Letter by Prince R. V. Sanguszko (1900)

By Roman Sanguszko Jr.

Published in The Book of the Arabian Horse,[1] Saint Petersburg, 1900, by Prince A.G. Shcherbatov and Count S.A. Stroganov, pages 158-164. An identical version of this letter was published in 1900 in Russian by the Russian Main Administration of Horsebreeding in their journal “Horse Breeding and Hunting.”

Edited by Lyman Doyle. Translated from Russian by Ekaterina Vsemirnova.

Editor’s Note

The author, Prince Roman Sanguszko Jr. (1832-1917), was the son of Prince Wladyslaw Sanguszko (1803-1870), grandson of Prince Eustachy Sanguszko (1768-1844) and great grandson of Hieronim Sanguszko (1743-1812). He inherited the Chrestówka/Khrestovetsky farm along with a portion of the herd after his uncle Prince Roman Sanguszko Sr. died in 1881, the other portion was eventually given to his cousin Maria Sanguszko’s in-laws the Potockis of Antoniny. This letter published in 1900 is one of the clearest public statements by a member of the Sanguszko family on the purity of their horses. He wrote this letter in response to the Russian initiative to establish a new Arabian Stud Book. At the time of writing, Sanguszko’s family had been subjects of the Russian Emperor for over 100 years. Prince Roman would have been 68 years old when this letter was published in 1900.

Skowronek’s pedigree originates in the Sanguszko family’s herd in Chrestówka. Prince Roman Jr. offers these details on the purity of their family’s horses.

  1. The Sanguszko herd at Chrestówka has been kept for a long time. The horses contain the blood of local mares along with the blood of Arabian horses imported continuously for 100 years.
  2. In the opinion of the author at the time of writing (1899), the Sanguszko horses had only 2/3 to 4/5 pure Arabian blood.

The translation follows:

In response to the questions stated in the letter from the Main Managing Department of State Horse Breeding[2], registration number No. 4272, I have the pleasure to answer:

  1. Exclusively Arabian breed has been conducted at my Khrestovetsky horse breeding farm for a long time. The breed is kept without any impurities of other blood, except for the local mares. The horses of our farm have from 2/3 to 4/5 of pure Arabian blood[3], thanks to the consistent, for a hundred years, bringing of Arabian stallions, as well as several mares. As evidence I can present the stud books which were kept here since 1824, as well as other written documents of even earlier origins. Some horses do not have other than Arabian blood, as born here from dam and sire brought from Arabia, or from parents originated directly from Arabian dam and sire.
  2. First time my great-grandfather, Governor of Volhynia Prince Hieronim Sanguszko sent his court horse groom Bursky to Arabia for the purchase of horses in 1798.
  3. At present, I do not have horses of completely pure Arabian blood[4], i.e. born of sire and dam brought from Arabia. The last of this kind was the stallion Attyk, which was sold in 1899. (His pedigree is attached separately).
  4. This letter includes a detailed list of the stallions and mares, suitable for mating, kept currently at my farm.

As the owner of the Arabian horse farm, which I have managed for nearly 40 years, I accepted an invitation from the Main Managing Department of State Horse Breeding to express my opinion on the note of Prince A. G. Shcherbatov[5] under the title: “Arabian horse and its importance” – and provide the answer in this letter with the same true pleasure with which I read the aforementioned note. I have to say here that I cannot express an educated opinion on the messages of the dear author about Arabia and the special life style of the nomadic Bedouins. The latter undoubtedly have a huge influence on the development, preservation and improvement of the excellent qualities of the Arabian horse. All the same, I cannot judge about the strains[6], the species, divisions and branches of the desert Arabian horse, described by Prince Shcherbatov. I have never been travelling in Arabia. I did not see many Bedouins and have very little knowledge of any distinctive features of their character and lifestyle. This is why it was especially interesting for me to read all the information provided by Prince A.G. Shcherbatov. With particular interest I read about specifics of various strains of the Arabian horse. Terminology and names were partly familiar to me from childhood, so I felt as being reminded of names of old friends.

Whether the nomadic Bedouins will disappear in the less or more distant future, under the influence of European culture, – which Prince Shcherbatov finds possible – it is difficult for me to judge. In any case, the Arabian horse deserves to be preserved, there is no any doubt about that.

Will it be possible to save the desert Arabian horses (i.e. horses having all the currently known qualities attributed to the horses of Arabian desert) if the very source where they come from, with the disappearance of the Bedouins, will cease to exist? Presumably, this question will be considered open and theoretical for a long time, since the very disappearance of nomadic Bedouins, no matter how strong the influence of European culture, is unlikely to happen any time soon. The Bedouins will probably continue passionately guarding the desert source of Arabian horses in all its purity for a long time. While there is still an opportunity to bring horses from Arabia, even under the present conditions of Russia’s cultural system it is possible to preserve the type and natural qualities of the desert Arabian horse. This has been proven by our old Sanguszko’s farm.

I can point out horses born here in Russia already in the fifth generation, from Arabian ancestors. This means, they have an Arabian in their ascending line barely in the fifth generation from the sire’s side, and even further from the dam’s side. They also have certain fraction (as mentioned before, 1/3, or 1/5) of local non-Arabian blood, or such Arabian blood the origin of which is not proven. And for all this, these horses completely preserved the type of the desert Arabian horse. Even more, they often pass it to their offspring much better than some horses brought from Arabia. This can be explained simply by the fact that among the horses brought by merchants from Arabia to Europe and India for the English cavalry, one can often find non-pureblood horses[7]. Also, after the last Russian-Turkish war[8] the Turkish government prohibited exporting stallions to Russia for some time (the order, which is now, however, canceled), whereas bringing Arabian horses through Egypt was always possible for Western Europe. Hence it was more difficult for us in Russia to acquire best Arabian studs from Arabia. It was quite common situation, when horse breeders happened to acquire selected stallions from Arabia, which by its qualities and appearance was inferior to those they had in their own farm. The latter, being born here [i.e. not in Arabia], in all fairness could be considered the stronghold and the gem of the farm.

(Location of photo in original text).

In the picture: “Latifa”

White mare, born in 1883 from the Bedouins Shammar, bought by Count Stroganov in 1895 in Damascus. Height 2 arshins 2 vershoks[9], of Kehailey Sherifey strain.

I repeat: it seems to me that our Sanguszko’s farm and the horses that have been born in it for a hundred years can serve as evidence of the following: 1) that even in our European cultural environment it is also possible to produce quite good horses, which are not inferior to the horses of the Arabian desert. It is possible to produce horses with completely preserved type and character of the desert Arabian horse for as long as it is possible to acquire studs from nomadic Bedouins, and 2) that even if this source, with the disappearance of the Bedouins, will be exhausted, even then, in all likelihood, we can expect that by accurately and consistently holding on the same Arabian blood, it will be possible to preserve in Europe the horse breed with the qualities of the desert horses of Arabia as we know them now. In the European climate, the Arabian horse may lose some of its dryness specific to the breed, and may increase in stature, but the beauty of its noble form, the mild manners, agility and endurance will remain, although to a lesser extent than in a horse born and reared in the desert. Even then, with all these conditions, it will, undoubtedly, excel over the purely English breed of the horse. I have to say, that Prince A.G. Shcherbatov is quite right to declare that raising an Arabian horse is much cheaper than an English race horse, which he rightly calls a horse of luxury. Therefore, whatever affections you have for the English breed, justice requires to give first place to the Arabian breed. I completely agree with the opinion of Prince A.G. Shcherbatov, that if in the process of creating the English race horse, the condition of pure Arabian blood of its parents was strictly followed (i.e., both sire and dam were pureblood Arabian), the results would be much better. This horse, being pure Arabian, and only born in England and reared according to the English system (with increased food supply, movement, training and running), would show much better results. It would be a pureblood racehorse with the same powerful built under the influence of enhanced food and a more humid climate, with no lesser agility, but with great nobility in exterior and without those blemishes that are transferred to it by an impurity of the mother’s non noble[10] blood. Most importantly – such horse would be more enduring if not to constant hard work, then to uncomfortable environment, with unfavorable and changing temperature and climate conditions, and especially to the hardship of military service.

Regarding the practical proposals by Prince A.G. Shcherbatov, I have to say that the stud book for Arabian horse-breeding, the introduction of which he recommends here in Russia, will be the key to the bright future for our Arabian horse breeding farms. However, I confess that I cannot understand why Prince A.G. Shcherbatov in his note says that when a pureblood Arabian stud will be established at Streletsky farm, it would be desirable to keep two different types of Arabian horse in it: one is of short stature but round and more elegant, and the other is more powerful, with a longer built, although somewhat rough. I haven’t been traveling in the Arabian desert, and I am aware of only one type of the Arabian desert horse, with minor deviation of characteristic features of individual strains. It would be desirable to see this type prevailing in our state-owned farms, as the most suitable for improving our countless “steppe” breeds and quite suitable for preserving at our state and private studs, the qualities of the Arabian breed to a degree that is not inferior to those of nomadic Bedouins. This is at least, for as long as there is an opportunity to develop and maintain in Arabian horses, which we breed, certain qualities, mainly their dryness, by refreshing[11] the pure blood[12] with help of animals from Arabia: both stallion and mares. Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to acquire good brood mares, suitable for the purpose.

I can not possibly agree with the opinion of Prince A.G. Shcherbatov, that the stud book he recommends should comprise three sections: 1st section of pureblood Arabian horses, brought up from Arabia, or born from parents from Arabia, both sire and dam. There will be few such horses, as it happens in Babolna, where such an order has been established for a long time. The 2nd section will include purebred[13] Arabians, which (if I understood the author’s idea correctly) would include horses with even the smallest percentage of non-Arabian blood. All horses from my farm should be included in this section, since now I don’t have a horse that descends exclusively from the horses born and reared in Arabia (i.e. not only sired by pureblood Arabian, but also coming out of pureblood Arabian dam). However, I can prove that all my horses have from 66% to 85% pure Arabian blood. I am talking here about my own farm, as the best known to me. But all I can say about it could be applied to other Arabian horse breeding farms. What difference can possibly be made between the 1st and the 2nd sections? Often, as mentioned above, horses of the so-called 2nd section, if they descend from the best Arabian studs, are more suitable as riding horses and as producers[14] (both stallions and mares) and even have a more expressive type than horses of the 1st section, as I have mentioned earlier. I know this from my own experience, since horses from both the 1st and the 2nd sections were born in my farm. The 3rd – section, the Arabian half-blooded[15], would include horses, originating from pureblood or purebred Arabian stallions (1st and 2nd sections) and from brood mares of different breeds. Almost all of my working horses could be attributed to this section, since stallions, other than the Arabian stallions of my own farm, which have more rough and powerful build, are not allowed to mate with my working mares of the local breed. Thus, I have bred very good quality working horses that have at least half Arabian blood, and even more of Arabian blood in the following generations. I often sell them as studs to working mares, as well as harness horses for light varieties, or, finally, as riding horses for cavalry, and even for polo sport. This section would be too numerous, and it seems to me that to certify that the horse is half-Arabian, i.e., half-blood, it is enough to issue a certificate that its sire was a pureblood or purebred Arabian entered in the farm book of Arabian horse breeding, and its dam was of unknown origin, or local breed.

The above-mentioned stud book, in my opinion, should comprise only one section of Arabian horses, without differentiating between pureblood or purebred[16]. Horses that originated exclusively from pure Arabian ancestors, i.e. not having even one drop of any other blood, besides the Arabian, and horses of the famous Arabian horse breeding farms in Russia, which have at least 2/3, or 66% of pure Arabian blood, should be included in this book, and their pedigree must be proven.

In future, all entries into this book are automatically recognized as Arabians. These horses should be exclusively horses born from sire and dam, entered in the Russian stud book of Arabian horse breeding, or from Arabian sire and dam born and reared in Arabia and mated, or included in the above mentioned book. The system I propose is less complex and would be less difficult to achieve in practice for the intended purpose.

  1. This book was also published in English under the name “The Arabian Horse: A Survey,” in 1989 by J.A. Allen.
  2. The central administrative institution created by the Emperor to improve horse breeding in Russia. (1843-1918)
  3. “Ot 2/3 do 4/5 chistoi arabskoi krovi”, is literally translated as from 2/3 to 4/5 of pure Arabian blood.
  4. “Sovershenno chistoi arabskoi krovi” means of perfectly pure Arabian blood. The words completely or absolutely could also be used instead of perfectly in this case.
  5. Prince Alexander Grigorievich Shcherbatov (1850—1915), chamberlain of the Highest Court, statesman and public figure, economist, journalist, traveller, horse breeder, active participant in the right-monarchist movement, leader of the Union of Russian People. Books authored: by his wife Olga, nee Stroganova – “Riders in the Bedouin homeland in search of pureblood Arabian horses, or 2600 versts in the Arabian deserts in 1888 and 1900” (1903). Prince Shcherbatov himself wrote in collaboration with his brother-in-law S. A. Stroganov, “The Book of the Arabian horse” (1900).
  6. “Kolena” means generations and in this context is translated as strains throughout this document.
  7. “Nechistokrovnaya” means non-pureblooded.
  8. Possibly the Russo Turkish war of 1877-1878
  9. One arshin is exactly twenty-eight English inches (71.12 cm), one vershok is 1.75 inches. Hence, the horses height is 59.5 inches.
  10. “Neblagorodnoi” means not noble.
  11. “Obnovlenie” means to make new. In this context it is translated as refreshing.
  12. “Chistoi krovi” is translated as pure blood throughout this document.
  13. “Chistoporodnyi” means purebred.
  14. “Proizvoditeli” means producers. This term does not have preferable gender.
  15. “Arabskii polukrovnyi” means Arabian half-blood.
  16. “Chistokrovnyh ili chistoporodnyh” means pureblood or purebred.
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