The Arabian horse is a universal interest to so many people from so many walks of life that we sometimes forget not all of us were born into the Arab horse experience.
It would be easy to say that Judith Blunt, known more famously as Lady Wentworth was born into the legacy of her renowned parents Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt. For her, the Arabian horse was a certainty and it was her central life’s work to breed Arabian horses from the tradition commenced by her famous parents. Similarly, there were the various princes and royalty in Poland and Egypt who were born into the breed.
However, there are many other stories of famous foundation breeders of Arabian horses, whose breeding work graces so many of today’s international champions, yet they were not born into the breed. They were engaged in some other vocation and then later came into the world of the Arabian breed. For this short article, I am only covering a few from North America who now have a significant international impact on the Arabian breed.
One of the more endearing early foundation Arabian horse breeders in America is Homer Davenport. He was probably the least likely person to become influential on the Arabian breed.
Homer Davenport was a natural born talent as an artist and became famous as a political cartoonist. He did not study as an artist in a formal way but would work his way up to becoming the highest paid political cartoonist in America. In his early career, he worked for William Randolph Hearst’s renowned newspaper The San Francisco Examiner.
He then worked for the Chicago Daily Herald during the time of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. At this famous world fair, there was an exhibition of Arabian horses brought to the US by the Hamidie Society and this was Homer’s first exposure to the original Arabian horses of the desert. In his reporting for the Chicago paper, he illustrated some of these horses and was captivated by their magnificence. A subsequent tragic fire led to the auctioning off of these imports, some of which went to Peter Bradley while Homer Davenport continued his career as a cartoonist. But he never forgot the impression that those horses made on him.
In Davenport’s rise to fame, he produced some political cartoons that helped the campaign of Theodore Roosevelt to become president. A convergence of interesting events took place that would bring Homer back into the world of Arabian horses. Upon visiting Peter Bradley, Homer purchased an Arabian from him that began a business relationship with Mr. Bradley. By 1906, Mr. Bradley and Homer formed a business partnership in Arabian horses. With the assistance of President Theodore Roosevelt, Bradley financed the now famous trip that Homer Davenport made to the Arabian Desert obtaining a large group of 27 Arabians directly from the Bedouin tribes. This large historic importation was at a time when there were few Arabian horses in North America. It would have a lasting impact well beyond Homer Davenport’s lifetime.
Unfortunately, Homer Davenport died unexpectedly in 1912 and the subsequent later dispersal of these horses would seem to have risked ending up in obscurity but that was not the case.
Remarkably, in 1946, 40 years after the Davenport importation, Dr. Ameen Zaher of Egypt conducted a study of American Arabian breeding and he had determined an interesting fact. The 1906 Davenport imported stallion Hamrah (D.B. x Urfah) had a genetic relationship to the breed in America of 7% in 1946, which is more than the equivalent to being the great, great grandparent of every Arabian in America!
If that were not amazing enough, 110 years now since Hamrah’s importation, this year’s Paris World Champion Mare, Donna Molta Bella SRA carries an astonishing 89 crosses to Hamrah!
While Homer Davenport became renowned as the world’s highest paid political cartoonist in his time, we are still the beneficiaries of his unexpected journey into the world of the Arabian horse.
Arabian horses in the early 20th century in America were indeed a rarity and some came to own them for personal pleasure but few expected to be impacted by them and W.R. Brown was one of those.
After graduation from college, W.R. Brown went to work for the family business, the Berlin Mills Company, where he oversaw the company’s logging operations, and interestingly he became an early proponent of sustainable forest management. While Mr. Brown was also an admirer of horses, from his brother H.J. Brown, he purchased his first Arabian horses, some of which were acquired from the estate of Homer Davenport.
W.R. Brown was so impressed with the quality and endurance of the Arabian horse that he became an enthusiastic promoter of the Arabian as a Cavalry horse for the U.S. forces. In addition, he also became actively involved in early endurance riding competitions, and taken together these activities and interests, W.R. Brown would become one of the largest breeders of Arabians in America, even becoming the president of the Arabian registry.
He established his herd beginning about 1912 with horses acquired from Spencer Borden, J.A.P. Ramsdell, Randolph Huntington and Homer Davenport. Of the different acquisitions of W.R. Brown, he seemed to like his Crabbet bred horses the best and the first among those was the magnificent stallion Abu Zeyd (Mesaoud x Rose Diamond), known as Lali-Abdar in England. Interestingly Abu Zeyd was actually imported by Homer Davenport in 1910, and was considered one of the best Mesaoud sons known. Another Mesaoud son W.R. Brown acquired in old age was the grand patriarch, Astraled (Mesaoud x Queen of Sheba), imported earlier from England. In Astraled’s final foal crop was the famous chestnut stallion Gulastra (x Gulnare) one of the early influential sires in America who is now found in thousands of pedigrees internationally. Born in 1924 Gulastra became a popular and important sire producing an incredible 117 foals, a big number for a sire of his era. Gulastra sired beautiful horses that were also doing horses under saddle and his influence is strong among endurance competitors. W.R. Brown returned to Crabbet several times beginning just after the passing of Lady Anne Blunt and imported a large number of Crabbet bred horses.
In early 1932, W.R. Brown made his last importation, a now famous group of horses imported from Egypt, all bred by Prince Mohammed Ali. Sadly by 1933, the economic pressures of the Great Depression caused W.R. Brown to disperse all of his horses in an effort to continue his ‘day job’, the managing of the mill operations. His business interests still went into receivership but he did manage to recover his business for a while. However, he was no longer a breeder of Arabian horses.
We are fortunate today though for his passion for the Arabian and its performance qualities. Looking back through so many of today’s international champions, the lines to horses owned and bred by W.R. Brown is almost incalculable. Even Marwan Al Shaqab carries 47 crosses to horses bred by W.R. Brown.
Another very influential foundation Arabian horse breeder in America was W.K. Kellogg who was not born into Arabian horses. His name is internationally famous as an early founder of the prepared breakfast food industry, creating many popular breakfast cereals with operations in North America, Europe and Australia. He was one of the wealthiest men in America and became a great philanthropist.
As a young boy, Kellogg was fond of an old horse named Spot that he and his siblings would ride occasionally but his life went on to other things. Then in 1925 age 65, Kellogg decided to return to his boyhood dream of having horses but by this time, he was well positioned to develop one of the premier showplace horse farms in the country, the Kellogg Arabian Horse Ranch in Pomona, California. The farm was frequently visited by movie stars and celebrities but he also loved the Arabian horse and wanted to share it with the public.
He held Sunday exhibitions demonstrating the beauty, intelligence and athletic ability of the Arabian. His herd was a blend of stock established by Homer Davenport, W.R. Brown and other early American breeders but he also imported a large number of horses from Crabbet Stud in England. The Kellogg legacy is a strong foundation in so many Arabians internationally today. In fact, Vona Sher-Renea, the dam of globally famous sire WH Justice, has a pedigree saturated with numerous lines to horses of Kellogg breeding, not to mention other famous sires such as Ali Jamaal, whose dam has many Kellogg bred horses in her lineage.
Another famous foundation Arabian breeder who started his Arabian horse stud late in life is Henry Babson. He began the famous Babson Arabian Horse Farm when he was already 57 years old. However, before that he was involved in many different pursuits including selling Victor phonograph machines in China as well as managing the Victor Talking Machine Company.
He became acquainted with famous inventor Thomas Edison. In his business interests, Babson became a world traveller, coming to respect a variety of cultures. Babson was also involved in surveying, mining and farming which, with his brothers, led to the Babson Brothers Company, a well known manufacturer of dairy milking equipment. In all that time Babson never forgot the impression made on him as a young man when on a cattle drive he was amazed at how some part-Arab horses remained fresh all day while other breeds needed to be often replaced.
Finally, in 1932 Babson began his own stud farm of Arabian horses importing six horses from Egypt, for which he is most famous. While these Babson bred Egyptian horses are now globally ancestors in many straight Egyptian horses, Babson also imported some fine mares from Poland and one of these Egyptian and Polish crosses bred by Babson was the handsome bay stallion Fadheilan (Fadl x Kasztelanka).
Fadheilan’s son ‘the Fabulous Fadjur’ would spread Babson breeding throughout North American and then Europe, South America and Australia. In turn, Fadjur is close up in his grandson, Khemosabi (with two crosses to Fadheilan) who for many decades was the most heavily used Arabian sire in the entire breed, well before frozen semen was in practice. Khemosabi can be found as an ancestor in many of today’s international champions including 2016 Paris Gold Senior Champion Stallion EKS Alihandro. (Editor’s note: See EKS Alihandro’s photo in this issue within the article entitled, Bucket List Destinations – The World Championships)
Taken together, horses bred by Homer Davenport, W.R. Brown, W.K. Kellogg and Henry Babson are the foundation of many of today’s international champions in halter and performance more times than can be counted in this article. Even today, many decades after these four men decided to seek something more exciting than their ‘day jobs’ and become involved with Arabians, their legacy can still be found throughout modern champions such as 2016 Australian Gold Champion Mare, Venecia MI. There are others in other countries as well whose avocation became their vocation and, though they were not born that way, we are grateful for their passion for the Arabian horse.