Godolphin Arabian

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Godolphin Arabian
The Godolphin Arabian, by George Stubbs
Foaledc. 1724
OwnerFrancis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin
Leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland (1738, 1745, 1747)

The Godolphin Arabian (c. 1724–1753), also known as the Godolphin Barb, was an Arabian horse who was one of three stallions that founded the modern Thoroughbred (the others were the Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk). He was named after his best-known owner, Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin.


The stable block of Wandlebury House where the horse was buried

The Godolphin Arabian was foaled about 1724 in Yemen and moved several times before reaching England. At some early age, he was exported, probably via Syria, to the stud of the bey of Tunis. From there he was given to Louis XV of France in 1730.[1] It is believed he was a present from monarch to monarch. Not valued by his new French owner, it is believed he was used as a carthorse.[2]

The horse was then imported from France by Edward Coke and sent to his stud at Longford Hall, Derbyshire, where he remained until the death of his owner in 1733.[3]

He was bequeathed to Roger Williams, "proprietor of the St. James's Coffee House",[2] who inherited Coke's stallions. He was bought by the 2nd Earl of Godolphin,[3] and placed at his stud at Babraham,[citation needed] Cambridgeshire, until his death on Christmas Day 1753. A stone marks his grave under the archway of the stable block of Wandlebury House.


The Godolphin Arabian was a bay colour with some white on the off heel behind. He stood at 15 hands (60 inches, 152 cm) and was distinguished by an unnaturally high crest, which is noticeable from portraits of the horse.[4] Most of his immediate offspring were also bay.[5]

The veterinary surgeon Osmer described the Godolphin Arabian in the following manner,

There never was a horse… so well entitled to get racers as the Godolphin Arabian…his shoulders were deeper, and lay farther into his back, than those of any horse yet seen. Behind the shoulders, there was but a very small space where the muscles of his loins rose exceedingly high, broad, and expanded, which were inserted into his quarters with greater strength and power than in any horse . . . yet seen.[6]

Breed controversy[edit]

The Godolphin Arabian was buried within the stable block at Wandlebury in 1753 at the age of 29.

Controversy exists over the ancestry of this horse; some writers referred to him as a Barb, but Judith Blunt-Lytton, 16th Baroness Wentworth of the Crabbet Arabian Stud concludes that it is most widely believed that he was an Arabian or had primarily Arabian lineage.[7]

"Barb" is a reference to his believed country of origin, Tunisia, on the Barbary Coast. Whyte in the 1840 History of the British Turf, refers to the horse as "The Godolphin Barb, or as he has been improperly called, the Godolphin Arabian" (emphasis added)[8] before further clarifying, "he was long considered an Arabian, although his points resembled more those of the highest breed of Barbs."[2] However, portraits showing a horse with a high-carried tail and dished profile, features that differentiate the two types, lead modern experts to believe he was more likely an Arabian.[9] The confusion is understandable, but while the breeds have some characteristics in common and are distantly related, their phenotypes are quite distinct. There was also an argument raised that he was actually a Turkomen, merely called an Arabian in order to raise the stud fee.

The Earl of Godolphin referred to the horse as an Arabian, and he was described as such by the painter George Stubbs. Lord Godolphin later bought a second stallion in 1750. This one he clearly called a "barb". Both were of a similar bay colour, but the Barb had a star. Godolphin later bought a grey Barb, which has also caused some confusion over the years.

Recent DNA studies disprove the theory that he was a Barb, as his descendants' Y-DNA traces to the same general haplotype as the Darley Arabian, though to different sub-groups and there are relatively few male-line descendants of the Godolphin Arabian today.[10] This group may have been of Turkoman horse or Arabian origins, as modern horses of both breeds have been linked to this haplotype.[11]

Breeding career[edit]

Lord Godolphin's Lath (by James Seymour)

The Godolphin Arabian was the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 1738, 1745 and 1747.

Originally, this small stallion was considered inferior to the larger European horses of the time and was not meant to be put to stud. Instead he was used as 'teaser', a stallion used to gauge the mare's receptiveness. This changed when Lady Roxana, a mare brought to the stud specifically to be bred to a stallion called Hobgoblin[dubious ], rejected her intended mate, and so the Godolphin Arabian was allowed to cover her instead.[4]

The result of this mating was Lath, the first of his offspring, who went on to win the Queen's Plate nine times out of nine at the Newmarket races. The second colt from this pair was Cade, and the third was Regulus.[12] All three were the same gold-touched bay as their sire, with the same small build and high-crested conformation. All were exceptionally fast on the track, and went on to sire many foals themselves. This was the start of the Godolphin Arabian's prowess as a racing stud, and he spent the rest of his days as the Earl of Godolphin's prize stallion, bred to England's finest mares.

The American connection began with the filly Selima (born in 1745 out of Shireborn). She was purchased by Benjamin Tasker Jr. of the Province of Maryland in Colonial America, carried to the new world, and raced between 1750 and 1753. She won the biggest prize of the era, 2,500 pistoles at Gloucester, Virginia which marked "the beginning of the remarkable racing contests between the rival colonies of Maryland and Virginia." After this, she became a successful broodmare at the Belair Stud in Collington, Maryland.[13][14]

The Godolphin Arabian died on the Gog Magog Hills, Cambridgeshire in 1753, aged around 29. The horse's grave in the stable block of Wandlebury House can be visited. When he was interred, the occasion was marked with ale and cake.[4]


Although today the majority of Thoroughbred horses’ sire lines trace to the Darley Arabian, several famous North American horses of the past trace their sire line back to the Godolphin Arabian. These include Seabiscuit, Man o' War, and War Admiral. Today, the sire line is primarily supported by descendants of Relaunch and his son Cee's Tizzy through dual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow.

In Europe, his influence survives mainly through the 2,000 Guineas winner Known Fact, and his son, the champion miler Warning. This line has produced outstanding sprinters such as Diktat (Haydock Sprint Cup), Avonbridge and Dream Ahead. The Derby has not been won by a sire line descendant of the Godolphin Arabian since Santa Claus in 1964 and is nowadays dominated by descendants of the Darley Arabian.[1]

The major Thoroughbred sire Eclipse traces in his sire line to the Darley Arabian, but his dam was a daughter of Regulus and thus also traces to the Godolphin Arabian.[15] This pattern continues to be seen today, with the Godolphin Arabian more heavily represented in dam lines and in the "middle" of pedigrees (as opposed to direct sire lines).

Conquérant trotter horse also belonged to the male lineage of the founding Thoroughbred stallion Godolphin Arabian.[16]

In fiction[edit]

King of the Wind (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1948) is a fictional biography of the Godolphin Arabian by American author Marguerite Henry. She wrote many books about horses for children, and perhaps is best known for Misty of Chincoteague and its sequels. She won the Newbery Medal for King of the Wind, recognizing it as the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".[17] Misty became a film in 1961, but King of the Wind had to wait till 1990 for its adaptation, with Navin Chowdhry as the Arabian's lifetime stable boy Agba.[18]

In the novel, the Godolphin Arabian was foaled in Morocco and was called Sham. He came to Europe as a diplomatic gift to King Louis XV of France but, due to his poor condition on arrival and relatively small size, was given to the cook as a cart horse. He was soon sold to a woodcarter in Paris, where he was treated poorly and then purchased by the Quaker Edward Coke of Holkham Hall, older brother of the 1st Earl of Leicester 5th Creation,[citation needed] then sold to Francis, Earl of Godolphin, who maintained a stud in Suffolk, near the racing town of Newmarket.

Sire line tree[edit]

Descendants of the Godolphin Arabian (click to expand)
  • Godolphin Arabian[19][20][21][22][23]
    • Lath[24][25]
      • Red Cap
      • Hector
    • Dismal[26]
    • Cade[27][28]
      • Bandy
      • Changeling
      • Trunnion
      • Young Cade
        • Julius Caesar
        • Royal George
        • Drone
        • Cadmus
      • Martin
      • Matchem[30][31]
        • Turf
          • Crop
          • Acacia
        • Dux
        • Conductor[33]
        • Pantaloon[35]
          • Buffer
          • Harry Rowe
          • John Doe
        • Johnny
        • Pumpkin[36]
          • Young Pumpkin
        • Alfred[33][37]
          • Doctor
          • Guyler
          • Shipton
          • Tickle Toby
        • Dictator[33]
        • Protector
      • Hero[38]
        • Friar
        • Adonis
      • Sportsman
      • Wildair[39][40]
        • Bashaw
        • Wildair (Church)[41][42]
          • Diamond
        • Telemachus
        • Tommy
      • Belford
      • Northumberland[43]
        • Ragamuffin
        • Teucer[44]
        • Young Northumberland
      • Silvio[45]
      • Brother to Silvio[45]
      • Sprightly
        • Pyrrhus[46]
          • Edgar
          • Sysyfus
      • Pangloss
      • Boreas
    • Mogul[47][48]
    • Brother to Whitenose[51]
      • Whittington
    • Marlborough[47]
    • Babraham[52][53]
      • Aimwell
      • Hob-Or-Nob
      • Juniper
      • Alcides[54]
        • Gander
        • Remnant
        • Constantine
      • Atlas[55]
      • Genius
      • Bosphorus
      • Babraham Blank
        • Don Carlos
        • Bay Richmond
        • Hazard
        • Carbuncle
      • Shadow
      • Cardinal Puff[56]
        • Cardinal Puff
      • Young Babraham
        • Mask
    • Dormouse[57][58]
      • Damon
      • Dormouse
      • Valiant
      • Dorimond
    • Janus[59][60]
    • Regulus[63][64]
      • Brutus[65]
      • Cato
      • Royal
      • Adolphus
      • Silvereye
      • South[66]
        • Confederate
        • Friar
        • South West
        • South East
        • Magog
        • Cormorant
        • Amazon
        • Laycock
        • Flimnap
      • Careless[67][68]
        • Regulator
        • Mousetrap
        • Alderman
      • Jolly Roger[49]
      • Fearnaught[69]
        • Matchless
        • Whynot
        • Regulus
        • King Herod
        • Fearnought
        • Eclipse
        • Independence
        • Wildair
          • Highflier
          • Commutation
          • Chanticleer
      • Dragon
      • Vampire
      • Jalap
        • Achilles
      • Ascham
      • Star
      • Prophet[70]
        • Soothsayer
        • Goldsmith
        • Trifle
      • Doge
        • Venetian
        • Young Sir Peter
      • Morwick Ball[71]
        • Icelander
        • Young Morwick
          • Gustavus
          • Curanto
        • Parlington
        • Doctor Nim
        • No-no
        • Pellegrine
      • Turk
    • Bajazet[72][73]
      • Bajazet
      • Selim
    • Blank[74][75]
      • Contest
      • Tatler
      • Foxhunter
      • Manby
      • Antinous[76]
        • Lamplighter
        • Givens
      • Centinel
      • Fallower
      • Granby
      • Countess[77]
        • Delpini
          • Scotina
            • Olive
      • Chatsworth
      • Chrysolite
      • Pacolet[78]
      • Hyder Alley
      • Paymaster[80]
        • Paragon
      • Lycurgus
      • Ancaster
    • Gower Stallion[81][82]
    • Marksman[47]
    • Old England[87][88]
      • Brutus
      • Northumberland
      • Amaranthus
    • Skewball[89]
    • Buffcoat[90][91]
      • Whitefoot
      • Buffcoat
      • Creampot
      • Turf
    • Whitenose[92][93]
      • Aaron
      • Victorious
      • Wasp
      • Pegasus
      • Rake
    • Dimple[19]
    • Tarquin[94]
      • Tarquin
    • Infant[95]
    • Coalition Colt[96]
      • Champion
      • Irish Hero
    • Mizra[95]
    • Cripple[97]
      • Gimcrack[98][99]
        • Grey Robin
        • Medley[100]
          • Randolph's Gimcrack
          • Young Medley
          • Bellair II
          • Grey Diomed
          • Lamplighter
          • Quicksilver
          • Boxer
          • Grey Medley
          • Melzar
          • Alfred
      • Tantrum[101]
        • Sampson
    • Cygnet[19]
    • Feather[19]
    • Godolphin Colt[19]
    • Lofty[19][102]
      • Slim
      • Chance
      • Honest Harry
    • Matchless[19]
    • Omar[19]
    • Sprightly
      • Pyrrhus[103]
        • Edgar
        • Sisyfus

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "History of Thoroughbreds". British Horseracing Authority. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Whyte 1840, p. 84.
  3. ^ a b Milner, Mordaunt (1990), The Godolphin Arabian: The Story of the Matchem Line, London: J. A. Allen, pp. 3–4, ISBN 0-85131-476-7
  4. ^ a b c Whyte 1840, p. 85.
  5. ^ Whyte 1840, p. 88.
  6. ^ "The Godolphin Story".
  7. ^ Wentworth, Judith Anne Dorothea Blunt-Lytton. The Authentic Arabian Horse, 3rd ed. George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1979.
  8. ^ Whyte 1840, p. 64.
  9. ^ "Thoroughbred Heritage Portraits: Godolphin Arabian". Thoroughbred Heritage. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  10. ^ Wallner, Barbara; Palmieri, Nicola; Vogl, Claus; Rigler, Doris; Bozlak, Elif; Druml, Thomas; Jagannathan, Vidhya; Leeb, Tosso; Fries, Ruedi; Tetens, Jens; Thaller, Georg; Metzger, Julia; Distl, Ottmar; Lindgren, Gabriella; Rubin, Carl-Johan; Andersson, Leif; Schaefer, Robert; McCue, Molly; Neuditschko, Markus; Rieder, Stefan; Schlötterer, Christian; Brem, Gottfried (July 2017). "Y Chromosome Uncovers the Recent Oriental Origin of Modern Stallions". Current Biology. 27 (13): 2029–2035.e5. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.05.086. PMID 28669755.
  11. ^ Wallner, Barbara; Vogl, Claus; Shukla, Priyank; Burgstaller, Joerg P.; Druml, Thomas; Brem, Gottfried; Ellegren, Hans (3 April 2013). "Identification of Genetic Variation on the Horse Y Chromosome and the Tracing of Male Founder Lineages in Modern Breeds". PLOS ONE. 8 (4): e60015. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...860015W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060015. PMC 3616054. PMID 23573227.
  12. ^ "Godolphin Arabian Sireline". galopp-sieger.de. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  13. ^ Deubler, Cindy (May 2002), "Belair Museums stand in path of "Progress"", Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred: 22–27
  14. ^ Remly, Lynn L. (Fall 2002), "Art Among the Oats: Belair Stable Museum", Equine Images, 2000 (81): 5–56
  15. ^ "Eclipse Pedigree". Pedigree Online All Breed Database. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  16. ^ Reynaldo (2015, p. 85)
  17. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  18. ^ King of the Wind at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h Godolphin Portraits
  20. ^ Godolphin Arabian
  21. ^ Godolphin Arabian Line
  22. ^ Goldolphin Sirelines
  23. ^ The Godolphin Arabian & his descendants
  24. ^ Biography: Lath
  25. ^ Foundation Sire Line: Lath
  26. ^ Studbook Early: D
  27. ^ Foundation Sires: C
  28. ^ Biography: Cade
  29. ^ Foundation Sire: Le Sang
  30. ^ Portraits: Matchem
  31. ^ Biography: Matchem
  32. ^ Foundation Sires: XYZ
  33. ^ a b c Foundation Sire: Conductor
  34. ^ a b Foundation Sire: Imperator
  35. ^ Foundation Sire: Pantaloon
  36. ^ Foundation Sire: Pumpkin
  37. ^ Foundation Sire: Alfred
  38. ^ Studbook Early H
  39. ^ Foundation Sire: Wildair
  40. ^ Studbook Early W
  41. ^ Church's Wildair
  42. ^ Church's Wildair Offspring
  43. ^ Foundation Sire: Northumberland
  44. ^ Studbook Early T
  45. ^ a b Foundation Sires: S
  46. ^ Foundation Sires: P
  47. ^ a b c Studbook Early M
  48. ^ Foundation Sires: M
  49. ^ a b c Foundation Sire: Jolly Roger
  50. ^ Foundation Sire: Whistlejacket
  51. ^ Studbook Early W
  52. ^ Biography: Babraham
  53. ^ Foundation Sire: Babraham
  54. ^ Foundation Sire: Alcides
  55. ^ Foundation Sire: Atlas
  56. ^ Biography: Cardinal Puff
  57. ^ Foundation Sire: Dormouse
  58. ^ Biography: Dormouse
  59. ^ Studbook Early J
  60. ^ Foundation Sire: Janus
  61. ^ Foundation Sire: Little Janus
  62. ^ a b The Bloodlines Chart
  63. ^ Foundation Sire: Regulus
  64. ^ Biography: Regulus
  65. ^ Who was the Godolphin Arabian
  66. ^ Foundation Sire: South
  67. ^ Foundation Sire: Careless
  68. ^ Biography: Careless
  69. ^ Portraits: Fearnought
  70. ^ Foundation Sire: Prophet
  71. ^ Foundation Sire: Morwick Ball
  72. ^ Foundation Sire: Bajazet
  73. ^ Biography: Bajazet
  74. ^ Foundation Sire: Blank
  75. ^ Biography: Blank
  76. ^ Foundation Sire: Antinous
  77. ^ "Olive Horse Pedigree".
  78. ^ Foundation Sire: Pacolet
  79. ^ Biography: Citizen
  80. ^ Foundation Sire: Paymaster
  81. ^ Foundation Sire: Gower Stallion
  82. ^ Studbook Early G
  83. ^ Foundation Sire: Sweepstakes
  84. ^ Studbook Early S
  85. ^ Foundation Sire: Tentram
  86. ^ Foundation Sire: Driver
  87. ^ Studbook Early N+O
  88. ^ Foundation Sires: O
  89. ^ Portraits: Skewball
  90. ^ Studbook Early B
  91. ^ Foundation Sire: Buffcoat
  92. ^ Foundation Sire: Whitenose
  93. ^ Biography: Whitenose
  94. ^ Foundation Sire: Tarquin
  95. ^ a b Foundation Sires: I
  96. ^ Studbook Early C
  97. ^ Foundation Sire: Cripple
  98. ^ Portraits: Gimcrack
  99. ^ Biography: Gimcrack
  100. ^ Portraits: Medley
  101. ^ Foundation Sire: Tantrum
  102. ^ Foundation Sire: Lofty
  103. ^ Foundation Sire: Pyrrhus


  • Whyte, James Christie (1840). History of the British turf, from the earliest period to the present day, Volume I. London: H. Colburn. OL 6544990M.
  • Church, Michael (2004). Champion Sires 1722-2003. Raceform Ltd. p. 319. ISBN 1-904317-82-0.
  • Reynaldo, Jean-Pierre (2015). Le trotteur français : Histoire des courses au trot en France des origines à nos jours (in French). Éditions Lavauzelle. ISBN 2-7025-1638-6.

External links[edit]