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A History of the Russian Arabian


Arabians have been known in Russia since times out of mind. Russian chronicles of the 12th century talk about some wonder–horses called  far', which was corrupted Arabian faras, the horse. Those rare specimens were extremely valued and treasured in Russia. But unfortunately they were too few to have produced a noticeable imprint on Russian breeding in those days.
    Later on Oriental horses with Arabian and Turkish blood came to be known in Russia as argamaks. They were used, although quite disorderly, to produce light horses for the Royalty and cavalry.
     At the Royal Stables of Ivan the Terrible (1530–84) there were many argamaks and pure–blood Arabians. Early in the 18th century Russian studs used about 100 Arabian sires.

Orlov and Rostopchin

Alexey Orlov, a brilliant courtier at the court of Katherine II and the defeater of the Turkish fleet at Chesme, went down in Russian equine history for his famous Orlov trotters and Orlov mounts, the latter are more known under the name of Orlov–Rostopchins. In creating those breeds he drew heavily on Arabian blood.
     In the latter half of the 18th century, in the era of Russo–Turkish wars, Orlov brought to Russia a large number of Arabians. He received more than 30 stallions and many mares as gifts from Turkish dignitaries and from the Sultan himself. Alibei and Orlov Arabian were sent to England to be used as sires, 18 horses were given to Empress Katherine II, and 12 stallions and 9 mares were used at Orlov's stud for crossings.
     Orlov also bought Smetanka, an Arabian stallion of outstanding distinction. He paid for Smetanka a staggering price of 60,000 roubles. To get an indication of the sum, in 1774 the budget of the Russian State Horse Breeding Department was 25,000 roubles, and seven state studs sold horses for 5,609 roubles
     Smetanka was a silvery gray, 153.4 cm. He was noted for type, dryness of constitution and elongated body (his autopsy revealed 19 spinal vertebrae and an extra pair of ribs). He was used by Orlov during one season only and fell in 1777 to leave his sons Polkan I, Felkerzam I, Bovka, Lyubimets, and a daughter Smetanka. 
    Another stallion of excellence, the brown Sultan I, was brought to Russia in 1775 and, like Smetanka, fell after the first breeding season, having produced three sons and a daughter.
     Despite their very short breeding careers, Smetanka and Sultan I were of phenomenal influence in Russian horse–breeding and became the founders of the Orlov trotters and Orlov mounts (Orlov–Rostopchins). At Orlov's Khrenovoye stud the progeny of Sultan I, Smetanka and other prominent Arabians were widely used in a variety of crossings.
     In 1802 Count Rostopchin bought in Arabia the stallions Rishan, Kaimak, and Kadi and used them on Thoroughbred, Persian, Karabakh, and Don mares to create the horse that came to be known as the Rostopchin.
     In 1842 Orlov's and Rostopchin's studs were bought by the Crown and merged to give rise to the Orlov–Rostopchin horse.
     In the 1840s 44 Russian studs were breeding pure–blood Arabians or using them in crossings with other breeds. In 1862 and 1866 more Arabian stallions and mares were brought to Russia from the Arab countries.
     Early in the 20th century the standards of Arabian breeding in Russia were very high. Russian Arabians were exported to many countries. Especially noteworthy among them were Burgas, Pritsel, Obejan Serebrni. Wan Dyck, Ursus, and Gazella

The beginnings of Tersk

At the turn of the century Count Stroganov & Prince Sherbatov undertook several voyages to Arabia and Syria. They brought to Russia many valuable Arabian horses. Sherbatov founded a stud to produce half–bred horses for cavalry. The stud was quite successful and Sherbatov's horses were winning awards at exhibitions.
     Stroganov founded on 21 June 1889 a stud in Northern Caucasus that is currently known as Tersk. The stud began to produce pure–blood Arabians, and Arabian–Kabardin crosses. And for more than a century to date that stud is home of what is known as the Russian Arabian.
     More important perhaps are the contributions of the two friends to the understanding in Russia of the importance of Arabians for Russian breeding and a new approach to their breeding.
     In 1901 on their suggestion and with their contributions the Stud Book of Arabian Horses in Russia with Pedigrees was published in St.Petersburg.
     Stroganov and Sherbatov could rightly be called fathers of the Russian Arabian.

New foundation stock

In the turmoil of the Civil War of 1917–20 the Tersk stud lost its stock, and so when on 11 February 1921 the stud was restored, it was necessary to start from scratch.(Foundation Stock)
     In 1930 the gray Koheilan IV was bought in Hungary, and from France came six pure–blood Arabian mares and a stallion. In 1939 from England came 6 Arabian stallions and 19 mares.
     In 1939 a large group of Arabians arrived from Poland, and 9 more Arabian mares from Germany were added to the Tersk stock in 1947.
     The modern Russian Arabian breeding program was thus begun in 1930 at Tersk. Ever since the stud has accumulated much experience and produced dozens of superb individuals.
     In March 1976 a WAHO commission visited Tersk. It confirmed the high quality of the stock there and recognized the pure–blood origins of all the horses except for Amara and Basma imported from Egypt in 1973.
     In 1986 some stock was transferred to Khrenovoe, the stud founded by Count Orlov. The Arabian department at Khrenovoe is quite successful. The Khrenovoe horses compete with the Tersk Arabians on the track.

New times in Russia

After Perestroika some top–flight Russian horse–breeders fascinated with that equine race founded several private Arabian studs. These studs are more flexible and entrepreneurial than Soviet–style farms, they are open to cooperation and joint projects. One example is Oros.
     But after the demise of the USSR all ex–Soviet republics found themselves in a crisis. The political and economic position of Russia have been weakened in many spheres, including the horse industry.
     It is going to take some time for Russian civil servants to understand their new role in a market economy; Russian breeders will have to master elements of that market economy, and so forth.
     Unfortunately, this temporary setback is being taken advantage of by some "well–wishers" who are using every trick in their vet and other bags to stop Russian Arabians from competing in international markets. Their intentions are all too apparent. They have nothing to do with fair play.
     Russian horsemen have been hardened by the many upheavals, and now they respond with a measure of philosophic stoicism to ridiculous hurdles being put out from time to time by those "well wishers".
     We'll survive!



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Russian nobleman of
the 16th century hunting

R.A.Frentz, watercolor,
Horse Breeding Museum

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Smetanka.jpg (7247 bytes)

Horse Breeding Museum


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A. Orlov–Chesmensky in a sledge drawn by Bars

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