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History of the Shagya Arab Horse breed

The speciality of the Austrian Hungarian breeding system bases on Queen Maria Theresia Patent written down in 1763. At that time the Europe way of breeding focused on horse color only. Maria Theresia did the first steps toward popularisation of horse breeding. The further steps toward our present breeds are ruffly dividable in arabisation, anglicization and democratisation.

Popularisation means the step from Emperors- and Churches breeding stables towards local, partly private breeding stations, supported by governmental stallions-depots. This became necessary after the „War of Austrian Succession“ in 1751 in which Queen Maria Theresia had to defend her heritage against Friedrich from Prussia. The Empire was not able to compensate the loss of war with enough good horse material and so the enlighted Queen decided to support farmers to breed horses with governmental funds and genetic good material out of their stallion stock. After the inbreeding of Arab Full-blood horses at the end of the 18th century, the anglicization became a fashion by inbreeding  English Full-blood in order to enhance hunting and riding sport at the beginning of the 20th century. The decreasing breeding quality is due to our time called Democratization. It is dominated by small private breeders performing in performance events and hobby activities and we experience the ongoing collapse of the big breeding stations in general, which is problematic especially for horse breeds like the Shagya with 2500 horses worldwide that are in danger to disappear.
The Shagya-breed belongs to the period of the arabization, using the system from Mara Thersia. The name describes the Full Blood Arab Horse Stallion Shagya, brought in 1835 to the Austrian Hungarian Empire, who was in almost every pedigree after World War II. Because of this, the Hippologist Garmatzky named the former AraberrasseShagya“ official in 1978 in order not to be missinterpreted with the Full blood Arab horse.

So the Shagya is a product of its time. At the end of the 18th century the appearance of different phenomenas urged Empires to develop a new kind of horse. Changes in warfare, the possibility of worldwide trade including reliable and faster transport routes, quick postal delivery and the model by Mendel leaded to lighter, fertile and resistance horses. The final breakthrough was caoused by the Napoleon war. Napoleon’s "Grand Armee" was quicker and much greater by numbers through the "General Mobilization" system than any other Army at this time. This leaded up to Napoleons success that brought him till Egypt. By bringing more Arab horse to France and breeding him with English Thoroughbreds, the Anglo Arab Horse breed, the comparable breed to the Shagya, was created. But importing Full Blood Arab horses from the "Middle East" was already common by aristocrats and private horse dealer long time before Napoleon, but from that time on the Austrian Hungarian Empire not only had to started to import this Desert-breed in order to catch up, but had to deal after that War with the huge stock of suddenly useless 20.000 former military horses. By selecting the 500 best out of them in order to develop for the perfect universal talented Army horse, the later Shagya-breed was created. It should be a horse for long distances rides, but also usefully for pulling carriage and Artillery. It should be elegant, impress by a common impressive appearance and proofed fertile capacity as much as excluding all kinds of genetic failures and sicknesses. 

These 500 mares built the so called "Mother-lines". Some of them dating even back to the end of the 18th century and containing often Arab blood already, brought in through the former Turkish invasions and their influence as an direct neighbor of the Austrian Hungarian territory. That selected horses were soon collected in a Studbook. So the former "Araberrasse" focus on the mare stock’s genetic heritage too, that elevates the Shagya-breed towards a higher level that is to classified by insiders as „Half-blood“. Means that this breed is not a Full-blood neither a Worm- and for sure not a Cold-blood horse. Unfortunately this quality in noticed by breeders and specialists only.

The I. World-war ended the Austrian Hungarian Empire and different states were born. The breed was split between those different countries and each one of them had its own breeding policy. After the II. World-war the breed was almost erased and  through the courage of West-european hippologists, the breed was selected from all the Soviet client-states and brought one by one over the border to Switzerland, Germany and Austria. It took them 40 years to save the important bloodlines and only recently the International Shagya community takes the next step to proof the unique performance of that breed in international competition by taking the focus on endurance after they managed to ensure the genetic diversity and guarantee its pureness for inbreeding.

Since 2008 all different international Shagya-breeding communities are unified under one regulation, carried out by the International Shagya Community and the Israeli Society is one of them.

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