the August issue, the "Baker Street"
series contained an article by Debra and Jerald Dirks presenting an exchange
of three letters dating from 1906 and 1907 between Lady Anne Blunt of England
and Homer Davenport of the U.S. Commentary on these letters was reserved
to the present writer for this issue of Arabian Visions.
these letters, as in others, communications between Lady Anne Blunt and
Homer Davenport were cordial and provided a reasoning exchange of thought.
Lady Anne starts in an apologetic mode because the fact is that in prior
correspondence with Spencer Borden, and before she knew anything on the
subject other than gossip and hearsay, she had made some comments about
the Davenport importation. These comments were not in themselves so bad,
but they were used selectively by Borden to create a redhot
controversy in the American Arabian horse community.
a letter which we do not have, Davenport obviously had contacted her on
the subject directly, and her reply to him begins this series of correspondence.
differences between Lady Anne Blunt and Homer Davenport were really misunderstandings,
and rather easily resolved. Beyond that there were considerable shared
observations about the Arabian horse and experiences in Arabian travel.
Lady Anne observed that Davenport's travel experience confirmed her observation
of the difficulty of travel in Arabia, and she commented on Davenport's
good fortune in having the sponsorship of the Turkish government, personal
pluck, and a favorable season for desert travel, in that the Anazah were
relatively accessable to contact by travelors in the heat of the summer.
Lady Anne and Davenport discuss the role of a prominent sheikh, "Hashem
Bey," in Arabian desert politics. It is observed by Lady Anne that
Davenport's use of the word "chubby" corresponds to what she
gives as the Arabic word "shabba," meaning suitable to breed
Anne points out that Davenport's report that only 600 of the 6000 horses
he was told of in the desert were in the "chubby" or "shabba"
category confirms her observation of the need for caution in making purchased
of horses in the desert. Lady Anne indicates her suspicion of Arabs as
big as fifteen hands, and indicates that this height is an exception in
the desert and in her own stud. Davenport confirms her observation, saying
that among the Arabs, the best horses are from 14:2 to 14:3 hands high.
number of other letters have been preserved from Lady Anne concerning Homer
Davenport. Her tone is invariably polite and positive. The final item of
action from her on the subject occurred when she translated and authenticated
the pedigree of Davenport's mare *Urfah 40, so that this mare and her son,
*Euphrates 36, would be acceptable to the Jockey Club for registration
in its stud book.
letter in this series from Homer Davenport to Lady Anne Blunt is typical
of his attitude towards her. In this letter and in other commentary of
record, he obviously felt great respect for her as a person and as a breeder
of Arabian horses. He quietly addresses several points upon which he feels
there are misunderstandings, and makes a comment which can be used as explanation
for much of the success of his trip to Arabia:
these two people could have kept their exchanges of thought to each other
they would have gotten along fine, and Arabian history of the era would
have been more simple. Both of them from time to time said things to other
people which would have been better unsaid. Lady Anne was jealous of her
reputation as an unique expert on the Arabian horse, and she appeared to
have had an underlying conviction later shared by her daughter, Judith,
that no horses but her horses were real Arabians. Homer Davenport had foibles,
too. He was an old-fashioned newspaperman who painted his thoughts with
a broad brush, and there was decidedly a bit of P.T.Barnum in his soul.
He was inclined to speak of his own horses in superlatives. Most of what
he said was factual, but there was a measure of what we consider to be
hype. All this came out in a series of interviews published in the New
York Times about his importation of horses. Anne Noel Blunt's lady-like
teeth were obviously set on edge.
other pioneer American breeders of the time took the occasion to stake
out their individual territory in the Arabian horse scene. They each had
their own horses to promote: The Randolph Huntington
group, who wanted to breed larger, Mu'niqi-type horses, felt that theirs
were the only worthwhile kind of Arabians, and they had a further ax to
grind with Davenport, probably based on personal conflict between him and
Randolph Huntington. Davenport had adversely caricatured Huntington's relative
and benefactor, Collis P. Huntington, in public newspaper cartoons, and
had published an article which was unfavorable
towards the Huntington horses.
breeder, Spence Borden, was a major customer of Lady Anne and Wilfrid
Blunt, from whose Crabbet stud he had imported most of his horses.
Borden was an "establishment" sort of person who appears to have
felt that he had bought his Arabians from the best Arabian stud in the
world, and he did not take kindly to the notion that some newspaperman
could go to Arabia and come back with real Arabian horses that were competitive
with what he had bought in England. Typically, Borden remained in the background
of controversy, but he was a strong and persistant influence against the
establishment of the Davenport bloodlines in America.
this explosive combination of personalities, American Arabian breeding
became complicated. There were newspaper exchanges, challenges for competition,
horse-show disputes, bitter letters. The Jockey Club and even the USDA
and Congress became involved.
resolution began with the establishment of the Arabian Horse Club of America,
but the influence of the controversy between those early breeders has continued
over time, although, of course, weakened, which is appropriate for something
of no substance to begin with.
of the arguments from those early days still turn up now and then, usually
as snide remarks from one side or another. Thus Raswan published an article
called "Blunt vs. Davenport Arabians." Lady Wentworth (Judith
Blunt Lytton) makes disparaging remarks about the Davenport horses. Even
now, one of Lady Anne Blunt's current biographers cannot write about the
Davernport importation without negative asides that are contrary to her
own written remarks to Davenport and others. Some breeding programs are
even influenced on the basis of the arguments that started in 1906 and
followed the continuity from Spencer Borden through W.R.Brown, Judith Lytton,
H.H.Reese, and Reese's ideological heirs.
bad. Homer Davenport and Lady Anne Blunt got along fine, and they seemed
to be in good agreement about horses. Without "friends" to stir
up trouble between them and between them and and others, they each had
a contribution to make a beautiful breed of horse. This occurred dispite
all the unnecessary help. Many feel that both the Blunt and Davenport Arabian
bloodlines reach their peak expresions of Arabian beauty when combined
with each other, and the fact is that much of the best of the Blunt
heritage is found primarily in combination with the bloodlines that Homer
Davenport brought from Arabia in 1906.
- "I don't believe that I was misled,
or had misrepresentations made to me by any of the men around me, as owing
to the Irade from the Sultan, and the three strong personal letters which
I carried from President Roosevelt, they accorded me every honor..."
Articles of History