One of the frequently heard and honored names in Arabian breeding is that of "Crabbet." The point of this article is that the term does not have a simple definition. It has a variety of meanings, and, if a person wishes to exchange ideas with someone when using the term, it is important to give enough additional information so that a real understanding can occur.
The term "Crabbet" originally derives from the name of the "Crabbet Park Stud" of Arabian horses in Sussex, England. This stud was established by Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt beginning December 1877. They had been traveling in the Middle East where they developed (with James Skene) the idea that there would be fun and profit in breeding Arabian horses from exclusively Arabian bloodlines in England. The idea was unusual because to that point most English people had not cared about breeding of Arabian horses and most continental European studs were more interested in using Arabian blood to produce other kinds of horses than Arabians. The popular idea was that if you wanted an Arabian, you could always go to Arabia to get one.
The Blunts, however, felt that Arabia was no longer a satisfactory source of supply for most buyers of his kind of horse. Initially, they thought the Arabian horse would have important utilization in restoring virtue to the English Thoroughbred horse, giving greater soundness and endurance. Sharing in their horse breeding venture were Lady Anne's brother (Ralph King, Lord Wentworth), who furnished some money, and James Henry Skene, British consul at Aleppo since 1856. Mr. Skene was an old Arab hand. He educated the Blunts about Arabian horses, helped them buy some of their first and best desert-bred stock, purchased horses as an agent for them and for a while was a partner of sorts in their plans.
long, both Lord Wentworth and Skene dropped out of the picture, and the
Crabbet Park Stud which the Blunts had established was operated by Wilfrid
and Lady Anne either jointly or separately until their daughter, Judith,
came into the picture, after which she had a role with them of some sort
and finally ended up as sole proprietess of the stud.
Crabbet Park had one of the longest continuous histories of any Arabian stud of record, lasting from 1878 until its final dispersal in 1970. Even with the actual stud now no longer in operation, the bloodlines which it established have had a continuity of their own. They are still breed to each other and are spoken of as Crabbet bloodlines almost as much as would be done if they were directly from the originating farm at its heyday.
Of course no Arabian stud or bloodline is a static entity. They all change over time, and Crabbet activity changed, too. As a help in understanding what happened, it is discussed in different phases in this article.
When the Blunts returned from their trip to Arabia in 1877-8, they brought with them some horses which they had purchased in the desert. These horses were supplemented by further purchases made by Mr. Skene and others on their behalf and by horses purchased from an Arab horse dealer in India. The characteristic thing about these horses was that they were all desert-bred Arabians. Over a period of years and several trips, there were quite a few, with the total estimated to be 46. Among the better known names were Azrek, Basilisk, Dajania, Ferida, Hadban, Hagar, Kars, Pharaoh, Queen of Sheba, Rodania, and Sherifa. These horses were bred together, and surviving pictures seem to indicate that the results were often very good. Such horses as Ahmar, Bukra, Nefisa, Nejiba, Rosemary, and *Rose of Sharon 246 were produced.
Fascination Of The Nile
In 1882, the Blunts purchased a small estate in Egypt which took its name, Sheyk Obeyd, form the tomb of a local Moslem saint. Beginning in 1889, they developed this as a stud farm. Initially, it was probably intended as a winter residence where the weather was more pleasant than at that time of year in England and where they could indulge their taste for middle-eastern life. The Blunts couldn't go long without purchasing horses, so they began to do that. Some continued to come from Arabia, but their more important acquisitions were from Egyptian sources.
At that time the stud of Ali Pasha Sherif was being dispersed, and they bought several horses directly from his stud. Other related bloodlines were purchased elsewhere. These Egyptian horses were then sent to Crabbet where they were bred to each other to an extent but also very systematically crossed with the desertbred bloodlines already in place. Among the more notable Egyptian horses used at Crabbet Park stud were Bint Helwa, Bint Nura, Feysul, (Ibn) Mahruss, Ibn Yashmak and Sobha. The most famous of all these horses was Mesaoud, who was the primary stallion at Crabbet Park for some time and eventually exported to Russia.
The cross between bloodlines which they had obtained from the desert with Egyptian bloodlines is the major joint activity in Arabian breeding for which the Blunts are famous. Much subsequent Crabbet breeding one way or another involves breeding stock produced by this process. Noted horses representing this combination were *Abu Zeyd 82, *Astraled 238, *Berk 343, Feluka, *Ferda 596, Narghileh, *Nasik 604, Nasra, Rabla, Rasim, Ridaa, *Rizvan 381, *Rodan 258, Rose of Hind, Sotamm, *Simawa 358.
It should be noted that a smaller proportion of the breedings at Crabbet during this phase consisted of horses where both parents were Egyptian. Among these were Daoud, Harb, Kibla, and Seyal.
Unfortunately, all did not remain well between the Blunts as husband and wife. In 1906, they elected to separate in a nice, quiet way. Wilfrid remained in England at or near Crabbet Park. Lady Anne increasingly spent her time at Sheykh Obeyd in Egypt. She continued to return to England right along and no doubt had input into the operation of the stud at Crabbet Park, but her horse breeding in Egypt began to be something in its own right, with little connection to what was going on in England.
She primarily used bloodlines current in Egypt, but also imported several horses directly form Arabia. A number of the horses she bred at Sheykh Obeyd turned up as key animals in later Egyptian breeding. One of the mares she had purchased from the stud of Ali Pasha Sherif, *Ghazala 211, was sent to America where she in turn produced Gulnare 278, dam of Gulastra 521.
It is an interesting question as to whether Lady Anne's Sheykh Obeyd stud should be spoken of as part of the Crabbet stud or not. It did furnish some stock to Crabbet. *Ghazala 211, who was used at Sheykh Obeyd but was bred by Ali Pasha Sherif, was sold to America where she produced stock such as Gulnare by Crabbet stallions. Gulnare is usually spoken of by American breeders as of Crabbet breeding, as is her noted son Gulastra. On the other hand, Sheykh Obeyd stock, such as *Ghazala's daughter Ghadia, which remained in Egypt and was used in Egyptian breeding, is not usually spoken of as "Crabbet" in origin.
Passing The Torch
Meanwhile back at the ranch a new influence began to be felt in the Crabbet breeding, which is that at some point the Blunt's daughter Judith began to influence breeding decisions at the stud. When this happened is not clear. Raswan says that it was beginning 1908 (letter to Richard Pritzlaff dated 11/23/60). that is certainly possible. Lady Anne at that time was spending most of her time in Egypt, and Wilfrid was unlikely to have taken a personal hand in mundane events such as make up daily stud operation. Furthermore, there is ample evidence in her diaries that Lady Anne was trying to bring Judith along in the family Arabian horse business. On the other hand, there is evidence that, until after Lady Anne's death at the end of 1917, Judith was little involved in horse affairs. Maybe someone in England really knows what happened.
In any event, with Lady Anne's death things really changed at the Crabbet Stud. Any question as to whether the Sheykh Obeyd stud was a part of Crabbet was resolved when the horses of Sheykh Obeyd were dispersed in Egypt. After a messy lawsuit between Wilfred Blunt and Judith, the Crabbet Stud itself unquestionably went to the hands of Judith, who, with her mother dead, was now Lady Wentworth.
With the new Lady Wentworth, the Crabbet Stud began a process that completely changed its orientation in Arabian breeding. In 1920, there was a major sale of horses to Egypt, in effect limiting or closing out some of its most important bloodlines. In the same year, the stallion Skowronek was purchased and subsequently became the chief stallion at the stud. Skowronek was something entirely new for Crabbet.
Despite pedigrees to the contrary circulated by Lady Wentworth, he was a complete outcross to previous Crabbet stock. He had been bred in Poland, of bloodlines which, judging from recent publication, can be reasonably assumed not to have been acceptable to either of Lady Wentworth's parents. (See Archer and fleming: Lady Anne Blunt Journals and Correspondence 1878 - 1917, Alexander Heriot & Co, Ltd, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, 1986, pp. 393-408.)
Nevertheless, Skowronek was a beautiful horse and a great sire whose production was historic with Crabbet mares. His foals were different from what had been produced at Crabbet before. They were widely sought after and went to many countries. Among his get were: *Crabbet Sura 1199, *Incoronata 1200, Jalila, Naseem, Naziri, *Raffles 952, *Raseyn 597, Rangoon, *Raswan 607, Reyna, *Rifala 815, *Rimini 973, *Rossana 598.
Apart from Skowronek's influence, many students of Arabian breeding feel there was an additional change of type among the Crabbet horses. Whatever the cause, Crabbet became known for a new, grand type of horse: bigger, neckier, bolder and often times more perfect than the horses that Lady Anne and Wilfrid had known as Arabians. Buyers liked these horses. Crabbet was famous for them and Lady Wentworth was almost universally recognized as the great Arabian breeder of her time. In the United States, the names *Serafix, *Electric Storm, *Royal Diamond, *Silver Vanity, *Crown of Destiny, *Oran van Crabbet, and *Silwa are extremely well known, and in England and elsewhere there are, of course, many more of which Lady Wentworth's stallion Indian Magic is perhaps the best known.
Towards the end, yet another influence was added to the Crabbet stock. This was through the stallion Dargee. He was apparently a beautiful and perfect horse with a fine record at stud. He had not been bred at Crabbet. One of the interesting things about his pedigree was that it contained the stallion Dwarka, which Lady Wentworth had not treated kindly in publication, and the stallion El Emir, which she had indicated was unacceptable to her mother.
Regardless of any previous reservations she may have had about these bloodlines, it is apparent that Lady Wentworth satisfied herself that Dargee was a fine horse for Crabbet. Considering her success as a breeder, who can question her judgment?
Lady Wentworth died in 1957. Crabbet continued in caretaker operation for a time (1957-1970) under her heir, Cecil Covey, but it was really in a state of slow dispersal. A major group of the horses came to the United States in an importation by Mrs. Tankersley for Al Marah. These horses provided a fascinating study for American breedeers because they were of substantially the same bloodlines as the Kellogg importations (1926 and 1936) and the Selby importations of 1928-33 from Crabbet, but many were horses of much different type. They were well received in the United States and had a substantial impact on the show system and breeding farms in this country.
As a breeding farm, the Crabbet Stud had many great achievements in terms of horses produced. there is no question that some of the finest individual horses in modern stud books were produced at that stud or from breeding stock produced by that stud. Probably no other private stud and extremely few national studs in modern Arabian breeding are so universally accepted as having produced elite stock.
The production of horses from the Crabbet stud was enhanced by the production of ideas about Arabian breeding which corresponded to the horses produced. Each of the Crabbet phases of production was supported by major contributions to international thought about how Arabian horses could be bred.
In the first phase,there was the all-important idea that Arabian horses could properly be bred outside of Arabia. In the second phase, the international appreciation of classic Egyptian breeding was developed along with the further concept that such breeding could be combined with certain horses of more recent desert ancestry to produce a superior horse. The third phase having to do with Lady Anne Blunt's life at Sheykh Obeyd furthered public appreciation of classic Egyptian breeding. From the final phase under the late Lady Wentworth, we have the development of the prototype of the modern Arabian show horse: bigger, bolder, more spectacular than the original horse of the desert.
The phases of Crabbet breeding are not necessarily all compatible with each other. Each successive phase does not necessarily represent an improvement over the phases which went before it. Each separate phase has its supporters among Arabian breeders of today.
There are breeders who believe passionately that the desert-bred bloodlines wtih which Crabbet started were the best it ever had. Other breeders own and cherish horses of the second phase where the Egyptian and the desert-breds came together. Phase three is represented in memory mainly, but there are breeders -- mostly in some Egyptian bloodlines--who especially cherish the contribution of the Shekyh Obeyd stud. Finally, there is the fourth phase, where one encounters the ultimate horses of Lady Wentworth: grand horses of scale and bone, well able to hold their own with horses of any source on that grim battleground we call the show ring.
In a variety of ways, both as to living horses and the differing ideas about Arabian breeding which produced them, the name and meaning of "Crabbet" lives. It is almost impossible to hold an extended conversation about Arabian horses without using it. If used in a context where its meaning is clear, it can tell us much about Arabian horses and about the person using it.
Return to: Craver Chronicles
Return to: Arabian Vision's Archives
This page hosted by
Get your own Free Home Page