The Shagya Arabian has been called the Super Arabian because some consider this breed to be the most beautiful and versatile in the world. Although still possessing the Arabian’s elegance and legendary endurance, the Shagya is also slightly larger, stronger and has a reputation of being almost dog-like in relationship to favorite people.
Shagya Arabians were developed to be a superior cavalry horse. At one point, they were the only breed of horse ridden by the Imperial Guard of the Hapsburgs in Vienna. Now, they are used for many horse sports, including endurance riding, dressage, driving events, jumping and Western events.
Although Arabians are thought of originating in the Middle East, the Shagya Arabian originated in Hungary. This country was occupied by Turkey from 1526 – 1686. During that time a great many Oriental horses came to Hungary and stayed, even when the Turks finally left.
In 1798 when a stud was set up in Babolna, it concentrated on breeding Oriental-type horses and a type called “Arabian Race”, which were crossbreds of Oriental horses and local breeds. According to “Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America” (Storey; 2005), the Babolna stud was managed by the Magyar people, which had the reputation of being part horse in their ability to ride, train and breed excellent horses. Some Magyars routinely travelled to the Middle East to find high quality Arabian or Barbs for the stud.
One such stallion was a Syrian-born grey stallion named Shagya. Foaled in 1810, he arrived in Babolna in 1836 and dazzled onlookers with his beauty and his effortless way of moving. It was Shagya who gave the name to the breed and the color grey which is often found in Shagya Arabians even today.
Shagyas were nearly wiped out in World War II, but some were saved along with purebred Polish Arabians and a band of Lippizzanners by the US Army under General Patton. The fist Shagya imported to America was the 24 year old stallion Bravo in 1986. There is now a healthy but small population of Shagyas in the United States.
Shagya Arabians look like slightly taller versions of purebred Arabians. Although often grey, they can come in any solid color such as bay, chestnut or black. Solid colored horses are allowed to have white markings. Their withers are also usually larger than in purebred Arabaians. Their cannon bones are also larger than in Arabians and their shoulder may slope more. Like Arabians, they often have one less set of ribs and one less vertebra than most other breeds of horses.
Shagyas have an interesting facial expression when they are at rest or eyeing a photographer. They seem to be contemplating some very profound thought that they do not wish to share.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing, 2005.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
“The Ultimate Horse Book.” Elwyn Hartley Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.
The North American Shagya Arabian Society. “Shagya Arabian Breed.” http://www.shagya.net/shagyaarabianbreed.htm