Horses in History: Arabians and Corn Flakes
How did breakfast cereal mogul William K. Kellogg help shape the legacy of the U.S. Arabian breeding program? HN’s historian-in-residence Lorraine Jackson explains.
While I doubt an Arabian would turn its nose down at a handful of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, their semi-sweet crunch is certainly not the only thing one of the world’s most popular breeds might appreciate about William K. Kellogg. In fact, without Mr. Kellogg, the U.S.’s Arabian breeding program would not be the flourishing, diverse and vibrant program that it is today.
Arabian horses, while abundant and praised in the middle east, were limited in the New World up through the late 19th century. The first Arabian actually came to the U.S. in 1725 by way of a Virginian named Nathan Harrison–the mixed stock of which even made it into the barn of George Washington–but no purebreds remained, and other early attempts to expand the breed were stomped out by the Civil War (where more than one million horses and mules perished). It would be another 30 years before the breed would catch the public eye, when they were on display at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and America’s fever for the unique desert beauties truly began.
It was then a number of wealthy horsemen began importing Arabians from Spain, Egypt, Poland and Turkey to begin purebred breeding programs. In 1906 a man named Chauncy Clarke acquired 11 striking “Davenport Arabians” through an arrangement with the Turkish Sultan, and began one of the foundational lines of American Arabs. Unfortunately, Clarke’s health was failing, and he needed someone with plenty of re$ource$ to step in and take over the program. Enter Mr. Kellogg.
Kellogg is quoted as, “I know so little about horses that my better judgment indicates that I ought not to get into this deal, but providing that all conditions are satisfactory, I think that I might become interested.” We can only assume no one told Mr. K that horses eat money for breakfast, and in 1925 began Kellogg Ranch on 377 acres of pure paradise in Pomona, California, complete with a Spanish-moore-style barn that would make your eyes melt.
To breed the Davenport 11, Kellogg acquired 17 additional mares and stallions from Lady Wentworth’s famed Crabbet Stud in England which had also been hand-picked by the best breeders in the world, and so began one of the great Arabian lines in America. When mass importation of Arabs began in the late ’50s and early ’60s, other facilities were established that surpassed Kellogg Ranch as show breeders. The Kellogg horses continued a high standard as practical cutting and ranching Arabs, and many of the best working Arabians are descendants of the Kellogg lines. They are distinct-looking from other Arabs in their short powerful frames, and inherent “cow smarts.” Mr. Kellogg also loaned many of his horses to Hollywood, even lending his most beloved Davenport Stallion, Jadaan, to Rudolph Valentino for the movie Son of the Sheik.
Over the years, the beloved ranch changed hands many times to the University of California, the War Department during WWII, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, back to the Kellogg Foundation, and finally in 1966 was permanently deeded to become part the campus of what is now Cal Poly Pomona. The only condition of the deed transfer was that the Polytechnic University permanently continue and maintain the Arabian breeding, showing and ranching program for the educational benefit of the students. The Ranch also houses one of the world’s foremost libraries and research institutions on Arabian Horse History.
The Ranch, its 88 purebred residents and the stunning facilities continue to be impeccably maintained thanks to the Kellogg Family Foundation, which is funded every time you go out and buy a box of Corn Flakes. So the next time you think about skipping breakfast to muck stalls, think of the horses!
**The previous article was not sponsored in any way by the good folks at Kellogg’s, nor did they ask me to ask you to eat Corn Flakes. You just should.
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