By Anne Finnerup
The Arabian horse in Russia has a very long history, going all the way back to the 12th century.
Photography unless stated from Finnerup Archives (lead photo:Naseem by Skowronek).
The Arabian horse in Russia has a very long history, going all the way back to the 12th century. Ivan the Terrible had Arabians in his stables in the 1500s, and in the 18th century there were around 100 active Arabian breeding stallions in Russia.
Amurath by Tajar
Arax by Amurath
Aswan in 1958 at the age of 18 years old
|Mansour by Gamil Manial.|
A nobleman by the name of Alexey Orlov created a new breed of horse – the Orlov Trotter – which had a very large percentage Arabian blood. Already at this point, the Arabian horse was highly treasured and very much in demand. Orlov paid the staggering sum of 60,000 Ruples for the stallion Smetanka who died after only one breeding season, but still had a profound influence on the breeding of both Orlov trotters and many other breeding programmes with a high percentage of Arabian pure-bred horses in their bloodlines.
Back then, the Arabian horse was not only praised for being a great endurance horse, a good hack, dressage horse, or family pet; no, their value was in their talent as war horses. They were strong, but still fast, agile and brave – all qualities that could potentially save the lives of their riders and that had made, for example, the Mamluk Cavalry near impossible to defeat until the introduction of the machine gun and the repeating rifles on the battlefields.
In 1889, another nobleman named Count Stroganov founded the stud that later became known as the Russian State Stud, Tersk. Count Stroganov, together with Prince Sherbatov, travelled several times to Arabia and Syria and they brought back with them valuable pure-bred Arabian horses.
Prince Sherbatov used them mostly for improving other breeds, but Count Stroganov created a programme for breeding pure-bred Arabians. In 1899, there were 66 pure-breds at the stud, including youngstock, and in 1901 they published the first stud book for Arabian horses in Russia.
The histories of the Russian and the Polish Arabian horses are inextricably intertwined; for many years, Poland was occupied by the Russians and, at least by the Russians, considered to be part of Russia, for example during the years 1864-1918 where the studs from the Polish/Russian areas bred many good pure-bred Arab horses that were also exported to the rest of Europe. The famous stallions Ursus (Dahman-Amir x Hagar), Wan Dick (Vasco de Gama x Hela) and not least Skowronek (Ibrahim x Jaskolka) are examples of horses that were born in areas that were Russian at the time, but which previously, as well as later, belonged to Poland.
During the Russian Civil War of 1917-1920, the entire breeding programme was blown to smithereens; all the horses disappeared, were killed or were lost forever. Not a single one of these valuable, wonderful creatures made it through this black time in the history of the Arabian horse. If any survived, they were scattered to the wind and never returned to the stud or the breeding programme.
A new start
However, in 1921 the government issued orders that the Tersk Stud was to be rebuilt as they needed horses for the cavalry. Since there were no pure-breds left, they had to start by using part-bred Arabians. They also created the foundation for a new breed, the so-called Tersk horse, a mixture of predominantly Arabian, Orlov Trotter, Anglo Arab and the Russian Don horse. It was recognised as a new breed in 1948.
Blood from abroad
During the next years they imported horses from: France, among them Kann (Denouste x Kita) along with six mares; England, six stallions including Naseem (Skowronek x Nasra) and 19 mares, among these Rissalma (Dargee x Rissilletta); and Poland, including the mares Gazella II (Kohejlan x Abra), Dziva (Abu Mlech x Zulejma), and, the mare that was to found a dynasty, Mammona (Ofir x Krucica). Saying that the Polish horses were imported is probably a nice way of putting it… They were evacuated when the Germans moved into Poland, and they walked all the way to Russia. They never returned, so they were removed, some would say stolen, from the Polish breeding programme. But whoever has might, is right, and the loss for the Polish breeding programme became a major gain for the Russians.
|Nabeg by Arax.|
From 1941-1943, the hard-tested horses had to go on yet another strenuous trek as they were evacuated to Kazakhstan because of the war, but they returned in time for Marshall Zhukov, one of the highest decorated generals in the red Army, to participate in a victory parade on the back of Kumir, a grey Tersk horse with a high percentage of Arabian blood; great prestige for the stud!
In 1945, the decision was made that the Tersk Stud should breed only pure-bred Arabians, and the breeding of the new horse, the Tersk horse, was left to the Stavropol Stud.
More horses were imported from Germany in 1947, and in 1958 a very important stallion comes to Russia from Poland. Arax (Amurath Sahib x Angara) left a legacy of 101 direct descendants when he was sold to Holland in 1969. Unfortunately he died that same year. His daughters remain a treasure of immeasurable value and his son, Nabeg (ex Nomenklatura) becomes heir to his position as chief stallion at Tersk. Without Arax and Nabeg there would be no Menes (Nabeg x Metropolia), no Tamerlan (Arax x Trapecia), maternal grandsire of Padrons Psyche, no Nariadni (Nabeg x Nariadnaia), no Pesniar (Nabeg x Pesnia), Peleng (Nabeg x Palmira), Princip (Nabeg x Panagia) or Tallin (Nabeg x Talantlivaia), and thus no Balaton (Menes x Panagia), Kubinec (Balaton x Kosmetika), FS Bengali (Kubinec x Om El Sanadiva), and so on.
Politics become important
1963 becomes an important year in the history of the stud, because this is when President Khrushchev, as a token of gratitude for the extensive Russian aid in the construction and building of the Aswan dam, receives a gift from the Egyptian President Nasser – a pure-bred Arabian stallion that is given the name Aswan. His original name was Rafaat, and he was by Nazeer out of Yosreia. Aswan became very important for the Russian breeding programme; he stamped his progeny with his unmistakable characteristics and passed on to them type and quality.
|Monopolia by Priboj|
A very brief summary of the most important sire and damlines at Tersk
According to the book The Damlines of Tersk by Dee Whittlesey, there have been 18 damlines at Tersk, but some of the ones that have been most influential are: Emese; Selma; Rodania; Elisissa; Szweykowska; Milordka; Gazella; and Mammona.
I won’t go into detailed descriptions of all of them, but would like to pay a little more attention to a couple of those that have been a major influence on the breed.
Selma, 1894, was a Hamdanie Simrieh out of Sobha, an Abbas Pasha mare, and by Ahmar (Azrek x Queen of Sheeba). She was bred by Lady Wentworth in England. She was granddam of Star of the Hills (Astraled x Selima) that came to Russia with 24 other horses from Crabbet and is a foundation horse in the pedigrees of Taktika (Taki Pan x Krona), Ptashka (Priboj x Taktika), Topol (Priboj x Taktika), Pustinia (Salon x Ptashka), Palmira (Salon x Ptashka) and Pietuszok (Priboj x Taktika). All of these have had a great influence on the Russian Arabian horse breeding programme.
Rodania, 1869 (desert bred Kuheilan Ajuz) is not only important for Russian lines; it is hard to find a breeding programme where she is not prominently represented. In Russia it is mostly through Rissalma, who primarily via her son Priboj (by Piolun) has been a pillar in the breeding of Russian pure-bred Arabians. Even today there are breeding programmes that linebreed to him – his influence is huge! Among his sons are Pomeranets, Sport and Topol, and his daughters count among many others ‘the queen of Tersk’, Neposeda (ex Nomenklatura), plus the Mammona daughter Monopolia.
Neposeda by Priboj
|Monogramma by Knippel |
Yet another of the original imports from the same damlines, Rixalina (Raseem x Rissla) has had a big influence and, as with Rissalma, it has been mostly through one of her sons, Korej (by Kann), who sired KanKan and Knippel, both of whom have had a great impact on the horses we see today.
Mammona, 1939 (Ofir x Krucica) came to Tersk as a very young horse – she followed her dam on the march from Janów Podlaski to Tersk, and again to Kazakhstan and back. She has proven to be so important for the breed that she was honoured by receiving the title of foundation mare of her own line. A selection of just a few of her close descendants are Nomenklatura (by Naseem), Magnolia (by Arax), Miest (Salon x Metropolia), Nemezida (Arax x Neposeda) and Monogramma (Knippel x Monopolia). Mammona means ‘treasure’ in Polish and she lived up to her name by producing one valuable progeny after another. All in all, she had 18 foals of which the most well known are: Nomenklatura, dam of Neposeda and Nabeg; Pomeranets, sire of 88 foals, among them Naplyv and Simpatika; Monopolia, dam of Monogramma; and Metropolia, dam of Menes.
The most important sirelines are: Korej; Naseem; El Deree; Piolun; Amurath; Mansour. Again, I won’t describe all of them, but I’ll take a closer look at a few.
Naseem, 1922 (Skowronex Nasra), came to Russia as part of the great shipment in 1936. He had a good front with a long and well-set neck and a nice, clean mitbah. He served 17 years as a breeding stallion at Tersk and 19 of his daughters became foundation mares at the stud. The best known of these are Nitochka (ex Taraszcza), Nagrada (ex Rixalina) and Naturalistka (ex Rissalma). Without a doubt, his most famous son is Negatiw (ex Taraszcza), whose son Nabor was sold to Poland and later to the US, where he was registered as Naborr, but also Nomer (ex Oaza), Nikel (ex Konfederacja) and Normativ (ex Mulatka) were used in the breeding programme. His son Negatiw is also the progenitor of a line that has produced horses such as Salon, Muscat, Kosmetika, dam of Kubinec, Moment, and Bandos who was bred at Janów Podlaski.
Amurath, 1881 (Tajar III x Koheil III), also called Amurath Weil, represents the sireline that gave us the super stallion Arax 1952 (Amurath Sahib x Angara). It goes back to the 1913 desert-bred Bairactar. Arax was bred in Poland, but was exported to Russia in 1958 where he had 101 foals before being sold to Holland, where he unfortunately died without leaving any more progeny. He had many qualities to offer; he added a good expression with big eyes and at the same time had a strong rear engine, good depth, and generally very good structure. In Poland, Arax had an opportunity to make his mark – he gave them, for example, Boltonka (ex Bulgotka), who went on to become US Reserve National Champion Mare. At Tersk, he produced a long row of fantastic broodmares, such as Magnolia (ex Mammona), Naturshitsa and Nemezida ( both ex Neposeda) as well as Prokaznitsa (ex Pokaznaja). His sons include names such as Nasmeshnik (ex Neposeda), Nabeg (ex Nomenklatura) and Tamerlan (ex Trapecia). The line of Nabeg spans a whole row of superb stallions, including Nariadni (ex Nariadnaia), Pesniar (ex Pesnia), Menes (ex Metropolia), Nadejni (ex Nasturcia), Neman (ex Nega), Peleng (ex Palmira), Princip (ex Panagia), Tallin (ex Talantlivaia) and Prononce (ex Passia).
Mansour, 1921 (Gamil Manial x Nafaa El Saghira) is the grandsire of the most famous of all the Russian stallions; I am, of course, speaking of Aswan. As mentioned previously, Aswan was a ‘thank you’ gift from Egypt to Russia and even though he had flaws – there is no such thing as a perfect horse – he usually complemented the strong and structurally correct Russian mares well. He had 299 progeny at Tersk during his 20 years there – more than any other stallion. Kilimanjaro (ex Karta), Plakat (ex Pchelka), Antey (ex Nemezida), Palas (ex Panel), Mag (ex Magnolia) and Patron (ex Podruga) are a few of his most important stallion progeny, and there is a straight line to horses such as Padrons Psyche, Magnum Psyche, Amunitia, Andoy, Psytadel and many, many more.
The combination of Arax and Aswan turned out to be a winner; it is extremely difficult today to find Russian Arab horses without these two influential names in their pedigree.
From the USSR to the USA
The Tersk breeding programme was characterised by a very strict selection process. Pedigree, build, movement, type, and performance on the racetrack were all used to assess the value of potential broodmares and stallions for the gene-pool, and the managers would rather cull than allow substandard material to be used.
The result was, for example, Nasmeshnik (Arax x Neposeda), the stallion that Howard Kale first saw at Horsey Island in the UK and who inspired him to undertake a long, extensive, and persistent effort to get some of those horses to the USA where they, as he predicted, would go on to revolutionize the breeding programmes and the show-ring. After numerous visits to Moscow and Tersk, ‘Howie’ succeeded in getting permission to buy Muscat (Salon x Malpia) and the rest, as they say, is history. Muscat became the first Triple Crown winner, taking the US National Championship, Canadian Champion Stallion title and the Scottsdale Champion Stallion title in 1980, and the Russian Arabians started their conquest of the world outside of the Soviet Union.
|Padrons Psyche by Padron.|
One of the things that Russian Arabians are most well-known for today is their fabulous, free, and elastic movement that comes from a freedom of shoulder that you won’t find in many Arabians today. Those who have been fortunate enough to see for instance Vodolej (Mashuk x Mechta) or Narim (Moment x Nejnaia) float round the show-ring know exactly what I am talking about. Goosebump-inducing, a lump-in-the-throat-provoking movement – you never forget seeing such a display of pure beauty and poetry. Such a quality only exists when form and function form a synthesis and when you, as a breeder, have not compromised foundation and structure for a bigger ‘dish’ or a flatter croup!
With this parting remark, I shall stop this brief presentation of the Russian bloodlines. There are lots of stories about the Russian Arabians on the internet, and I can only encourage you to seek them out! Buy the Russian Stud Book Vol I-V and search the internet – there are many informative sites where you can read page after page about the Russian horses, including Samantha Mattocks’ own series for Arabian Essence. You can even find groups for Russian Arabians on Facebook and learn about their contribution to the horses that we know and love today.
Sources: The Damlines of Tersk by Dr. Dee B. Whittlesey; The Russian Arabian Stud Book, English Translation Volume I-IV, translated by Howard F. Kale Jr.; The Crabbet Arabian Stud – Its History & Influence, by Rosemary Archer, Colin Pearson and Cecil Covey; www.terskarabian.com; www.tersk-stud.com; www.horses.ru/arabian.htm