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The Shagya-Araber

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The Shagya-Araber Sport Horse


The compelling story of a breed with origins in early medieval Europe, developing over centuries to become the kind and noble sport horse we recognise today.

Breed history


The origins of the Shagya-Araber breed can be traced to the oriental horses brought to Hungary during the ‘great migration’ of nomadic tribes from the Mongolian plateau between the 5th and 9th centuries.

Through the following centuries, when Ottoman Turks invaded and dominated large regions of eastern Europe, the oriental horses were blended with various local breeds, eventually becoming renowned throughout Europe as cavalry mounts.

In the late 1700’s, a deliberate decision was made by the Austro-Hungarian Empire to develop a specific type to meet the high demand for light cavalry horses.  Purebred Arabian stallions were selected and imported from the desert as a key part of this process, to further develop the speed and stamina needed by the cavalry.

World War II devasted the breeding program, with the breed only beginning to recover in the 1960s when European breeders recognised their genetic potential and began using them to improve various warmblood sport horse breeds.

In 1976, the breed was officially named ‘Shagya-Araber’ to distinguish it from the purebred Arabian. Shagya was the name of one of the most influential of the early Arabian imports, and proved to be a very prepotent sire.  He is found in the pedigree of nearly every Shagya-Araber horse.

The breed was accepted and approved by WAHO in 1978.  The Internationale Shagya-Araber Gesellschaft (ISG) was formed in 1983 as the governing body for the breed.  The Shagya-Araber studbook at Babolna contains an unbroken lineage back to the establishment of the stud in 1789.

In the beginning
400 - 900AD
Nomadic tribes arrived in the area now known as Hungary during the ‘great migration’, travelling on hardy, frugal horses that originated on the Mongolian plateau.
In the beginning
Building a foundation
900 to 1500AD
The tribes remained and settled, but for several hundred years used their quick agile mounts to plunder and raid cities in Italy, Germany, France and Spain.Hungary became renowned for developing endurance and soundness in horses. By the fourteenth century, Hungary was exporting cavalry horses throughout Europe.
Building a foundation
Oriental breed influence
1500s - 1600s
Ottoman Turks invaded Hungary in 1526, and remained in central Hungary for 150 years. They brought with them oriental horses from Arabic-speaking regions, which were crossed with the local horses to refine and further develop the speed and endurance of the Hungarian horses.
Oriental breed influence
Military demand
1600s - 1700s
During the more peaceful seventeenth century, larger western breeds became popular for riding and carriage work amongst the nobility, replacing lighter local horses in many breeding programs. This forced the military to rely on horses they could draft from peasants and small-holders to supply the cavalry.
Military demand
Setting the standard
1700s - 1800s
Emperor Joseph II recognised a need for military control over the breeding of cavalry horses, and in 1789 established the Babolna Royal and Imperial Stud. His goal was to produce a light cavalry horse with speed, endurance, thriftiness, soundness, and a temperament the average rider could handle in the midst of battle. He imported Arabian stallions from the desert to cross over his Hungarian mares, and embarked on a process of rigorous performance and character testing.
Setting the standard
Today's Sport Horse
1900s to now
By the 1930’s, up to 3,000 horses were being produced each year, with only the elite retained in the Hungarian breeding program. European warmblood breeders recognised the genetic value of the breed and increasingly used these horses in the development and refinement of modern sport horse breeds. The World Arabian Horse Organisation (WAHO) accepted and approved the Shagya-Araber as a distinct breed and studbook in 1978.
Today's Sport Horse

Breed Hall of Fame


The Shagya-Araber is a true and trusted performance horse with accolades across a wide range of sporting disciplines. A sample of highlight achievements are below. For a more comprehensive list of achievements, see the ‘Shagya-Araber hall of fame’ in Horse Tales.


Georgat, a Shagya/Arabian mare, in 2005 won 1st place World Endurance Championship in Dubai, 1st place European Open Endurance Champion in France, and 2nd place FEI World Endurance Championships.


Gazal, a Shagya-Araber stallion, was ranked in the Equestrian Federation yearbook as 6th out of 542 ranked stallions of all breeds producing prize-money winning progeny. He is particularly noted for siring showjumpers with excellent jumping technique.


Ramzes, an Anglo-Shagya stallion, is the founder of the renowned Holsteiner and Westfalien 'R' stallion lines. He started in Westfalia the most successful dressage line of all time.

Horse Tales

News and views from around the grounds at New-Moon Stud.