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Spanish History
Congo: an inscription of dignity
By Ralph Joly, Ph.D.
This article was first published in Arabians, May, 1984


     Small, but compact, swift with the motion of his forebears, the grey Congo reigned for more than two decades as a king among his fellows.  And, like mighty kings, he founded a dynasty whose legacy lives on.  Some horses do not merely excel; they become the legends storytellers weave of a greatness that cannot die.
 

     Horsemen can differ remarkably when it comes to judging superiority of horseflesh.  Each of us, because we are individuals, judges from a personal set of criteria.  Yet now and then, we come to an agreement on a certain horse.  So it is when horse-lovers think of Congo – never beaten in a race, renowned for his beauty, progenitor of Zancudo and Tabal.
     Congo was foaled in 1941 at La Cascajara, the ranch of Don Jose Maria Ybarra, one of Spain’s preeminent breeders.  (Senior Ybarra gave us Gandhy and Tabal, also.)  Congo’s sire was Illustre, son of Seanderich, a proud Saklawi imported into Spain in 1908 who founded one of the two principal lines pervasive in Spanish breeding today.  It has been said to the point of cliché that Seanderich offspring produce true to type even after six generations.   Today, Seanderich offspring predominate in numbers.  Perhaps as important as his prepotency are the desert attributes preserved through his Spanish Arabian descendants – speed, stamina, intelligence and courage.  Lady Donna Maria Paz Murga Igual (the Condesa de Balalcazar) has called the Seanderich line “the best of the stallion lines.”  But Congo also boasts Ursus blood through his dam, Triana (x Facina), a successful nick merging the breed’s foundational lines.
     The Yeguada Militar purchased Congo in 1945, making it impossible for him to ever leave the country, since Spanish strictures prohibit the exportation of its military stallions or state property.  Some tried, nonetheless.  One such incident is related in the widely circulated story of an American breeder coming upon Congo inadvertently and offering more than a half-million pesetas (against the norm of 3,000 to 5,000 pesetas) for this horse he thought of as “the most perfect Arab he had ever seen and measured.”  Lady Igual reconfirmed this story, which she had originally disclosed in a published letter more than 20 years ago.  “The American was turned down,” she stated, “even though this was an astonishing price.”
     “It was in 1956.  At that moment, Arabs were not at all popular (they always had the so-called Spanish Horse as a rival), and magnificent Arabians were sold for 2,000 or 3,000 pesetas.  As an example:  The beautiful Uyaima, dam of Estopa, granddam of *El Shaklan, was sold by the Yeguada Militar for 1,250 pesetas.”
     Although the name of this countryman has faded from her memory, Lady Igual recollects that he returned to America, where he wrote of Congo in an American horse magazine, which is now defunct.  When asked for assistance, the Kellogg Arabian Horse Library at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, California tried to research this inquiry but, despite their best efforts, the American’s identity remains elusive.  Luis de Ybarra, son of Don Jose Maria, also recalls the American’s visit but not the names.  He adds that the American was also interested in Maquillo.
     Congo was at the Stallion Depot at Jerez with Barguillo, Gandhy, Malvito, Maquillo, and Habiente – all exceptional specimens of their breed – when he was singled out from among the 60 Arab stallion that were there.  “He leapt to fame,” Lady Igual added, “thanks to that American breeder.”
     As with all legends, the Congo story has frequently grown with the telling, obscuring the facts.  He was not, for example, “perfect.”  Most Congo critics agree that he was small for an Arab stallion.  Some say his tail set was too low.
     According to Lady Igual, “Congo was very nearly perfect.  He was well built, but if you wanted to find a fault in him, it was said that his hindquarters were a bit too rounded for a stallion.  I never really noticed this trait, since it was difficult to find imperfection in him and he was so beautiful and clever.  His head was exquisite and he had those mesmerizing eyes that told you he was intelligent and sensitive.”
     Marietta Salas (Princess Tchkotoua), who saw Congo shortly before his death, remarks that “his legs were swollen and his health poor, but he had the most striking eyes that I have ever seen in an Arabian horse.”
     Michael Bowling defined the Spanish “type” along the lines of a long head; extended, high-set neck; low, long-striding trot; and, most notably of all, large eyes, widely set, encased in prominent eye cages of remarkable beauty.  While not the originator of the type, Congo certainly represents many of its trademarks, and, with impressive regularity, bequeathed them to his descendants.
     Congo was also a great race horse, competing against pure Arabians and a few “Hispano-Arabians” (a cross between Andalusian mares and Arabian stallions).  Thoroughbreds began to compete in Spain only in more recent years.  Though Congo never raced against Thoroughbreds, Lady Igual makes the point that his admirers (including the famous horseman Eugenio Luque) insisted that “it would be an extremely interesting contest, with no certainty about the winner, such was Congo’s ability, courage and quickness.
     “Congo always ran at the head of his competitors.  He was absolutely mad if any horse tried to get near him, and he always ended a race several meters ahead of the pack.  Because he was wholly white since the age of two years, he would appear as a silver streak on the track.”
     Lady Igual, who knew Congo well, tells a moving story of Congo’s last living hours.  “I had persuaded Mr. Dan Gainey to come and see the Spanish Arabs – it was an exceedingly kind gesture on his part – and he brought along Mrs. Tish Hewitt of Friendship Farms and Dr. Bryon Good, a professor of animal husbandry at Michigan State University.  Well, they asked to see Congo.  However, Congo was very weak, approaching death.
     “Though this was all explained, they insisted so much that the Chief of the Depot gave in: ‘Well, let’s have Congo brought in.’
     “Congo made his entrance, his head drooping very low, his legs swollen and his eyes misty.  He looked dejected, possibly thinking, ‘What an idea this idiot of a soldier has!  To take me out to drink and I feel so poorly.  They should be bringing the water to me in a bucket.’
     “Trudging slowly, there was a presence about him kindling memories of a past prowess.  Suddenly he saw that he was being taken, not to the watering trough, but into the show ring!  He snapped his head upwards and tried to trot.  It was so terribly human that we all rose, clapped and gave loud cheers.  You could see the gratefulness in those eyes, so haunting in the fixity.  They led him back.  He was happy.  The world had still remembered.  That night he died quickly, and the soldiers at the Depot said, ‘It was too much for his poor old heart’.”
     Congo’s trio of eminent sons is known to Arabian enthusiasts the world over:  Zancudo, Tabal and Dandi II.  Zancudo and Tabal have become especially popular with breeders and are pervasive in quality Spanish pedigrees.  Each has produced a long line of superlative get.
     Tabal (x Hilandera) was foaled in 1952.  He became famous for his typiness and motion.  Like his father, he was born at La Cascajera and subsequently sold to the Yeguada Militar.  Like his father, he represented a genetic convergence of Seanderich and Ursus lines, as his dam, Hilandera, was a Gandhy daughter.
     Tabal’s most famous son is Jacio (x Teorica), foaled in 1968.  Many have considered him Europe’s finest Spanish stallion.  Lisa Goodwin describes him as “small, typey, fine of bone, compact with a neck set deep into big shoulders, and with very high carriage.”  Jay Stream once termed him “the best Arab I have seen in Spain.”
     Jacio’s offspring include *GG Samir of Aramus Arabians, Logandale, Nevada.  Bred by Don Diego Mendez Moreno in 1975, he was imported into the United States in 1976, shortly after becoming champion in Spain as a yearling.  In the United States, he has produced many halter and performance champions.  At the 1983 Scottsdale Show, seven of his get went top ten in halter.  Beginning as a stud at two year of age, he has now sired more than 200 sons and daughters.  At age nine, he can lay claim to siring 21 champions.  His daughter WN Feliz (x WN My Joy), at only three years of age, was 1983 Canadian national pleasure driving champion and 1983 U.S. national top ten in pleasure driving.
     Tabal’s son *Figuroso (x Bahia II) was born in 1966 at the ranch of noted Spanish breeder Don Miguel Osuna.  He is now owned by Lilykate Light of Brighton Stud, Chicago, Illinois.  *Figuroso possesses a neck beautifully arched to the delight of photographers and a refined, chisled head.  In 1974, *Figuroso became national champion of Spain, and currently his progeny include several champion grandget.
     Tabal’s most famous daughter is Estopa (x Uyaima), foaled in 1965.  Indeed, she is one of Europe’s most influential Arabian mares, by way of the Spanish/Egyptian “Golden Cross” breeding employed by her owners, Heinz and Siegrid Merz of Om El Arab, West Germany and the United States.  Estopa’s beauty, type and refined motion elevated her to win the 1978 German national champion mare.  She will soon be “grande dame” in her new home in California.
     Congo’s other principle son, the chestnut stallion Zancudo (x Yaima), foaled at the Yeguada Militar in 1958, also is a dominant factor in Spanish pedigrees.  A refined horse, he personified Spanish type.  Marietta Salas, who knew Zancudo well, stated in an earlier issue of Arabians (November, 1982) that “Zancudo was a very refined horse. He had an extremely long neck, good size, excellent legs and, above all, was a very striking mover.”
     Although Zancudo died of cancer in 1979, more of his grandget have been imported into the United States than those of any other Spanish Arabian.  Of those imported are *AN Malik, sired by Galero; *Gual-Daliki, *Gual-Boukra and *Gual-Ghazir, sired by Galeon; *Nilo, sired by Jaguay; and *Volvoreta, sired by Hacho.
     Zancudo’s son Galero (x Zalema) is probably the most famous of his offspring.  Foaled in 1965 at the Yeguada Militar, Galero was a tall stallion of grey complexion renowned for his refinement, motion and mild disposition and – something else – his slowness with the ladies!
     Lisa Goodwin has described Galero as “overall one of the most beautiful stallions at the State Stud in Jerez.”  He possessed “size and depth with excellent bone and good proportion and the indelible stamp of Spanish breeding, a finely chiseled head and prominent eye.”
     Lady Igual, who employed Galero successfully with her mares, related other details concerning Galero and the story of his fate:
     “I married a Cavalry officer, the Count of Belalcazar, and in 1950 we began to buy Arabians from the Yeguada Militar.  We had as many as six stallions at one time running loose in our garden.  My husband died in 1962, and I found myself with a broodmare band of around 30 head.  At that moment, nobody was interested in Arab horses in Spain.  As I knew very little about them, I tried to learn and asked questions of anyone who could teach me.
     “I bred quite a number of good horses, I think.  *AN Malik’s dam, Ispahan, was bred by me as well as her sire, *Alhabac.  I also bred *Makorr, *Safia (dam of *Sasaki), *Kadidja, who was champion mare of England in 1978, and Garbi, dam of champion *ABHA Hamir.
     “I chose Galero when he was only a two-year-old to be my next stallion for the mares at my farm in Granada.  He had a lovely extension trot for a young horse.  Thus I asked for him to be reserved for me the following year when he would be sent out from the Depot for stallion service.
     “I always took a loving interest in Galero, and I was worried when he was said to be without interest in females.  I knew this was not to be so.  And with Ispahan, he never had any difficulty.
     “When Galero came to my farm I kept him loose, feeling quite sure he was unhappy being kept all day long in a stall and taken out only to be mated.  He would look at the sky and the trees, and even the birds that flew along, trying to profit from his liberty.
     “So I suggested to my friend, Antonio Saez de Montagut, who now had the services of Galero, that he leave him loose for a fortnight, then try him on the mares.  It worked like a charm.  For two weeks, he was in a big alfalfa paddock with an old mare for company.  When the mares came to him, he covered them without difficulty.
     “On the night of March 28, 1982, Galero, along with three young colts, was taken by thieves.  Their absence was not discovered for several hours.  A lorry had driven up to take the horses.  Because the colts were young and not very tame, the thieves perhaps went into the stables to get an older horse to lure them into the van.  There were never any ransom notes, and though the police searched every stable, gypsy camp and slaughter house, these horses were never found, save for one colt wandering the countryside at dawn, a rope dangling from his neck.”
     Galero’s influence lingers on in the United States, as in other places where his distinguished progeny live.  *AN Malik, foaled in 1970, is one of the best-known Spanish stallions in America and a worthy standard-bearer of Zancudo, Galero and the Congo dynasty.  As Dorothy Stream puts it, “He has sired more than 100 foals and they have won more than 100 championships.  *AN Malik’s foals have every bit of his action and presence.”  The Streams imported Galero’s dam, the Congo daughter *Zalema (x Galatife), in 1981.  Today, this grand old lady of 26 is living out her final days as Greengate’s pampered queen.  Stud manger Laurie Thomsen says, “she is in perfect health and trots with high-stepping motion, her tail flowing in the wind.”
     Another Galero son of note in the United States is *El Moraduke (x Fatima).  Bred in 1975 at the Yeguada Militar, he was imported into the United States by the Streams in 1978.  In 1979, he won both Canadian and U.S. national top ten stallion honors.  He is now owned by Owen’s Arabian Ranch of Tempe, Arizona.
     Congo had another notable grandson – in addition to Jacio, *Figuroso and Galero – in the Zancudo son Jaguay (x *Zalema).  Jaguay was foaled at the Yeguada Militar in 1968 and is a full brother to Galero.  A grey stallion; he is known for producing progeny with solid bone and table-top croups.  In the United States, he is ably represented by *Nilo (x Arilla), owned by Snowden Farms of McKinney, Texas, and standing at Alan Morgan Stables.  *Nilo came to America shortly after winning the national champion of Spain designation in 1979.
     Today there is only one living Congo son who is producing foals.  That horse is Zangano, owned by Manas de la Hoz of Madrid, Spain.  His large dark eyes are typical of the get of Congo.
     Spanish breeding has come a long way since the loss of Congo in 1965, and the future mirrors only a receding horizon moving toward a bright Spanish future.  Whatever time bodes, Spanish Arabian breeding owes its present success and future hopes in a large measure to a grey sire who providentially passed its way.
      Rest gently, Congo.  You are not forgotten. For you are with us still.
 

Copyright © 2004 by the Spanish Arabian Horse Society. 
All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author. 

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