Dourrha 1819: from North Arabia to France… and to Germany?

By Amelie Blackwell

Posted on May 26th, 2017 in General

This story starts in Syria in the 1820’s. In those years, many European nations maintained trade and diplomatic representatives, or “consuls” in the Orient, especially in Aleppo, a cosmopolitan city, hosting European, Turkish, Greek, Jewish, Armenian traders. Aleppo was also one of the best places to start looking for the noble Kuhaylat horses bred by the Bedouin tribes of Northern Arabia.

Many of these European consuls hosted horse buying expeditions during the 1820’s, such as those led by Count Rzewuski or by the French de Portes and Damoiseau in 1819-1820. Among these consuls were Van Massec (Van Masseyk) the Dutch consul, de Riguello the Spanish consul and the four Pithioto brothers (or Pitiota but the original spelling was probably Picciotto), the respective consuls of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Piemont-Sardinia, Prussia and Russia. This commercial web extended beyond Aleppo, and these diplomatic traders often dispatched various members of their family to other Mediterranean trading cities such as Trieste, Smyrna or Marseille.

The European consular community and the town of Aleppo were vividly described by Damoiseau, the veterinary of the de Portes French expedition, in his book “Trip to Syria and the Desert”. During part of their expedition, the French traveled with the Polish Count Rzewuski and an Armenian agent of the Austro-Hungarian consul Pithioto/Picciotto, both looking for noble “oriental” horses, and Damoiseau saw two youngsters the Armenian agent had acquired for M. Picciotto: a filly and a colt.

One back to France with a first shipment of horses, Damoiseau seems to have gotten involved in Arabian horse breeding. The above lithography on the front cover of the “Journal des Haras” issue of March 1, 1829 showcases one of his horses: Dourrha, a flea-bitten mare of fairly small size (around 1m45), born in 1819 with the Fedaan Bedouin tribe that nomadized between Bagdad, Aleppo and Palmyra. Her sire was an Abeyyan stallion of Nedjdi origin and her dam a Saklawiya from the Kuhaylat (authentic) horses of the Fedaan.

Dourrha was purchased by the Armenian agent sent by Elyas Picciotto in 1820 in the desert near Palmyra. In 1826, Pithioto sent her to one of his brothers in Marseille with a filly foal and several other horses. Dourrha and her filly were then sold to the General of Livron, who took them to Paris where she was recognized by M. Damoiseau to his greatest surprise as the filly he had seen years before in Syria. Livron kept the filly and sold Dourrha to Damoiseau.

Another daughter of Dourrha, owned by Livron, was sold to the King of Wurtemberg in 1828. The year after, in April 1829, the agent of the King of Wurtember, a certain Kaula went to France to purchase horses. Having seen the exposure the dam of the King’s filly was getting in the Journal des Haras, Kaula managed to purchase Dourrha from Damoiseau for the King’s stud.

When I read this story, the possibility of a “matching” of the Weil mares Czebessie II and her daughter Safra with Dourrha and her filly occurred to me. As Edouard pointed out to me, Czebessie II was recorded as a black (Schwarz in German) while Dourrha is depicted as a grey (Schimmel). Is it possible that two different mares were imported from France to Weil around the same time, each one a year after her filly? Why is it that the exportation of Czebessie II and her daughter were not mentioned in the Journal des Haras?

At that time, France was importing several hundred horses each year from Germany, but French exports to Germany were few and far between, and were heavily advertised when they occurred. Could the abbreviation of Schimmel  (Sch. in German studbooks) and Schwarz (Schw.) have been mistakenly condused, and led to mistakes about the color in old pedigrees? Does it makes more sense to think that the Pithioto brothers were involved in the importation of a Czebessie II/Dourrha to France instead of the Van Masseyk family? Let me know what you think!

7 Responses to “Dourrha 1819: from North Arabia to France… and to Germany?”

  1. Von Huegel mentions, “in 1827 the King ( of Wuerttemberg) himself was bought in Marseille a very good grey arabian mare Safra in Marseille,which became the founder of a highly esteemed family in stud.

    In the year 1828 and 1829 came two arabian mare, both via France: black mare Czebessie and Dourrha “….


  2. Got it Laszlo!!
    Thank you so much 🙂
    So not the same mares. But it does raise more questions then answers… I notice Von Huegel does not link Safra’s tail female to either Czebessie or Dourrha in the 1861 book.
    None of Safra’s, Czebessie’s or Dourrha’s progeny is listed in the first French Studbook of 1838. Although Dourrah also had two Anglo-Arabian fillies bred in France prior to her export to Germany (they would have been listed under the oriental mare section as well).
    Actually, none of the Arabian mares owned by Damoiseau seems to have left progeny in France, even if they had some recorded in the French Journals. Besides, Dourrha and the two Anglo-Arabian fillies he bred from her, he also owned a mare named Zaara (and her anglo colt out of the Thoroughbred stallion Claude), color is not described, from Arabia, and a tall grey mare called Myrza, born on Euphrates’s border (bred twice to his Arabian stallion Mochareph, he got from the greek dealer M. Thesee).

  3. Other know Arabian mares in France before 1838 and unregistered in the first French studbook includes the liver chestnut “Saada”, bought by de Portes in Syria. She is recorded as owned for some time by the Duchess of Angouleme who intended to give her to Reverend Way. She ended being owned by the Baron of Schikler, who bred at least one successful racing anglo colt from her (Young Milton).
    But also two grey mares owned by the Count of Tocqueville : Kadra, a grey sent from Asia to M. de Rotschild (she was in foal to one of Tocqueville’s stallion in 1828), and Nissa, a white-grey, from King of Wurtemberg’s Stud, gifted to some noblemen from Stuttgard, sold to M. de Beaurepaire who took her to France.
    No black mare among these ones.
    But if any of the above mares (and including Dourrha, Zaara and Myrza) had progeny left alive by 1838 they were obviously exported somewhere outside of France.

  4. Unveiling more about this from additional notes on Rzewuski’s manuscript. Masseyk sending a letter to Rzewuski talking about a dramatic event: a earthquake that destroyed part of Aleppo and killed many people sadly. During this event, the mare he kept to be sent to his brother in Massilia/Marseilles got killed as well (his house collapsed and the poor mare was buried). Later, he does give details for the possible passing of the European living in Aleppo, among them not too many deaths apart from Elyas Picciotto!!

    Obviously the connection is now possible to understand better: Masseyk got his mare killed during the earthquake, Picciotto who also had horses passed away during the earthquake as well – my theory would be very simple – Masseyk got horses from Elyas Picciotto to replace the one he had promised to send and sent her to his brother. Masseyk was desperate regarding this horrible event and seeking help from Europe in his letter. Sending the Picciotto horses to be sold by his brother in Massilia was a quick way to raise funds for both family to recover from the disastrous consequences of the earthquake. King of Wurtemberg goes directly to Massilia to purchase Safra at her arrival. Among theses horses were at least Dourrha and Czebessie both happen to be at the Viroflay stud a couple of years later when Kaula is there to buy more horses for the King (possibly the purchase of both mares was not a coincidence as I thought at first but a carefully planned purchase for more Picciotto horses). I would even guess that the unnamed Armenian agent of Picciotto might be the “Emin” of Rzewuski, since he got more horses from him (so was obviously his agent too).

    Now here would be the webbing: Emin gets horses, Massyk and Picciotto among others collected them in Aleppo, Rzewuski raise interest for them in Europe, one of their landing points is at Mr Masseyk’s brother in Massilia, de Livron/King of Wurtemberg are among the purchasers, money to buy the horses is sent back by Mr Masseyk’s brother to the Aleppo families – guesses: King is pleased and asks for more, Rzewuski knows Damoiseau from their common journey to Syria (even possible that they corresponded?) so he can manage to locate more from the remaining Piccioto herd with Damoiseau’s help and King of Wurtemberg can get Dourrha and Czebessie II.

  5. I am happily following you on this faint trail as you research! Terrific stuff, and it is how we move forward in our understanding of the minutia that builds into our history.

  6. Oh Jeanne thank you so much 😀 The letter was really a fortunate discovery indeed. I never stop dreaming about all we would learn if we had more of these old-timers correspondences. Maybe in time old diplomatic archives will be available for all to search through: this would be a thing!

  7. I am sure you are correct. My husband and I used to dream about getting into the Ottoman archives with an eye to looking for everything about Arabian horses.

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