Back to
Spanish History
The Spanish Arabian Stud Book
By Cristina Valdes Colon de Carvajal

The following words appear in the preface of Volume One of the Spanish Stud Book, which was published in 1885, although its records date back to 1848:

All those stallions, mares, and Arab produce imported into Spain that are not registered in a Stud Book with the regulations detailed further on, or whose parents are not registered, will not be admitted if their country of origin is not in the following boundaries:

To the North, the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea; to the West, the Suez channel and the Red Sea; to the South, the Gulf of Aden and the Sea of Oman; and to the East, the Persian Gulf and the Tigris; these limits include Syria, Al-Djezireh (Mesopotamia) and Arabian, this last divided into five main provinces:  El-Irak, El-Hauran, El-Edjas, El-Yemen, and El-Hadromout, commonly known under the generic name of Nedjd.

No inscription will be given without the certificates of origin (Hudjes), which should indicate the name of the family owning the horse and the name of the tribe where it was born.

      Recorded in the first volume of the Spanish Stud Book were 27 males and 12 females imported from the desert by Queen Isabel II in 1850; two stallions imported by the King in 1879; one horse born in Spain; and finally, the importation of the Cria Caballar (the military remount) from France in 1885, which included six stallions and one mare.  Volume Two, which recorded the years 1886 and 1887, had an even smaller number of horses:  12 males and three females.  The next few volumes are similar in numbers, and some do not include any mares at all.  Almost all of the registered horses were imported; very few were born in Spain.
     Despite the small numbers, the very existence of the stud book and the strict controls that were placed on registration are important today because they indicate the careful scrutiny that was given to the purebred Arabian.
     In Volume Twelve (1906-1907), the number of registered horses increased with more Spanish-bred horses, as well as the first importations from Poland (then registered in the stud book as coming from Russia).  The years 1908 to 1912 saw dramatic growth, with 109 new importations, mainly from Poland, Egypt, and the desert, along with several from Great Britian and France.  Although these imports were mainly used as outcrosses for the military and cavalry horses, the military stud was diligent in maintaining a purebred herd from with to obtain stallions.  These stallions were then sent to depositos throughout Spain, where they were bred to privately owned mares.
     Private studs began to flourish at the turn of the century, and thanks to the dedication of those early breeders, the Spanish Arabian Stud book is perhaps the oldest one in existence, with one of the most comprehensive collections of documents of origin to be found anywhere in the world.  Before the private breedrs took an active role in Arab breeding, many bloodlines were lost; but with their intervention, Spain acquired and maintained some of the best bloodlines to be found at that time.  In 1910 the Marques de Domecq bought the desertbred mare Zulima, founding one of the most important studs in the country.  Other breeders of note were Don Jose Maria del Cid; Don Jose Maria Ybarra, who bought Babilonia (Korosko x Salambo), an extremely important mare in Spanish breeding, in 1920; and the Guerrero brothers, who imported a large group of Arabian horses from France in 1923.  Last, but not least, Cristobal Colon, fifteenth Duke of Veragua, started breeding Arabians at his farm Valjuanete in 1926.  The Duke of Veragua imported 12 mares and two stallions from England, including Razada (Shahzada x Ranya) and five Skowronek daughters, and later acquired all the female stock as well as a stallion from the Marques de Domecq.  These foundations horses made his breeding program one of the most influential in Spain.
     Just before the Spanish Civil War, the breeding of Arabians in Spain was flourishing.  Volume 24 of the stud book, which covers the period of 1932-1934, includes the registrations of almost 900 horses, a great number of them belonging to private breeders.  But then the disastrous repercussions of the war, which lasted from 1936 to 1939, are reflected in the next stud book.  Volume 25 records entries from 1935 to 1943 – only 606 horses were registered.  Many of those were new entries, which indicates the actual loss of horses was much greater; perhaps as many as 700.  Although the studs in the south of Spain did not suffer the direct consequences of the war, the Duke of Veragua’s stud was on the front line.  Fortunately, many horses were saved through the efforts of the national calvary, with took them to safety in the south.  However, with the sudden moving of the stud, identification of young stock became nearly impossible.  When the war broke out, the mares taken were either in foal or had foals at foot, or both.  While their purity was well known, the sires or dams of many of those foals could not be proven.  These became the “Vera” mares, which have since contributed so much to our breeding.
     What at first appeared to be a tragic setback in purebred Arab breeding in Spain instead became a very important element in selection.  The postwar stud book reflected a continued decrease in numbers of horses registered, but rigid culling ensured that only the finest stock was kept, and breeding continued with a rich pool of diverse bloodlines.  After 1939, very few horses were imported to Spain.
     As the interest in Arab horses grew in the late sixties, the number of registrations began to climb once again.  Volume 39 of the stud book, the last volume published, records approximately 1,700 horses.  New breeding programs have been established, and the interest of thes breeders, combined with the dedicated efforts of the older, established studs, have made Arab breeding in Spain flourish once more.  The high-level competition in our shows has also become an important selection factor, encouraging continued improvement in the quality of Arabs bred in Spain.
     Despite all the difficulties the Arabian has endured in our country, Spain still has more bloodlines that go straight back to the desert than any country in the world.  Also, the foundation bloodlines from Poland can, in many cases, be traced back further with complete documentation than many of the horses existing in Poland today.  The bloodlines we imported from France no longer exist in that country; and from England we obtained the best lines of Crabbet.  The end result has been the formation of a genetic pool recognized worldwide for its good and consistent qualities, and has made the breeding of purebred Arabians in Spain a source of great pride for its breeders.

Copyright 2004 by Cristina Valdes Colon de Carvajal  
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.


Back to
Spanish History
Website by Carousel WebDesign
Created 12/11/2004