The Hungarian Breed



In 1784 when Mezöhegyes was established, Hungary had about 1 1/2 million horses. The army needed 10,000 per year in peace, 15,000 during wars, and about 40,000 were exported; consequently half of the mares had to foal each year. Of the privately owned horses ten% were on stud farms of the aristocracy and the rest, 90%, on working farms.
Mezöhegyes had to deliver yearly 1000 horses for the cavalry, send stallions to the breeding stations serving farmers, and send 40 good stallions to Austrian breeding stations.
In 1809 when there was war with France, Mezöhegyes collected and sent 13,000 horses for the army and a greater number was returned for breeding and rehabilitation.
This was the distribution of mares and stallions around 1800:

  • 54% Moldavian mares, probably from Radautz which was the biggest imperial stud farm, over 60 miles long. All had oriental blood, many were "Araber Rasse" which we call Shagya today.
  • 22% German,, Neapolitan, Spanish.
  • 13% Cherkess. Cherkessk or Cirkassia , inhabited by Cherkess people, which is in Russia between the North Caucasus Range and the Black Sea. (They still breed and export horses today.)
  • 8% Hungarian.

Following the fashions of the day and attempting to breed bigger, stronger horses, the stallions were:

• Spanish: 6
• Transylvanian: 4 (remember the Turkish, Arab influence there)
• Lipizzan 3; (Karst mountain breed from Spanish stock, now Slovenia, used in the Spanish Riding School in Vienna)
• Berber: 2 (Arabs of North Africa)
• German: 2 (Holstein, Mecklenburg)
• English Thoroughbred: 1

While the word Arabian does not appear on the list, there was considerable Arab influence in both mares and stallions. I have written on Arab blood in the great performers of our day and found that many champions have a DROP of Arab blood from an ox in the fourth generation, while others have a Shagya in the second line of ancestors. Czekonics may have known this.
In Mezohegyes at the beginning they used the criterion of conformation, rather then breeding, in pairing.
In 1854 Prince Lobkowitz became the commander of the establishment. He emphasized the necessity to develop " constant breeds". That meant line breeding and inbreeding.

Here are the breeds they have developed

Nonius was born in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars in Calvados, Normandy. He was 3/8 Thoroughbred, 5/8 Norman. Today we would call him an Anglo-Norman. The director of the Deux Ponts stud farm described him as an ugly foal. Austrian armored cavalry took him and other horses from the Rosieres stud farm in France to Austria. He ended up in Mezöhegyes, where people were critical of his conformation.

(Breeding is not an exact science. They had the gut feeling that they needed this Norman blood. It took several generations of experimenting, and Arab blood, to develop today’s handsome Nonius.)

As a founding stallion of a line he is called Nonius Senior. From 1816 on he bred mainly Spanish and Neapolitan mares. An experiment failed when he bred his daughters and this produced 33 foals. Only two mares became breeding quality and one became a main stallion. 11 died. The pairing with Spanish - Neapolitan mares was a success: He produced 79 stallions and 122 mares.

After 1865 they added Arab and Thoroughbred stallions on Nonius mares.

Felver is such a handy word: Teliver in Hungarian is a full blood= purebred horse, Thoroughbred. A horse which is half Thoroughbred is a half-bred: felver. . To produce a felver you take a mare you have and use a Thoroughbred stallion. On the progeny you use another Thoroughbred or Felver stallion. This was done around 1900 in Mezöhegyes, Kisber and other farms. (Because the Trakhener horses were similarly bred, they are also sometimes referred to as “felver”.) If you read books on horse breeds published in English during this time period, you will find reference to the “Hungarian Halfbred” – the Felver. A “Kisber Felver” then is a horse of this breeding from the Kisber stud farm.

The Thoroughbred stallions were carefully chosen for size, conformation and quiet temperament. When the progeny got too great a percentage of Thoroughbred blood, the Army was pleading for quieter remounts - as we will see in the case of Kisber.

The Thoroughbred Furioso was born on the farm of Count György Karolyi in 1836. North Star was born in England in 1844. While other Thoroughbreds were also used, these two stallions exercised an important influence on the Furioso- North Star line. Because of the generations of Thoroughbred crosses, the Furioso horses were a type of Felver.

The mares used had more or less Arab and Nonius blood, which has influenced the size and elegance of the progeny. Most Furioso Northstars are dark brown and sixteen hands or bigger.

In 1817 Mezöhegyes sent a mixed group of mares to Babolna to be bred by a chestnut original Arabian stallion. This resulted in the production of six chief stallions for Mezöhegyes.

All living Gidrans today are chestnuts and descendents of Gidran II whose dam was Spanish. They excel in jumping.

In 1789 the Austrian government purchased an estate to be used as a resting place for animals driven to Vienna. Soon breeding was started. Since 1816, only Arab mares were used. The first Arab stallions came from Rosiere, France with Nonius Senior. Siglavi 4 was purchased in Istambul.

Between 1836 and 1901 seven expeditions were organized which brought about 150 Arabs to Babolna.

The Bruderman expedition (1865-67) spent a year in Syria, Palestine and in the desert and purchased 14 stallions and 32 mares.

They also brought a groom along who did not wanted to be separated from his horse. His name was Fedlallah el Heddad. He started as a rider- groom in Babolna. From 1899 to 1913 Colonel Michael el Heddad was the commander of Babolna. He conducted three highly successful expeditions to buy Arabs. To know the language helps.

When the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture took over the breeding farms under Ferenc Kozma in 1867 more consistent practices were introduced. At the World Exposition in Paris in 1900 Babolna and several of its horses were given Grand Championships and Gold Medals.

In 1932 a great hyppologue, General Tibor de Pettko-Szandtner became the commander. He also promoted the popularity of the Babolna’s Shagya Arabs by competing internationally with pairs and teams.

(The Kisber page is at www.kisbergidran.hu)

Count Kazmer Batthany's estate was confiscated for participating in the 1848 revolution and in 1853 it became an imperial stud farm.

As breeding had to serve the needs of the army, and the cavalry needed fast and strong remounts, Thoroughbred stallions were used to produce Felvers. By 1940 the army requested quieter horses and two Trakehner stallions - Format who became in Hungary Formas, and Goldlack who became Szeplak - were exchanged for two Furioso Northstar stallions. They had considerable influence on size and temperament.

(When the HHAA exchanged semen with the Kisber Association we received Szeplak XVIII ‘s semen. Our members have several Szeplak XVIII foals.)

Let us to explain the way horses are named in Hungarian government stud farms. A mare or stallion at birth receives the father’s name and an Arab numeral indicating it to be the first, second, etc. foal of the stallion. A mare or gelding keeps this name.

A young stallion was usually assigned to a rural breeding station manned by a stud service soldier, or to a reliable farmer to breed local mares. When his get, at age three or four, has shown outstanding qualities of conformation, speed, endurance etc. he was promoted to be a Chief Stallion and was given a roman numeral after his name. Frequently he was assigned to a stud farm.

Thus Szeplak XVIII is the son of Szeplak VII, who is the son of Szeplak I, who is the son of Szeplak Senior (Goldlack), who came from Trakehnen. A new Chief Stallion from this line will get the next roman number. He may not be Szeplak XVIII’s son. The Szeplaks with numbers between VII and XVIII are brothers, uncles or cousins of Szeplak XVIII.

The same numbering system is used in Babolna. Thus when the famous stallion Amor came from Switzerland to breed mares in Babolna he had the name Gazal XII.)