The Shagya-Arabian is a historic breed which combines the advantages of the Desert Arabian (elegant type, great hardiness and toughness, endurance, easy keeping, and inborn friendliness toward humans) with the requirements of the modern riding horse. These requirements are sufficient height, big frame, and great rideability including great movement and jumping ability. The International Shagya-Araber Gesellschaft (ISG), is the umbrella organization for the breed and works with all of its international member registries in their efforts to preserve, maintain and promote the breed.
The Shagya Arabian Horse
Shagya-Arabian should be beautiful and balanced, with an expressive face, a well-shaped neck, a good topline, a long croup with a well-carried tail, and strong, dry legs. Most importantly, he should move correctly in all three basic gaits. Shagya-Arabians are typically 15 to 16 hands in height (with occasional individuals over and under) and with a minimum of 7 inches of bone at the cannon. Grey is the most common color, although there are also bay, chestnut and black Shagya-Arabians.
The Shagya-Arabian has been bred to the same requirements for over two centuries and is a noble, versatile and athletic horse.
The Shagya-Arabian Horse was developed in the Austro-Hungarian Empire over 200 years ago. The breed originated from the need for a horse with the endurance, intelligence and character of an Arabian but with larger size and carrying capacity required by the Imperial Hussars. Over time, Shagya-Arabians were utilized both as carriage and light riding horses. The registry of the breed is the oldest next to the registry of the English Hunt Club.
The Shagya-Arabian or "Shagya" breed was originally developed at the Imperial Stud at Babolna, Hungary. Failed experiments with Spanish and Thoroughbred blood eventually led the breeders at Babolna to a cross of native Hungarian mares with stallions of pure Desert Arabian blood. Shagya bloodlines were also developed at the stud farms at Radautz (Hungary), Topolcianky (Czechoslovakia), Mangalia (Rumania), and Kabijuk (Bulgaria).
The breed takes its name from the dapple-grey stallion Shagya, born in 1810. The Bani Saher tribe of Bedouins, who lived in what is now Syria, bred Shagya and sold him to agents of the Habsburg monarchy. In 1836, he became the breeding stallion at Babolna. Shagya was prepotent and appears in almost all Shagya pedigrees (Illustration and Painting above of Shagya).
One of the purposes of the Shagya-Arabian breed has always been as improvers of other breeds. Shagya-Arabian stallions appear in the bloodlines of many warmblood breeds, including the influential stallions Gazal VII, Radautz, and Bajar. The Shagya-Arabian mare "Jordi" is the dam of the great warmblood stallion "Ramzes". "Ramzes" descendant "Rembrandt" won the 1988 Olympic Gold Medal for dressage.
Shagya-Arabians not only served as cavalry horses, they were also prized as parade horses by European royalty. The Imperial Guard of the Habsburgs was always mounted on Shagya-Arabians. Every royal officer regarded it as a privilege to be able to ride a Shagya-Arabian. The toughness, courage, endurance and rideability of these horses was legendary among European horsemen. The motto of the Hungarian breeders was "Nothing but the best is good enough".
Shagya-Arabians were relatively unknown in America before the 1980s, although a few had been imported both before and after World War II. Prior to the founding of the North American Shagya-Arabian Society (NASS) no registry for Shagya-Arabians existed in America, and Shagya-Arabians were sometimes mistakenly registered as either purebred or partbred Arabians.
The American foundation stallion was Hungarian Bravo, whose parents *Pilot (born at the Janow-Podlaski Stud in Poland in 1939) and *52 Gazall II (born at the Balbona State Stud in Hungary in 1937) were brought to America in 1947 under the direction of General Patton as prizes of war. In 1984, Adele Furby discovered Hungarian Bravo at 24 years of age on the ranch of his breeder, Countess Margit Sigray Bessenyey. The following year she was able to purchase him and soon started her Shagya-Arabian breeding program. The official start of Shagya-Arabian breeding in North America followed in 1986, when Adele Furby and other founding members established NASS as the first ISG-recognized Registry for in North America. In 2013 Adele Furby was awarded an Honorary Membership by the ISG in recognition of her establishing the Shagya-Arabian breed in America.
NASS carries out its role by maintaining the Shagya-Arabian Registry of North America (SHARONA). NASS also organizes and conducts Breeding Inspection Tours. To be "approved" for Shagya-Arabian breeding, eligible mares and stallions must be inspected by a panel of judges which are all ISG Certified and selected by NASS. Evaluations of non-breeding stock, including geldings, youngsters and other horses are also offered at breeding inspection sites.
NASS Breeding Inspection Tours were conducted in 1989, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2015. Since 2017 NASS has been holding annual inspection tours based upon demand from its Members.