin and Boni Gail Schoenbacher. The first Kuhaylan-Kurush foal bred any other way didn’t come along until 1987.
3. The Hadban horses were developed from the mare Ehwat-Ansarlah using Tripoli and the stallions from the Core Haifi group. This was the pattern begun back in the 1950s by Liz Paynter and continuing through the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s with Carolyn Case, the Haenerts, and the Griers. The first new departure for this bloodline was a filly born in 1986.
4. The Schilla horses were developed from the two Gamil daughters Maedae and Antan using the stallions from the Core Haifi group along with Tripoli and Kamil Ibn Salan, who was also from the Schilla dam line. The first departures from this pattern were three foals by Brimstone bred at Craver Farms in the 1980s.
The above four combinations represent the “core” horses in each of the four strains. When a Haifi horse also has the blood of one of the other three, we call it a “Haifi-plus.” When a Kurush, Hadban, or Schilla horse has the blood of one of the other two groups (that isn’t Haifi), that’s also a “-plus.” The earliest examples are from the 1960s (such as Tyrebah, a “Haifi-plus”), a few more were bred in the 70s and 80s, but such horses didn’t become common until after 1990.
Also at the Second Foundation level are three horses not represented in tail-female and which are currently represented by only a handful of living descendants: Ralf, Nahas, and Sahanad. Horses with one or more of these in the pedigree are designated as “-plus with”, and the name of the distinguishing Second Foundation horse. For example, the 1981 mare Sida-Saha is designated as Schilla-plus with Sahanad.
The most important point is NOT that you should never cross groups. Many appealing, correct Davenports have resulted from crosses between these groups. Rather, it’s that the older, parent breeding groups (the “core” of each strain group) should be preserved so that the option to cross will always be available.
What are the implications of expanded genetic testing for a closed group like the Davenports?
Arabian horse breeders have become increasingly aware of the existence of recessive genetic disorders in the breed. The first to be widely recognized was Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), an inherited immune disorder affecting a small percentage of Arabian foals. Affected foals are born only when both parents are positive for the SCID gene. Even when both parents are gene positive (heterozygous, or carry one copy of the gene), they have only a one-in-four chance of producing a foal with SCID. All SCID foals have dysfunctional immune systems and die before, at most, five months of age.
Since the 1990s, when a commercial gene test became available, SCID has become a much smaller concern to Arabian breeders. [https://www.arabianhorses.org/export/content.export/aha-docs/Genetics_CID_Paradigm.pdf] The test tells which horses are gene-positive and which are clear. Routine testing of breeding stock now prevents two gene-positive horses from ever being bred together accidentally. No SCID foal need ever be produced again.
Until relatively recently , we as Davenport owners didn’t pay too much attention to the SCID dialogue taking place in the larger Arabian breed. Whatever problems there were seemed to have been pretty well solved after the introduction of the gene test. Now, gene testing of Davenport horses shows that, just as with other Arabian bloodlines, some of ours also return a gene positive result.
DNA tests now exist for a total of four recessive disorders which have been observed in the Arabian breed, the others being Cerebellar Abiatrophy (CA), Occipito-Atlantico-Axial Malformation (OAAM) and Lavender Foal Syndrome (LFS). At least a few straight Davenports have been tested for each of these, and a small number test positive for OAAM. CA and LFS have not yet been observed, nor their recessive alleles detected, in Davenports.
A small herd like the Davenports cannot afford the loss of prime genetic material that would result from simply removing from the breeding population every horse with one of these recessives. Instead, they can be judiciously mated to clear horses and the resulting foals can be tested when they reach breeding age. In this way, the trait can be managed like any other imperfection in a breeding horse. (Those breeders working with herds of perfect horses obviously don’t need to worry about how to manage faults!)
With a gene test to locate the hidden recessives, two positives need never be bred together, leaving us with 0% affected foals. The most economical yet effective way to manage the trait is to test breeding stallions first. If a stallion is clear, he will not sire an affected foal, regardless of the status of your mares. If he tests with one of these recessives, you will need to test any mares you plan to breed to him.
The most important issue to us, as Davenport breeders, is that we keep this in perspective. Davenport Arabian horses are the same wonderful horses they always were. They represent a unique snapshot of the genetic material of the Bedouin Arabian horse. In the process of managing recessives among Davenport horses, we must not allow it to further constrict the valuable gene pool that we guard!
- “A pedigree-based study of mitochondrial D-loop DNA sequence variation among Arabian horses.” by Bowling AT, Del Valle A, Bowling M. Anim Genet. 2000 Feb;31(1):1-7.↩