Polish Arabian Horses
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska

Two Turkish Horses by Victor Adam
courtesy of the National Library, Warsaw, Poland

"Good Horses are few, like good friends,
Though they appear many to the inexperienced eye."

An old Arab saying


The early history of the Arabian horses started with the Bedouin people. The Bedu tribes of Arabia kept few written records, but they preserved pedigrees by word of mouth. Mohammad said that the first horses came from the Hoshabeb (Yemen). Naz ibn-Umayn lived in 3299 B.C. Boz was the descendant of Shem, the son of Noah (in legend). He owned a mare who produced a colt named Fayad and a filly named Qasameh.

Joktan (Qahtan) was the first king of Yemen, and Ibrahim (Abraham) was a descendant of Joktan's brother, Peleq. Ibrahim had a son named Ishmael. Ishmael married the daughter of Modad (a tribe descended from Qahtan). Ishmael was (by legend) reputed to be the first man to ride a horse, and his descendant Salaman owned five purebred Arabian mares.

The union of Ishmail and Modad (the last leader of the Jorhamites) united the families of Qahtan and Peleg. From Qahtan descended the horse breeding tribes of the Arabs: the Muteyr (Al-Dawish), situated south of Hail; the Banu Hajar, and the Ajman (Ibn Hithlain), found east of the Riyahd to the Gulf. The sons of Ishmael were the Nejd (Rabiah al-Faras, Anazah). Rabiah al-Faras lived in the time of King David. Rabiah owned the horses of his own ancestors. "Zad el-Rakib" a legendary stallion was given to Banu Azd by King Solomon. Zad el-Rakib was the first horse to be given descent in Arabia (the first registered pedigree). His offspring, "Hojeys" ("the young lion"), gave his name to the certificate of pedigree (the hojjah). The first written account of the Arabian was made about 786 by El Kelbi.

Legends say that the Bedouins were so obsessed with keeping their blood pure that they had the practive of sewing up the vagina of their war-mares so no inferior stallion could mate with her when they went on their raids. Good blood lines were the goal. Small bluish beads or talismans were bound into a horse's mane or forelock to protect their prized horses from the evil eye. Horses were often fed camel's milk to sustain them on long desert trips. The horses were pampered as much as possible in the desert. Often they were given food meant for men (their grains and figs) to assure their horse's survival. However, it is reported that Arabian horses were a sturdy lot who could be ridden many more miles than any other breed, and do so with great vigor.

Mohammad's favorite steed was called Os Koub ("the Torrent") because of his speed. The horse is mentioned frequently in many Arab Holy books, as well as their historical accounts.

The Arabians are one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world. The Arab is noble, intelligent, and affectionate, as well as having an exquisite head, high tail carriage, short back, and imposing presence. They are well tempered, courageous, and vigorous with an endurance like no other.

Arabians have seventeen (17) ribs, five (5) lumbar vertebrae and sixteen (16) tail bones, while other horses have eighteen (18) ribs, six (6) lumbar vertebrae, and eighteen (18) tail bones. They are 14.3 hands or fifty-nine (59) inches tall.


Purchasing An Arabian Horse (1850) by January Suchodolski
courtesy of the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland/T.Zoltowska

The Poles loved these characteristics for their cavalry force. King Sigmund Augustus (1548-1572) had a Royal Stud farm, called Knyszn, that bred pure Arabians.

In the 17th century, Polish noblemen sent emissaries out to search for the noblest desert horses from the Middle East. Prince Sanguszko at Slawuta, Count Branicki at Bialocerkiew, Count Dzieduszycki at Jarczowce, and Count Potocki at Antoniny were some of the best known breeders. The studs at Gumniska and Antoniny were founded with mares from Slawuta .

In the 19th century, Polish Arabs contributed to breeding pure-breds and half-breeds. The Polish silver-grey Obejan Srebrny was born in 1851. He had a line that descended through his foals to the Russian stud farm Strelet that was later known as the Tersky. Tersky is a breed similar to the Russian Strelet, which was in danger of extinction. They were taken to the Tersk stud farm at Stravopol in the northern Caucasus Mountains in the former U.S.S.R. They were mated with purebred Arabs, Kabardins, and Dons. In 1948, the Tersky had emerged as an official breed. The Tersky was a tough athletic horse. Today they race against Arabs in endurance competitions, and are used in harness by the army. Terskys are good-natured in temperment.

The Polish stallion Bagdady became a Hungarian stud at Babolna stud farm, and another called Ban Azel was sold to Emperor Franz Josef for the stud at Lipizza. A grey named Skowronek came from the Antoniny stud. While the stallions Urcus and Van Dyck were studded to Spain.

During World War I and the Russian Revolution, Slawuta, Bialocerkiew, and Antoniny studs were destroyed. Count Josef Potocki owned the Antoniny stud. He inherited some Slawuta horses through his mother, Maria, daughter of Prince Roman Sanguszko. Count Potocki died (in 1918) defending his stud from the Bolsheviks. His mares were burned alive and his stallions hanged or beheaded. This whole scene gives another yet reason why the Poles hated the Russians.

For More About the Potocki Family - CLICK HERE

The desert stallion, Pharaoh, was purchased from Crabber stud (founded by Wilfred and Anne Scawen Blunt), in 1882, and other stallions came from Egypt, Turkey, India, and Arabia. The Blunts purchased what was left of the Arabians of Abbas Pasha I. These horses were the basis of U.K., U.S., Austrailian, and South African Arabians.

The Dzieduszycki family had studs at Jarczowce that were lost, stolen or killed off during World War I. Count Juliusz brought the desert stallion, Bagdad for an enormous price. In 1845, he returned with seven (7) stallions; including Abu Hejl, and three mares (Sahara, Mlecha, and Gazella).

Of the five hundred (500) broodmares from Polish stud farms, only forty-six (46) were still alive in 1926.

However, the state stud at Janow Podlaski (founded in 1817), in 1918, had four mares from the Jarczowce's blood (the three mares mentioned above). In 1926, a Polish Arab horse breeding society was established.

In 1803, Prince Sanguszko was the first to import horses from the east. The studs were Slawuta (b. 1877), Chrestowska, Antoniny, and Gumniska. Prince Roman Sanguszko was killed during the Russian Revolution in 1917. At Gumniska, Prince Roman III gathered the rest of the remaining Polish studs and breed mares. In 1919, the breeding program was re-established at Janow Podlaski. Witraz, Otir, Makuta, Dziwa, and Fetysz were bred there.

In 1930, Prince Roman sent his stud manager, Boghan von Zietarski and German Carl Schmidt (later known as Raswan) to buy new Arabs. They acquired Bedouin (a mare) and a stallion of the kehilan haifi strain. Then, in 1931, von Zietarski returned to Gumniska with five stallions and four mares (including Bedouin, the pearl of Arabia).

Kuhailan Zaid (a stallion) was purchsed for Babolna, the Hungarian state stud ranch. The other stallions were Kuhailan Haifi and Kuhailan Afas (ancestors of Comet) Among the foals born to Kuhailan Haifi was Ofir, a great Polish sire. Ofir was at Janow Podlaski from 1937 until 1939, when he was taken by the Russians.

The four males and four females that were saved were Witraz, Weiki Szlem, and Witwz II. Witraz's son, Bask, became the leading sire of the U.S.A. champions. Witraz's mare heirs were Bandola (the "Legend of Janow") who was produced Bandos and Banat (stud stallions).

Kukailan Haifi sired Czort who sired the race horses: Sambor and El Paso.

In September 1939, the Soviets took the Janow Podlaski studs including Ofir. Ofir was then the stud at Tersk and made a contribution to the Russian Arabians. The Tersk stud was founded on French, Crabbat, and Polish bloodlines.

In 1944, Janow Podlaski was evacuated to Germany. These studs were returned to Poland in 1946. The sons of Ofir were Witraz, Wielki Szilem, and Amuruth Sahib. In 1946, fifty-two (52) mares were registered in the Polish Arab horse stud book.

By 1961, Janow Podlaski was completed. In 1973, three more stud farms were established: Michalow (the largest state stud farm after World War II), Kurozweki (with champions Euforia and Eukaliptus), and Bialka. Polish Arab horses were sought by breeders all over the world. Banat, Bandos, Struria, Penitent, Pilarska, Dornaba, Aramus, Wizja, Gwalior, Elkana, and Erros were some of the best. Dr Skorkowski and Dr. Ignacy Jaworowsky were responsible for their breeding success.

Poland and Hungary often exchanged breeding stock. For 173 years Hungary was ruled by the Turks until they became a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1699. In 1811, Tajar, a white Arabian stallion arrived in Hungary and became the stud of Count Josef Hunyadi. He was purchased by Count Rzewuski.

The 1998 Polish National Reserve Champion mare from Michalow was Warszula. Baron von Fechtig began importing Arabs. Bairactar and Murana I went to Weil stud farm in Germany in 1816. From 1826-1855, the Baron bred his own Arabs.


In 1789, the Babolna stud farm was established in Hungary, by Emperor Josef II, and claims to be the oldest breeder in the world. Its first recorded stud was founded by Prince Arpad (d. 907). Josef II founded a Veterinary College in Budapest, and deeded the building of the famous Mezohegyes stud farm in 1785. In 1816, they bought stallions from Baron von Fechtig. Babolna's stock fell to epidemics and hard times, so Major von Herbert who went to Syria for new stallions and mares. Shagya was a gray stallion bred by the Banu Sakr tribe, of Syria, and he founded a breed of his own in 1830. Von Herbert went to Egypt in 1843 and brought back nine (9) more stallions. They had six hundred horses at Babolna. In 1856, Colonel von Brudermann, head of the Babolna stud, went back to the desert after the Austro-Hungarian wars of 1848, and brought back sixteen (16) stallions, fifty (50) mares, and a Bedouin boy who refused to leave his father's horse. Two of these stallions were selected by the Emperor Franz Josef for the stud farm Lipizza.

The Bedouin boy (Fadllah ed-Hedad) grew up to be an army officer. In 1885, he grew up to lead another trip to Arabia for horses. O-Bajan, a black managhi stallion, was purchased along with three other stallions and five mares.

O'Bajan's gravestone reads:



Sire O'Bajan, Dame Manechie
was born in 1880 in Tell-El-Keladi, Syria
Bought for 6,000 francs in 1885;
for 25 years covered mares here.
He sired 312 foals
of whom 112 became premium stallions
and 56 brood mares.

Died 1910


Fadllah returned to the desert for more Arabs and returned with four mares, including Semrie of the umm argub strain and stallions Mersuch and Siglavy Bagdady.

The Romanians seized more than one hundred Hungarian horses at the end of World War I. In 1931, Babolna needed new stallions and Kuhaylan Zaid was brought back by Bogdan von Zietarski. From Kuhaylan Zaid came the foal Kemir IV (b 1971), who left 35 foals of his own. Like Polish studs, Hungarian studs were stolen or lost during World War II. In 1968, they imported Ibn Galah and Faraq, grandsons of Nazeer.

The Arabians of Poland, Hungary, and Germany were linked in early times. Top sires and dams cost over $1,000,000 each today. In 1735, the cost was from $500-3,000 English pounds.

Today, in the U.S.A., the majority of the Arabian studs were founded on the horses from the Crabber Park stud in England. In 1906, Homer Davenport went in quest of the Arabian with a letter from President "Teddy" Roosevelt, and returned from Syria with a group of stallions and mares. Today the U.S.A. is the largest breeder of Arabian horses with 588,399 registered Arabians. Poland has 6,998 registered Arabs. Russia has 4,715 registered, while Hungary has 687; Lithuania has 118; Turkey has 6; and Syria has 1,032.

Many of the horses in war torn zones are not registered, or have lost ground because of the wars.

For more information see my HORSE LINKS


Amirsadeghi, Hossein. Arabians. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998.

Draper, Judith. The Book of Horses and Horse Care. London: Hermes House, 2000.

Edwards, Elwyn Hartley. The Encyclopedia of the Horse. New York: DK Publishing, Inc., 1994.

Kidd, Jane (editor). International Encyclopedia of Horses and Ponies. New York: Howell Book House, 1995.


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