Crabbet explained

You may have heard the term ‘Crabbet’ applied to Arabian horses, but do you know exactly what it means? Many breeders will say that they have a Crabbet Arabian mare or stallion when in reality the animal in question has little or no Crabbet blood.


Coronation Stables at Crabbet Park with Lady Wentworth and Stallions(grey)Without entering into a protracted history of the Crabbet Arabian, Crabbet began as a stud founded by Lady Anne Blunt and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt on 2 July 1878 with the importation of what Lady Anne Blunt said were the best Arabian horses from Arabia.  Today, descendants of the imported mares are found across the globe, including South Africa.

When Lady Anne Blunt died in 1917, her daughter Judith obtained her mother’s titles and became the 16th Baroness Wentworth. It was under the ownership of Lady Wentworth that the Crabbet Arabian horses were popularised globally.

The Crabbet was sought-after for his outstanding temperament, sound athletic conformation, excellent movement and performance ability, and these qualities have caused a resurgence in popularity among the endurance and sport horse markets. It is for this reason that it is vital that breeders should be aware of the importance of applying the correct terminology to the horses they breed, Crabbet or otherwise.

What is a Crabbet?

A Crabbet Arabian is strictly a horse whose pedigree in its entirety traces to horses owned, bred or brought in by one of the following owners of Crabbet: Lady Anne Blunt, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Lady Wentworth and Cecil John Covey. A horse with some of his ancestors being Crabbet, by definition does not make that horse Crabbet. Approximately 90% of Arabians in the world today trace their ancestry in one or more lines to Crabbet horses – but this does not make 90% of the world’s horses Crabbet.

Changing fashion

South Africa found itself in a unique position where some of the finest Crabbet Arabians such as Raktha, Royal Crystal, Shalwan and Azrak, to name just a few, were brought upon her shores, and for a long time South Africa was home to large numbers of excellent Crabbet horses. The style, however, began to change and breeders diluted their Crabbet blood in order to breed a more fashionable Arab, and as a result pure Crabbet numbers dwindled to just a handful.

Indelible mark

There is no disputing that Crabbet lines and the Crabbet influence have left an indelible mark on Arabian breeding around the world. However, for those breeders who continue to breed the Crabbet Arabian, it is only fair that they be protected in what has become a fierce market place to sell the Arabian horse. Not only are Crabbet breeders preserving the precious Crabbet blood, they are affording other breeders the opportunity to make use of horses who have been bred for their functionality and versatility.

In conclusion, we should be careful not to undermine Crabbet breeders’ dedicated efforts in keeping the Crabbet bloodlines untainted, and become more judicious when simply referring to any Arabian as Crabbet.

For more on the Arabian in SA, visit the Arab Horse Society of South Africa.

Text: Wesley Hayes, Photography: Courtesy of Wesley Hayes

This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of HQ Magazine.