SIRE LINE – SKOWRONEK, PART 1 THE CONTROVERSIAL SUPERSTAR b y B e t t y F in ke
THE FOUNDATION HORSE OF THIS LINE IS REALLY THE DESERTBRED IBRAHIM DB. BUT SINCE IT HAS COME DOWN EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH ONE SON, WHO WAS SO DOMINANT IN HIS OWN RIGHT THAT HE ENTIRELY ECLIPSED HIS SIRE, IT IS MORE OFTEN KNOWN AS THE LINE OF SKOWRONEK.
o other great stallion of the Arabian breed has been the subject of such veneration, but also close scrutiny, criticism, and even slander as Skowronek. His influence has been vast, and not limited just to breeding. Without him, the continuing debate about the purity of the Polish Arabians might never have begun, and there would possibly be neither a Blue List nor an Asil Club or Al Khamsa. In view of all the ensuing controversy surrounding Skowronek’s pedigree, it seems ironic that Jane Ott,
the founder of the Blue List and thus of the entire Asil movement, stated that Skowronek was the one horse whose pedigree should be of no concern to anyone. Like Justin Morgan, Skowronek was so extraordinarily dominant in transmitting his own type and characteristics that his descendants should be classified as a new breed. If Mrs. Ott had had her
above: Skowronek 1909 (Ibrahim DB x Jaskólka) – a stallion venerated and scrutinized in equal measures.
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l e f t : The only existing photo of Skowronek’s sire Ibrahim DB, purchased in 1907 at Constantinople. right:
Posejdon 1916 (Ibrahim x Najada), Skowronek’s paternal half-brother who is only found in pedigrees through his daughters.
He was the artist’s
ideal of an Arabian horse come to life; it is hardly surprising that he was initially bought by an artist as a model.
way, there would not only be a Shagya-Arabian breed today, but also a Skowronek-Arabian breed. But it didn’t happen. The descendants of Skowronek were, and still are, officially purebred Arabians, even if some people resolutely refuse to acknowledge this and stubbornly refer to him and all his huge tribe as “Partbreds.” The debate had already begun with Skowronek’s sire, the stallion Ibrahim DB, though it is hard to see why. Ibrahim was a desertbred horse purchased in 1907 at Constantinople for Count Jozef Potocki’s Antoniny Stud in Poland. He was said to have come from Syria originally; early sources give the names of his
parents as “Heijer” and “Lafitte.” No more was known about him, but this is true of many foundation horses. They were desertbred, and at the time, that was good enough. It has been claimed that he was a “circus horse”; but quite apart from the fact that this would not necessarily mean he wasn’t an Arabian, there appears to be no actual proof for such a claim. The problem actually arose much later, when Skowronek’s owner, Lady Wentworth, in a misguided attempt to give Skowronek an Egyptian background, declared Ibrahim’s parents to be of Egyptian breeding and from the bloodlines of Abbas Pasha’s stud, even providing their actual names. This attempt ultimately backfired, as it had no basis in fact. It was not so much an outright lie, but rather a conjecture presented as fact. According to Lady Wentworth, Skowronek was the perfect embodiment of the Abbas Pasha type; it followed, at least to her mind, that he must have come from those bloodlines. Unfortunately, wanting
something does not automatically make it so. Later, the not very Arabiansounding names of Ibrahim’s parents were re-interpreted as “Hejar” and “Falite,” identifying a Bedouin tribe and a family strain. But whatever they were called, Ibrahim’s credentials as a desertbred are as good as those of many other horses who were never subjected to such close scrutiny. The case of Skowronek’s dam Jaskólka is more complicated. At the time, Polish Arabians – though they had existed longer than many others – were barely known in Western Europe. Jaskólka’s pedigree represented an entire century of Polish Arabian breeding. It contained many desertbreds, but also a lot of horses, mostly mares, whose background is rather more murky. These mares came from the earliest Polish stud of all, Slawuta, established in 1791 by Prince Hieronym Sanguszko. All the subsequent Polish stud farms in the 19th century were established by members or descendants of the Sanguszko family – including Antoniny – and
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used horses from Slawuta as foundation stock. It has to be remembered that there were no official stud books back in those days, each stud farm keeping its own records. None of the early Slawuta records survived. Of many early Slawuta mares, all we know is their name and their year of birth, and that their descendants were regarded as purebred Arabians. At least 10 of these mares appear in Skowronek’s pedigree, along with several other Slawuta horses of whom not even the names are known. That’s plenty of ammunition, if you want to be picky. In addition, however, there is a persistent rumour that Skowronek was descended from a Thoroughbred mare, and it won’t go away.
The mare in question is, for once, not the usual culprit, 30 Mária, the Thoroughbred mare that appears far back in the pedigrees of some South American Arabians. It is a mare called Polka, who appears in Skowronek’s pedigree no less than five times through her son Szumka II, sired by the desertbred Hajlan. This Polka is one of the above-mentioned Slawuta mares, of whom we know nothing at all. Which is the point: we know nothing – this means that while we can’t prove that they were Arabians, they were regarded as such, and we can just as little prove that they were not. But we can say with some certainty that Polka was not a Thoroughbred. The claim that she was a
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A painting by Juliusz Kossack showing one of the Sanguszko princes riding a stallion identified as Szumka. Unfortunately we do not know which Szumka this is.
t o p r i g h t : *Raswan 1921 (Skowronek x Rim) as a three-yearold at Crabbet Park. He only lived to the age of five. bottom:
*Raswan’s only breeding son, Ferhan 1925 (x Fejr).
Thoroughbred was put forth by the German author, and close associate of Carl Raswan, Ursula Guttmann, in her seminal 1968 book The Lineage of Polish Arabian Horses. In this book, she meticulously reconstructed and analyzed Polish Arabian pedigrees based on all available data, most of which had never before been published. She did this with the express purpose of
SKOWRONEK, part i
IBRAHIM DB IMP. 1907 PL SKOWRONEK GR. 1909 (JASKOLKA) POTOCKI/PL RUSKOV GR. 1920 (RUEYDA) LEWIS/GB *RASWAN GR. 1921 (RIM) CRABBET PARK/GB, EXP. USA FERHAN CH. 1925 (FEJR) CRABBET PARK/GB, EXP. USSR INDIAN GOLD CH. 1934 (NISREEN) CRABBET PARK/GB *ROSANTHUS CH. 1938 (RISSLINA) CRABBET PARK/GB, EXP. USA HAZAM BEY CH. *1949 (ZAIDA) USA SHAMS AL SAHRA CH. 1958 (AYONNE) USA SHAMS BEY CH. 1959 (WAKERTA) USA KING FEISAL CH. 1951 (BARDOGA) USA ABU KING FEISAL CH. 1963 (NEVER DIE RANGA) USA KINGS THOR CH. 1971 (MITHL) USA AHMAK CH. 1952 (ISIS) USA IRRADIAN CH. 1954 (RISHYANA) CRABBET PARK/GB NAIDARUS CH. 1949 (FARONA) GB ALAH II OF YEOMANS CH. 1954 (DONIAZAD) GB ALAH’S PROFESSOR GR. 1962 (GAMEELA) GB RISARUS CH. 1967 (RISNAB) GB *SUN ROYAL CH.*1946 (SHARIMA) CRABBET PARK/GB, EXP. USA SILVER SUN GR. 1951 (SILVER SHADOW) CRABBET PARK/GB, EXP. AR SILVER PLATE GR. *1956 (RIAZ) AR DALEM CH. 1965 (AL-NECHMA II) AR HILI CH. 1968 (AL-NECHMA) AR ZAGUIR B. *1970 (AL QAMAR) AR, EXP. UR GAXIM GR. 1971 (ZUAK) AR DAIR CH. 1984 (GUERIZA) AR JEDEM GR. 1990 (DEXAXA) AR NAUGAN GR. 1960 (NALLMAT) AR, EXP. UR LABEEB GR. 1967 (LABIB) AR RICKEY B. 1958 (WIERKA) USA RANGOON GR. 1921 (RISH) YASHEEM B. 1936 (YASHEEMA) GB, EXP. BR TAQUARY B. 1943 (NUSI) BR IRSAM GR. 1952 (IZAR) BR HAIL GR. 1955 (HARMATTANA) BR ALKARIM GR. 1962 (GAZA) BR AUSTERLITZ GR. 1979 (SULIEKA) BR JAU B. 1948 (BOCAINA 2) BR FEYSUL B. 1958 (ASSAIDA) BR KHADAFF B. 1973 (ROURA) BR CAMAL B. 1977 (TAAYAL) BR XA-IN-XA B. 1980 (ASHIKA) BR SHARAF GR. 1938 (SOMARA) GB STEFAN GR. 1945 (SOMARA) HAY/GB, EXP. AUS SAMIRI GR. 1969 (TAMARISK) KEMP/GB, EXP.AUS SARAFIRE B. 1972 (DEVOTION) AUS EL ZAYIB HASTAR B. 1976 (RIPPELENA) AUS SARFYRE B. 1996 (SARACHET) AUS HESTE ARABIQUE ZARDAAIN 2003 (ZANUGI) AUS PEVENSEY SAFARI B. 1997 (DANDALOO BAYLANIE) AUS PEVENSEY PETROV B. 2008 (PETRA BENAY) AUS PEVENSEY GHAZAL B. 2010 (PEVENSEY GHIA) AUS SNOW N FIRE CH. 1997 (SANTARABIA PORFIRA) AUS ZAHRIZ 1999 (SILETTE) AUS ARFAJA SARIF B. 2000 (ARFAJA NUALA) AUS SALERO GR. 1973 (LETAZ) AUS SAHRAN GR. 1948 (SAHMANA) BURROWS/GB SAHMED GR. 1865 (MAID OF MEDINA) LINNEY/GB, EXP. ZA QUEENSWAY SHADOW PLAY GR. 1970 (DAWN SHADOW) ZA NOURMAHAL MUSTAPHA B. 1976 (TIMARIE LADY MAE) ZA MALPERTHUIS GIDEON B. 1985 (NOURMAHAL ANALIZE) ZA NOURMAHAL GELAAL B. 1979 (NOURMAHAL KHAYBET) ZA QUEENSWAY SILVER LEAF GR. 1971 (CHEZ NOUS SHANEEN) ZA SCOTTS SILVYKA CH. 1983 (QUIMRAM DWYKA) ZA TUMMUNDAR B. 1949 (RINGLET) GB KASIMDAR B. 1954 (KASIMET) HOUGH/GB K OF K B. 1957 (KALFA) HOUGH/GB AMBO B. 1955 (ANNABOAM) HOUGH/GB, EXP. NL AALAR B. 1965 (ALEXA) BETTY/GB REVENGE GR. 1921 (RIYALA) CRABBET PARK/GB
the first international superstar in Arabian breeding, and everyone wanted his offspring. They were sold to the U.S., to Australia, to Brazil and Argentina, to Russia, to Spain, even to Egypt. Lady Wentworth claimed that she had once received a postcard from overseas that was simply addressed to ‘Skowronek, England.’
proving that they were not purebred. Skowronek’s background, and his ancestress Polka, came in for especially close scrutiny, and this particular stain has been impossible to eradicate. But if you look at the matter closely, it is clearly the result of mistaken identity. Guttman quotes a contemporary Polish author, who mentions a stallion named “Szumka” whom she equates with the horse in Skowronek’s pedigree. But is he really the same horse? This Szumka’s sire was “the son of an Arabian,” and his dam was “an English mare.” He was apparently a failure as a sire,
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and left nothing of significance. But no name is given for his dam. Szumka’s sire is also wrong: Polka’s son Szumka II was not sired by “the son of an Arabian,” but by an actual desertbred Arabian, Hajlan. Also, Szumka II was clearly a popular and highly regarded sire, many of whose sons and daughters were used for breeding and even inbreeding, being bred to each other. It is obvious that this is not the same horse as the son of an “English mare.” In fact, there were at least three different stallions named Szumka. The horse mentioned as the son of the “English mare” appears to be the elder Szumka I. So, if Szumka II was not the son of the “English mare,” but Szumka I, why should Polka have been a Thoroughbred? Guttman was aware of the different Szumkas, and lists Szumka I as the son of the “English mare” in her pedigrees. Why she should assume that the dam of Szumka II, namely Polka, should also be a Thoroughbred (assuming the “English mare” even was a
Indian Gold 1934 (Ferhan x Nisreen) was one of the best broodmare sires at Crabbet Park.
t o p r i g h t : One of Indian Gold’s few sons, *Sun Royal 1946 (x Sharima) was sold to the U.S. He may still have descendants in Argentina.
The mare Star of the Hills 1927 (*Raswan x Selima) founded one of the greatest dam lines of the Russian Tersk Stud.
Thoroughbred, which we don’t know either), remains a mystery. Her claim that Thoroughbred mares in Poland “were often named Polka” hardly makes for watertight evidence. The name “Polka” generally indicates a mare bred in Poland, but says nothing about the breed. A final clue for Polka’s exoneration came with the publication of Lady Anne Blunt’s journals and correspondence. Lady Anne visited Antoniny Stud 40 years later and discussed bloodlines and pure Arabian breeding with Count Potocki. She also left a detailed list of those horses at Antoniny that carried Thoroughbred blood. Szumka II’s descendants are not among
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them. That the Antoniny horses did not come up to Lady Anne’s very stringent standards of purity is another matter entirely; she demanded proven documentation for her horses and certainly had issues with the blank spots in the Polish pedigrees. The problem, however, was not any actual evidence of non-Arabian blood, but rather the lack of information on some of the ancestors. Because of this, we may be certain that she would never have used Skowronek herself. As we know, her daughter Lady Wentworth was less particular. Skowronek (whose name means “lark”) was foaled in 1909. He was one of four recorded
Stefan 1945 (Rangoon x Somara) was one of the foundation sires of Arabian breeding in Australia.
Rangoon 1921 (Skowronek x Rish), one of Skowronek’s most look-alike sons, whose line survives in Australia.
b o t t o m r i g h t : Stefan’s most significant son was Samiri 1969 (x Tamarisk), bred in England and also exported to Australia.
sons of Ibrahim. Other than Skowronek, only Posejdon 1916 (x Najada) appears in modern pedigrees, through his daughter Lagodna (the dam of *Naborr). Ibrahim also sired two daughters that are still found in pedigrees today, but Skowronek was the only one of his sons who carried on the male line. No one would ever have heard of Skowronek if not for Walter Winans. Born in the U.S. and living in England, Winans was a man of many interests; a horse breeder and a sculptor as well as a hunter. In 1913, he traveled to Antoniny in order to shoot one of the wild bulls on the Potocki estates. While he was there, he also planned to buy some carriage horses. But instead of a carriage team, he ended up purchasing a four-year-old Arabian stallion who was scheduled to be sold to the
Caucasus to become a Cossack horse. He wasn’t terribly expensive, costing less than the fee Winans had paid for shooting the wild bull. So, instead of vanishing into the wilds of the Caucasus and subsequent oblivion, Skowronek came to England. He was not imported for breeding purposes. His first job was posing as a model for one of Walter Winans’s bronzes, after which Winans gave him to his solicitor as a riding horse. A few years later, he was discovered by one of the pioneers of British Arabian breeding, H. V. Musgrave Clark, who bought him for his Courthouse Stud. It was here that Skowronek was used for breeding for the first time. Inevitably Lady Wentworth, daughter of Lady Anne Blunt and
now the owner of Crabbet Park, became aware of Skowronek. Whatever one might say about Skowronek’s background, his beauty and Arabian type were never in question. As far as that was concerned, he was very much ahead of his time. He was different: snow white, stunningly beautiful with a prettier head than most Arabians of his day, a beautifully shaped neck, near-perfect, strong quarters with a long, level croup and high set tail, and excellent legs. He was the artist’s ideal of an Arabian horse come to life; it is hardly surprising that he was initially bought by an artist as a model. Lady Wentworth simply had to have this extraordinary horse for Crabbet Park, but Clark was not likely to sell him to his
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left: Saltram 1982 (Samhan x Sceptre by Blenheim), one of the last stallions bred at Courthouse, shown at the age of two years.
Rasim’s Polish son, Rasim III 1931 (x Karima), has descendants both in pure Arabian and Shagya-Arabian breeding.
F I N K E P H OTO
l e f t : Samiri’s son Sarafire 1972 (x Devotion) has been instrumental in keeping Rangoon’s Australian branch alive. right:
Sahran 1948 (Rangoon x Sahmana) had some influence in South Africa and Holland.
chief rival. Lady Wentworth solved the problem by using a middleman who claimed to be acting for a buyer in the U.S. Clark was furious when he found out where Skowronek had really gone, but the deal was done. In 1920 Skowronek came to Crabbet Park, where he remained for the rest of his life, and Arabian breeding would never be the same again. Skowronek was an instant success; in fact the “golden age” of Crabbet Park is to a large extent due to his influence. He was an early example of a sire who is himself the product of a total outcross, but completely dominant in transmitting his own type. His foals were instantly recognizable, not only because all of them were grey. Skowronek became the first international
superstar in Arabian breeding, and everyone wanted his offspring. They were sold to the U.S., to Australia, to Brazil and Argentina, to Russia, to Spain, even to Egypt. Lady Wentworth claimed that she had once received a postcard from overseas that was simply addressed to “Skowronek, England.” Four sons of Skowronek were instrumental in passing on his line, and they will each have their own installment in the coming issues. The four oldest Skowronek sons were not among them, but while they largely failed to establish their own branches, their blood can still be found in pedigrees today. Skowronek’s first son Ruskov, foaled in 1920 out of Rueyda and the only one not bred at Crabbet Park, is found today only through three of his daughters, mainly in English breeding. He sired three sons, but none of them bred on. Skowronek’s 1921 son *Raswan (x Rim) sired just one son, but he was far more influential. The son was Ferhan 1925 (x Fejr), a chestnut with a flaxen mane.
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Ferhan in turn sired only one son, Indian Gold 1934 (x Nisreen), who was to become immensely influential in Crabbet breeding through his daughters. The mares Silver Gilt, Rosalina, Serafina, Silfina, Rissiletta, Naxindra, and Gleaming Gold are among the most important names in British Arabian breeding and in the U.S. through exports. Indian Gold also sired three sons, of whom *Rosanthus and *Sun Royal were exported to the U.S. They were popular sires in their time with many sons and grandsons, but their lines have all but disappeared today. The blood of Indian Gold’s only son used in Britain, Irradian, is only found in indirect lines today. Ferhan himself was later sold to Tersk Stud in Russia, but did not sire any purebreds there. Nevertheless, *Raswan contributed significantly to Russian Arabian breeding through his daughter, Star of the Hills, who founded one of Tersk’s most successful mare families. The full brothers *Pietuszok and Topol came from this family, as
Ambo 1955 (Tummundar x Annaboam), a Rangoon grandson and foundation sire in Holland and a good sire of broodmares.
K of K 1957 (Kasimdar x Kalfa) was the last representative of the Rangoon branch in Britain.
well as the international sires Palas, Plakat, Peleng, *Pesniar, and *Tamerlan, who was the maternal grandsire of Padrons Psyche. *Raswan himself was the first Skowronek son to come to the U.S., but he never sired a foal in America. Despite this, he became famous, if for entirely different reasons. In 1926, a German called Carl Schmidt purchased a group of horses at Crabbet Park for the American cereal millionaire W.K. Kellogg. Lady Wentworth liked to add one or two gift horses on such occasions, and one of these gifts was *Raswan, who was five years old at the time. There seems to have been a dispute about whether *Raswan was a gift meant for Mr. Kellogg or for Carl Schmidt personally; Schmidt certainly regarded the horse as his own. It would take too long to go into greater detail here; the fact is that shortly after his arrival at the Kellogg ranch, *Raswan died under somewhat dubious circumstances. The case was never entirely solved, but Schmidt claimed the horse was
“murdered” and that the matter was personal. As a result he changed his name and subsequently became famous under the name of Carl Raswan. All the known facts and details of this case can be found in the book The Kellogg Arabian Ranch – The First 50 Years by Mary Jane Parkinson. There were two more Skowronek sons from the same foal crop as *Raswan, Rangoon (x Rish) and Revenge (x Riyala). Rangoon, who appears to have been almost an exact copy of his sire, had several breeding sons, of which Yasheem 1936 (x Yasheema) founded a line in Brazil and Stefan 1945 (x Somara) became a foundation stallion in Australia. Through Stefan’s son Samiri 1969 (x Tamarisk) and Samiri’s son Sarafire 1972 (x Devotion) this branch is quite prominent in Australian Crabbet breeding today, producing notable performance horses. This may well be the most important branch of Rangoon’s line still in existence; possibly even the only one, unless there are still some
representatives in Brazil or South Africa. In England, the Rangoon sons Sahran 1948 (x Sahmana) and Tummundar 1949 (x Ringlet) were used for breeding and are found in pedigrees today through their daughters. Sahran’s son Sahmed was exported to South Africa and founded his own line there, which might still exist. Sahran’s daughter Sithara had some influence in Holland, and a Tummundar son, Ambo 1955 (x Annaboam), was one of the foundation stallions there, but sired only daughters. The last stallion of this line in Britain was K of K (Kasimdar x Kalfa), a Tummundar grandson foaled in 1957, who left no sons to carry it forward. Revenge, of whom no photo has survived, is found in modern pedigrees only through his daughter Sita, whose grandson Saoud was another foundation stallion in the Netherlands. The actual sire line only began properly with Skowronek’s son Naseem, foaled in 1922, whose influence will be the subject of the next installment.
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