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Arab Mare and Foal (1898)

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Notes: The original post which formed the basis of a brief article first published in the Crabbet Heritage Magazine - August 2019. The picture is a pencil drawing of an Arab Mare and Foal, from 1898 which I have had restored and now hangs in pride of place on my landing picture gallery.

Apart from birds, nature and the Countryside, my other big passion has been horses. At one time I ran a small livery yard and thoroughbred stud. And also ran a few native ponies on the New Forest , courtesy of a distant cousin who was a Verderer.

Does this Arab mare have Egyptian or Desert heritage ... perhaps with your readers help we may get a little closer to knowing.

So what we have here is a very fine pencil drawing, of what l think is an Arab mare and foal, dated to 1898, by an artist, whose name I cannot quite make out; but is maybe - G Bowen.

When I saw this picture I just had to have it!

I found it tucked away at the back of an antiques shop in North Wales, a few years ago now. The owner said it came from a house clearance in Mid-Wales. And that is all I know of it’s provenance. Yet it fascinates me; I feel it has a story to tell - more so perhaps than just a nice picture of a favourite mare and foal turned out in the cherry orchard.

What more can I tell you about it ...

Well it’s quality - it’s drawn in soft pencil on fine, almost translucent, paper, possibly a Bristol Vellum, glazed, with two solid dark oak frames, the inner serving as a mount. Not your everyday pencil sketch then.

The artist clearly knew his horses. The anatomy and conformation are spot on although the mare is drawn rather unflatteringly, munching on a cherry twig. But that expression it’s so real! I’m guessing she is grey (white) with black skin but her hooves and fetlocks are obscured which doesn’t help. However the sheer presence of the foal is outstanding. He almost jumps off the paper. Most likely chestnut; he has a finely accentuated head with pricked ears, a white blaze, and maybe a snip on the muzzle. There are no other distinguishing marks.

While the body of the picture is in pencil, the artist has added a touch of ‘colour’, using a tempera to pick out the flowers on the cherry tree and, either, what I take to be buttercups, daisies or old thistles, in the field.

Initially I thought she was a cross between a Welsh Pony and Arab. Assuming, and it’s a big assumption, that it is of somewhere in Wales that seems fairly reasonable. I did wonder whether she was part of Lady Wentworths programme of cross breeding Arab and Welsh Pony stock from North Wales (Coed Coch), in the 1920s. But that date of 1898, of which I’m pretty confident, is a stumbling block.

The mid to late 1800s was a time when a lot of Arab horses were imported into Britain, Wales being no exception. We have the Crawshay Bailey Arab stallion turned out on the Brecons and Merlin - another Arab turned out on the hills and moors of Wales. I’m sure there were others, even going back to animals brought back from the Crusades.

So is she a cross between native Welsh and Arabian imports.

It appears not. Dr Wynne Davies, a leading authority on the Welsh pony breeds helpfully discussed the influence of Arabian horses on welsh breeds but firmly believed from looking at the picture that she was an out and out Arab mare.

So this got me thinking Crabbet ... if the date is right this would have been in the early days of Crabbet and the importation of Desert and Egyptian bred Arab horses.

So was she ... could she be from Desert or Egyptian bred stock. I have studied many of the paintings of Peter Upton, himself a walking encyclopaedia on the Arab horse, and yes she could be ... possibly ... dare I dream that she has Wazir bloodlines ...

What do you think? Can you help unravel the next piece of the story ...

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I can see where you would get the Welsh pony! Maybe the artist was so familiar with Welsh ponies that he couldn’t help drawing an Arab like a stocky Welsh pony!


Such a beautiful drawing, yes very soft and expressive. As to helping you, no idea! Spanish horses have a definite bloodline but not sure whether it connects to early Arab, but many are grey/ white. The Portuguese Lusitanias are often brown. I know a Spanish horse breeder so will show him and see what he thinks!

Cynthia Reyes

It’s a good mystery! And a lovely painting. I didn’t know there were horses in your background (so to speak).