"PHOTOGRAPHED WITH THE GREAT SHEIKS OF THE FEDAN ANEZEH." (HOMER DAVENPORT), FROM RIGHT TO LEFT: [SHEIKH] AII'S BROTHER, AMEEN ZAYTOUN, A DRUSE OF THE LEBANON [THE TRANSATOR], AKMET HAFFEZ, HOMER DAVENPORT, HASHEM BEY, SHEIKH AI AND TWO OTHER ANEZEH." (PHOTO AND COMMENTARY BY ARTHUR MOORE.)
When you're at home sitting on the shady side of your porch and planning the exportation of Arab horses, there are some details which you overook whie seated in a comfortabe rocking chair... I had been careess and even ignorant of some of the things I afterward earned must happen between the time that horse is purchased in the deset and when you again hear of it in its paddock.
Homer Davenport's book, My Quest of the Arabian Horse, published 1909,
is one of the classics of Arabian horse literature. It has started many a breeder on an
informed study of the Arabian horse and has had an important influence on the
development of the concepts of pure Arabian breeding which have furthered the breed in
America. Although this book has been reprinted by the Arabian Horse Club of
America -- now the "Registry" -- at least twice, it has been available only as a rare book
for many years.
A new edition of this book, titled The Annotated Quest, is excerpted here. Because of
space requirements, much of Davenport's original text is necessarily abbreviated or
omitted in these excerpts. To preserve readability, indications of editing such as
punctuation marks to show where omissions have occurred have not been used, and
occasionally, spelling has been made more consistent.
The Annotated Quest differs from the original book in that it contains marginal
annotations to provide clarification for the current reader, a major amount of historical
information from sources not available to Davenport when he wrote, and many
.Representative samples of these additions are included in this presentation. They are
offered not as improvements on the original work, which needs no improvements, but as a
means of making it more useful and enjoyable for the contemporary reader.
STARTING THE TRIP
(M)y primary object in going to the Syrian desert was to obtain Arab mares and stallions of absolute purity of blood that I could trace as coming from the great Anezeh tribe of Bedouins. That was my fixed idea in undertaking the journey.
I had been deeply interested in the Arab horse for many years before I really knew anything about them. Then, when I thought I had begun to acquire some knowledge of the breed I found that I was not learning much. Information about them, obtainable in this country, was confusing; alleged authorities contradicted each other in every argument; the thing to do, it seemed to me, was to go myself to the home of the Arab horse and there learn of him from his master, the Bedouin.
journey thus was undertaken also for my own education and that it was so
successful (if I may be permitted to say so) is largely due to aid received
from several influential quarters, I carried with me, for instance, letters
from President Roosevelt, who, as a horseman, ranks with his standing as
a man, and without which my errand would have been fruitless. From His
Imperial majesty, the sultan of Turkey, I received an Iradé, together
with the courtesies of the Sublime Porte. In Aleppo I had the extreme good
fortune to form a bond of true friendship with the venerable Akmet Haffez,
himself the Prince of all the Bedouins. By him personally I was taken to
the desert and personally he interested himself in my purchases of horses.
Without him it would have been an accident if I had been able to purchase
a single animal of absolute purity of blood. It was these unusual courtesies
that brought success to the undertaking...
In the latter part of December, 1905, I asked President Roosevelt if he thought he could help me to get a permit from the Sultan of Turkey, as I had wanted to try and carry out plans which I had had in mind for several months, and I received the following letter from him on January 1st, 1906, enclosing another from the Secretary of State:
The White House
Washington, January 1, 1906.
My dear Mr. Davenport:
this letter I proceeded at once to Washington for an interview with His
Excellency Chikeb Bey, then the Turkish Ambassador, and after a very pleasant
conversation with him (he fortunately is a horseman of the highest order)
he assured me that while to get mares from the desert was almost impossible,
still he would make an earnest appeal and would cable to Constantinople.
After a few days he received a cablegram in return which gave me the first ray of hope, for it inquired how many horses I wanted. There was some discussion then as to the number I should ask for. After consideration I concluded that while six was a modest number, generally when you went beyond six you said twelve and that just to break the monotony of such a system I had best ask for six or eight. This was done and the Sultan left it just as I had put it, "six or eight," and to my utter astonishment, as well as the Ambassador's, granted the Iradé.
OUR APPEARANCE WAS A SHOCK TO THE DIGNIFIED FOREIGN CONSULS AND AMBASSADORS FOR SOME REASON OR OTHER. tHEY DID NOT THINK WE WERE DRESSED EXACTY RIGHT.
a few days he received a cablegram in return which gave me the first ray
of hope, for it inquired how many horses I wanted. There was some discussion
then as to the number I should ask for. After consideration I concluded
that while six was a modest number, generally when you went beyond six
you said twelve and that just to break the monotony of such a system I
had best ask for six or eight. This was done and the Sultan left it just
as I had put it, "six or eight," and to my utter astonishment,
as well as the Ambassador's, granted the Iradé.
A few days before I planned to start, a tall athletic young man with the snappiest eyes in New York came in to see me. This was John H. Thompson, Jr. We had met on two or three occasions before. When I told him I was going on the trip to the desert his eyes got even brighter and he said: "If I wouldn't be in the way I'd like mighty well to go on that trip with you."
When he called the next day he said: "I'm ready to catch any boat. Are you?"
In the meantime I received a letter from Mr. C.A.Moore, the president of the firm of Messrs. Manning, Maxwell & Moore, telling me that his son, Arthur, was just as much of an Arab as I was; that he hadn't the slightest doubt that his son would dance at the mention of such a trip, but that he supposed it would be out of the question to think of his is son's joining me, as he was six feet four inches, weighed 245 pounds, and would, naturally, be in the way. I called up the office on the 'phone and the young man himself answered.
His father hadn't spoken to him about the trip, but you could actually hear the interest accumulating in his voice. As I finished telling him what his father had written me, he said, "All right, we'll let it go at that; just count me in." I asked him when he'd be ready, and he said: "I'm ready now; I'll be up to see you in five minutes." ... And that's how Moore and Thompson came to be on the trip.
So, with a week's preparation, we sailed on the French line, July the 5th, 1906, for Havre, armed with powerful rifles, good letters of credit, and a few other lesser necessities of life in the desert.
SELAMLIK AT CONSTANTINOPLE, JULY 20, 1906
Anxious as we were to get off to the desert there were enough things in Constantinople to keep us interested for several days, and chief among them were the Selamlik, th the only time in those days when the outsider could get a glimpse of His Imperial majesty and a visit to the royal stables. At the time we were in Constantinople, it was not entirely easy for foreigners to witness the ceremony, but permission to visit the Imperial stud was easily obtained through Mr. Gargiulo. Mr. Gargiulo was with General Grant on the latter's visit to the Royal stables, when the sultan offered him a stallion, which the General at that time refused. Later, when in France he saw what use France had made of the Arab blood, he wrote saying he would take the one offered. Mr. Gargiulo told the Sultan how lonely a trip to America would be for one stallion and that two would be able to travel better together. Accordingly the Sultan gave two. His majesty picked out a grey and a black, and as they were being prepared for the trip, Mr. Gargiulo tried them, and found the black was not a good saddle horse. He had to think of some scheme by which an exchange could be made, but he knew he would have to have a good reason. Finally, as he went to the Master of Ceremonies, to thank him for the stallions for the General, he said, "But -- "
what?" said the Master of Ceremonies, with some heat -- "you
first ask for one, then for two, and when all this is granted, you say,
"But -- But what?"
"But -- I have found from careful inspection of history," answered Gargiulo, "that no American ruler ever rode a back horse. Will not His Majesty send a horse of some other color for the black one?"
The next day, another had been chosen, a darker grey than the first one, which must have been "Linden-tree," as he was the darker of the two, and a better horse. Mr. Gargiulo said that as far as breed was concerned, no one knew their blood, they were just presents to the Sultan, and presents from the Sultan to General Grant, of no known blood, and were supposed to be pure Arabs. I told this distinguished old gentleman that "Linden-Tree" was much written of in America as a barb, when he laughed heartily, adding: "No barbs were ever in the Sultan's stable, as he does not like the people, much less the horses."
To see the Sultan was an event. The only possible opportunity for the public (the very limited public) to get a view of him was at the Selamlik. This was a sort of religious parade, accomplished every Friday, when His Majesty drove a few yards out of his palace grounds and down a hill to a mosque for religious worship.
Attendance at the Selamlik was carefully scrutinized and one's credentials had to be thoroughly looked into before a permit to witness the ceremony could be obtained.
It required real activity on the part of the Embassy to get us three to the post at the right time ... Our appearance was a shock to the dignified foreign consuls and ambassadors. For some reason or other, they did not think we were dressed exactly right. Moore wore his own trousers, with a borrowed frock coat which was a little tight for that kind of day, and a borrowed plug hat (that's the only name to call it) which was two sizes too small.
THE COURTYARD OF THE AYAZAGA IMPERIAL STABLES.
(PHOTO, ABDUL HAMID COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.)
is strange, but true, that some other fellow's hat never looks quite right
on you, especially if it's a size and a half too small. Moore handled his
hat as a farmer does the parlor lamp. He dropped it once, and it fell out
of the carriage the same number of times. He didn't wear it, but he tried
to balance it on his head as a carrier would carry a jug of water. Thompson
did not have a frock coat, but he had a raincoat which he said he could
button so that no one could tell it from a frock. This, with ordinary trousers,
and a straw hat anchored by a clothesline to his suit, and a plain slouch
white hat that looked well (I thought, in New York), but which showed the
effects of the trip on the Oriental Limited from Paris. It was all right
to turn water, but I saw that the foreign diplomats noticed the general
outfit, which, in a baseball term, was not what one might call "team
From the balcony window we watched battalion after battalion arrive and form a mile in each direction; all along the route of the short parade soldiers stood with bayonets in the rifles. Band after band came, that reminded me of the Silverton band, in Oregon. One was actually playing the same march we used to play in Silverton -- "Belgrade."
Troops had been forming for more than an hour.
While all is still, a trumpet makes a loud, long sound and swords and rifles, like one big click from a tremendous clock, are brought up to present arms; and then we hear from up near the top of the Mosque a priest yelling in a monotone, something that suggests a song, or prayer of some wild desert tribe. Thousands of soldiers yell at the same instant, as if by some automatic process, the same words. The sound makes you shudder with its wild melody.
An open carriage comes through the great gates, which sparkle like gold as they are swung open. Surrounding the carriage are guards, with drawn swords and tightly clenched fists. Hitched to the carriage are two fine bay horses, with docked tails. Their coats are as golden as their harness; they prance, they need exercise. There, saluting in that automatic way, rides the Sultan.
The Sultan is, after all, just a man; a frail, elderly man, enjoying, I should say, the best possible life under such conditions. Unconsciously he rather shrank from the gaze of so many hungry eyes, though he bore a kindly expression mingled with a certain degree of fear.
A greater part of an hour must have passed, while we could hear singing in the Mosque, and as the Sultan came out, he kissed the hands of a general of the Royal Guard and then half knelt before him. The fine rug was respread on the marble landing and a carriage was drawn up that had previously gone to the Mosque empty.
|It was a top- phaeton, drawn by two white Arabian stallions, with long, artificial like looking tails. They pranced, but were well broken and behaved. Two grooms in golden robes stood at their heads.||
THE SULTAN RETURNING FROM THE MOSQUE DURING THE SELAMLIK
|There was a pause and then everybody opened their mouths
and yelled. Guards on the marble stairway began to bow, some knelt, and
slowly this frail, elderly man, with black coat and trousers, with a golden
vest that buttoned up under his beard, came in sight.
Again came the yell that echoed over in Asia. One of the princes joined his father, who climbed into the doctor like phaeton as the top was lowered, and took the lines where they had been carefully left, properly tucked between the white whip and the dashboard. The fine white Arabs, rolling in fat, started to play, and the Sultan popped th the whip on the loins, with the same peculiar jerk that common cabmen here use. He then held the reins and whip in his left hand, and saluted, when the great army, so statue like and cold, fairly knelt to the ground. Back of his carriage pranced a black Arab stallion, and back of him a fine bay one, with white feet and a star in his forehead, and back of them two dappled greys. They were saddled and bridled in rich gold trimmings.. They were there in case the kindly appearing old gentleman might want to ride. He did not care to do so that particular day. He preferred to drive and as he passed up through the big, golden gates, his personality was that of an old man who might be knitting. He led you to believe that you had actually known him well, a long, long time...
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