In the mid 1800's the prevailing opinion about the best quality equines in the United States is that the Arabian horse is their origin. Some doubt this as historical fact; but if it be so, he is the parent stock of the horse just as the father of all apples is the crab which has been sweetened by cultivation into the bell-flower.
Undoubtedly the Arabian has improved the English horse - has given him finer sinews, more compact bones, and greater intelligence, until the cross has become avowedly the first of his kind.
The truth is, that a race is but a quick succession of long jumps, and the little light Arab is out-jumped by the gigantic stride of the stronger, larger, longer-legged English horse, who has beaten him on his own sands in the east, and would distance him on any course in Europe. Indeed, the very first Arabian horse imported into England two centuries ago, called the Markham Arabian, was constantly beaten, and my impression is, that no Arabian horse ever did win a race in that country.
The belief of our breeders is, that whatever good there may be in the Arabian is exceedingly slow in showing itself; that he has already given to the English horse all he can give, and that it is on the whole safer to adhere to the highest bred English stock, rather than risk its degeneracy by any inferior mixture. Our blood horses, therefore, come directly from England, and it is rather odd that the King's stables, while there was a King and he had stables, furnished the highest priced horses for republican America.
Of the comparative estimation of the English and Arabian horse, we have lately seen a striking example. One leader of Muscat sent to the President of the United States two Arabian horses, which, from the character of the giver, we are bound to presume, were of the highest class. These horses were sold at public auction, and no one could be found to give more for them than six hundred and fifty dollars for one, and six hundred and seventy-five or the other.
Now, in the same neighborhood where these were sold, are very spirited breeders, who would not buy these Arabians at even so low a rate, but who had actually bought from the stables of the King of England, at the price of twenty-five thousand dollars, a favorite horse, Priam, one of whose colts is in the exhibition here; even as between the English breed and our own, the impression on this side of the water is, that for some time past the tendency of English breeding is rather to encourage speed than bottom; that their horses are becoming leggy, and that the descendants of the English stock, in this country, have more endurance, more bottom for long heats than their ancestors. The question, whenever it is tested will be decided perhaps by a few seconds.
This style of horse, although the use to which he is generally applied is out of the way of the farmer, is yet very interesting to us, for his good qualities all come down through the inferior races; and the Godolphin Arabian, to which the English horse owes much of his superiority, was actually a cart horse in Paris.
Our ordinary race of farm horses is extremely good. The warmth and variableness of the climate have settled down the stiff and heavy frame of the European horse, and given us a race of quick, alert equines, admirably fitted to second the activity of the farmer himself.