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[RC] History of the Shagya-Arabian - Donna Coss

Someone asked this question:

/"What is the origin of the Shagya Arabian?  The only place I've ever heard of
them is through your posts."

/Just in the event there are others unfamiliar with this breed, here is a brief history. Those of us who have Shagyas are passionate about the breed and I apologize, can bore you to death! There is a unique character about these horses and this is fact, not fiction!!

200 years ago when the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was at its height of power, they decided to create the PERFECT CAVALRY HORSE! A blue print was made, 15.2 to 16.1, good feet, legs, good riding conformation, able to carry weight, a temperament that would allow anyone to ride, good keepers, existing on 2 cups of grain a day, and of course the ability to travel long distances!

They went out into the desert and brought back five Arabian stallions, one was very tall, and named "Shagya" The original mares were Arabian, Barb, Throughbred and domestic Hungarian mares. Never in the history of the horse has an experiment been done with the financial means to do this. State stud farms were established around the country. Babolna became one of the major farms in the development of this new breed.

A stallion was allowed to breed up to 90 mares and after 3-4 years these foals were evaluated with endurance criteria etc. IF a stallion's foals were deemed superior he was named and became one of the Chief Stallions. If not, simply gelded and went to the Cavalry! This is the kicker because, the demand for Cavalry horses was inexhaustible and stallions could be cut without anyone really having a problem. The Hungarians were superior horseman and they knew what they wanted!

The breeding continued for 200 years with ONLY PUREBRED ARABIANS ALLOWED AS AN OUTCROSS, BUT limited to only nine in the fourth generation. They did not want the breed to become just another Arabian! The performance testing continued for these 200 years and ALL of the breeding stock had to pass inspection before it could be registered and approved for breeding. This continues on to the present day!

Before WWII, the Shagya was called the "Diamond of the horse world" and 3000 or more were being produced on an annual basis. Europeans loved the Shagya, which at that time were just called "Half-breds"! The name Shagya was not even in existence until 1978 when the ISG, the governing body for international direction of the breed, was formed. Some believe the Shagya is a strain of Arabian--it is not!

When WWII was ended, the breed was down to about 300 individuals. This small number has increased to about 3000 worldwide and maybe 200 in the U.S. It has been a struggle to bring the breed back. What did remain in the breed is the somehow potent breed characteristics that are passed on when crossed with other breeds, especially Thoroughbred and some of the Warmblood breeds. The most famous of these is RAMZES, who is called a century stallion, because of his influence in Warmblood breeding. The "R" line is still an important bloodline. RAMZES was an Anglo/Shagya, his dam was a purebred Shagya mare.

The history of the Shagya is sometimes obscure because the Europeans considered these horses "Arabians" even though they had their *own* 200 year old studbook. Many pedigrees say OX when they should say Sh/A This still goes on today and is one of the reasons the breed doesn't receive the credit it deserves.

The French with their Anglo/Shagya breeding (termed Anglo-Arab) discovered the magic cross. Some Shagyas are being discovered for endurance and are doing well. Georgat and Fayette deCameo, prime examples! Shagya stallions offering new blood lines have recently been imported from Europe. Here is a 200 year old breed just on the verge of "being discovered"!

There is no doubt the breed has a lot to offer the endurance rider and hopefully individual Shagyas will make friends one by one! It's taking a long time, this way, but someday maybe the breed will take it's place with other prominent and well known breeds.

It would be an advantage if the AHA would allow them to be exhibited in their own breed classes at AHA shows, so that breeders would become familiar with the Shagya. But, because the breed numbers are so low and because the Shagyas have their own registry, is their any reason for AHA to care about the Shagya! Now that the Sport Horse division has been created, the half Arab/half Shagya sport horse is a natural and hopefully we will see more of them shown?!!

I also believe that the MORAB folks should consider them as an accepted cross, because a 200 year old breed, with only Arabian allowed as an outcross, surely could be considered "Arabian"! But again, they do not understand the concept!!

Thanks for the space and if you have a chance find a Shagya and give a hug because most of them love attention!



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