The History of Registration of Arabian Horses in the U.K.
By Jane Kadri

Weatherby’s General Stud Book, started in 1791 by James Weatherby, became the world’s greatest stud record. It is called ‘General’ to differentiate it from the various private herd books that had been kept since the previous century by numerous breeders. Mr Weatherby was primarily motivated by a desire to produce a comprehensive register calculated to reduce the risks of fraud and error in attributing pedigrees.

James Weatherby, writing in a Preface to the first edition of the present series, explained that he had been prevailed upon to produce ‘an introduction to the General Stud Book’ in 1971, consisting of a small collection of pedigrees extracted from Racing Calendars and Sale Papers. He described how it had grown into a bulky volume which he was now offering to the public as Volume One. It contained pedigrees of race horses from the earliest accounts to the year 1826 and he believed it consisted of a ‘greater mass of authentic information respecting Pedigrees of Horses than has ever before been collected together.’

This first edition of the GSB had 414 pages in four sections. Part Four lists Arabians, Barbs and Turks, giving notes on the history, colour, size, etc., of several Arabians, including the famous Godolphin Arabian. In Volume II the Arabian section is dropped but a number of horses with the name ‘……....’s Arabian (usually the name of the owner) indicates that Weatherby still accepted new imports into the main body of the book and therefore counted them as a continuation of the foundation stock of the Thoroughbred racehorse.

The stud books continued on the lines of Volume II up to 1876 when the Arabian section was established again with two mares, a stallion and a colt imported in 1874, and two mares and two colts imported in 1875 from the Sebaa-Anazeh - thus beginning the registration of imported Arabians.

Volume 14, printed in 1881 and with records up to 1880, contains a notice that ‘a recent importation of Arabians from the believed best Desert strains, will, it is hoped, when the increase of size has been gained by training, feeding and acclimatisation, give a valuable new line of blood from the original source of the English Thoroughbred’. This of course refers to the Blunt’s importation’s, the first 22 of which are entered in the Arabian section of Volume 14.

The Arabian section in Volume 15 (1881 - 1884) contains 28 horses, and the number increases slowly up to Volume 25 (1921 - 1924) in which the breeding record of 47 mares is given. The majority of these are descended from the Blunt foundation stock, most of the other early lines having disappeared from the G.S.B.
The last imported living Arabian to be registered in the G.S.B. was Skowronek in Volume 24, which includes records up to 1921, but Dwarka is posthumously entered in Volume 25, with a note that he was destroyed at the Tor Royal Stud in 1921. Thereafter, in line with their policy of excluding new lines of Thoroughbreds, only the produce of Arab horses already entered in the G.S.B. were accepted in future volumes.

This policy was continued by Weatherby up to Volume 35 in which 148 Arabian mares are entered with their progeny; the total number of Thoroughbreds for the four years covered by this volume (1962-1965) is 8,631, 9,335, 9,896 and 10,467 respectively - so it can be seen that the Arabians were a very small percentage of the whole. The wording in the front of this Volume states that to be eligible a horse must be ‘traced in all points of its pedigree to strains already appearing in pedigrees in earlier volumes of the G.S.B.’ and ‘the proprietors of the G.S.B. reserve themselves the sole right to decide what horses or mares (under the Above qualifications) be admitted to our excluded from the book and have decided to discontinue the Arab Section. After 1st January 1965, the produce of horses and mares which have appeared in this section as the produce of a sire and dam which have been described in the G.S.B. as Arabs, will not be considered eligible for inclusion in the G.S.B.’

When Weatherbys announced that they intended to take this action, a strong representation was made by The Arab Horse Society asking them to retain the Arabian Section. At that time, the A.H.S. had been publishing its own Stud Book for 46 years but it was more of a register than stud book and did not give the same complete breeding record of mares as that contained in the G.S.B. Weatherbys intended to change to a computer system: they explained that the G.S.B. had reached an alarming size and that the number of Arabians registered in proportion to Thoroughbreds was very small indeed; they pointed out that the A.H.S. had its own stud book and also intimated that if the horses registered in the G.S.B. had been used for crossing with Thoroughbreds to produce racehorses, they might have been interested in retaining the Arabian Section but there was no question of a reservoir of pure Arab blood being kept for possible future use. It was finally accepted that the present Mr Weatherby did not appear to have the same interest in Arabians as Mr James Weatherby, the founder of the Stud Book, and there was no chance of his changing his mind - ‘it is sad’, Weatherbys’ spokesman conceded, ‘after so many years, but there it is.’ After Weatherbys closed the Arabian Section, the Arab Horse Society changed the format of its stud book to the style of the G.S.B.

Up to that time, many breeders around the world would buy only G.S.B. registered Arab horses, such was the reputation of Weatherby’s Stud Book. Most breeders in England used dual registration for their stock in both the G.S.B. and the A.H.S.B. Lady Wentworth, however, did not always enter her horses in the A.H.S.B. if they were sold when young or were going overseas but every foal born at Crabbet Park was registered in the G.S.B.

The G.S.B. eligible Arabians of today are descended from a fairly small number of original mares and stallions (some lines having died out in England) forming a unique and homogenous group.


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