The Shagya breed began in 1789 when the Babolna stud was founded near Budapest. Later stud farms were formed in Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The purpose was to develop a breed of superior cavalry and carriage horses, as well as a breed which could supply prepotent breeding stallions to be used as improvers for other breeds. The Shagya not only served as cavalry horses in many European theaters of war, they were also used as brilliant parade horses for Europes royalty. Their toughness, courage, endurance, and rideability were legendary among European horsemen. The Imperial guards of the Hapsburgs in Vienna were always mounted on elegant Shagyas.
The foundation stallions of the Shagya breed were original desert bred Arabians. They were bred with mares which showed a great deal of Arabian influence due to the long Turkish occupation of eastern Europe, as well as with Thoroughbreds, Lipizzaners, and Spanish horses to increase the size and improve movement and riding qualities. Meticulous records were kept of the breeding program in the stud books. These venerable volumes contain not only the pedigree, color, and measurements of all the stallions and mares used; they also recorded many other characteristics of the individual and of their offspring. The oldest mareline recorded is that of Moldavi, born in 1781. The major progenitors of the Shagya breed were purchased by experts who were sent from Hungary on difficult and dangerous expeditions to the deserts of Arabia. The most important stallion to mention is the dapple-grey stallion Shagya, born in 1810. He was bred by the Bani Saher tribe of Bedouins and came to Babolna in 1836. He was such an outstanding producer that he appears in nearly all Shagya pedigrees. He not only pressed his stamp on the breed, he also gave it his name. From the basis of the mares and stallion, the breed was further developed by carefully breeding back time and again only to desert bred and purebred Arabians. Rigorous culling coupled with performance testing and extensive progeny testing developed the sport horse qualities and genetic strength.
Gazal II-(1922) Shagya XXV-(1916) Koheilan VIII ox-(1922) O´bajan VII-(1923)
This long term process can be traced in an unbroken line from the Shagya of today all the way back to the beginnings of the breed. Many Shagyas have pedigrees over 20 generations long.
Today the Shagya is bred internationally, using a base of purebred Shagya mares. Although the breed has a relatively high percentage of purebred Arabian blood, Shagya should be clearly different from purebred Arabians in type, size, substance, and bone. The breeding goal of the Shagya is a substantial Arab-bred horse which is suitable for everyone as an elegant riding and driving horse. The Shagya should be beautiful and harmonious, with an expressive head, well formed neck, good topline, a long pelvis, a well carried tail, and strong, dry, correct legs. Free, springy, elastic, and correct action in all three gaits is very important. Wither height should be at least 15-16 hands and cannon bone circumference should be a minimum of 7 inches. The Shagya should be physically and mentally capable of being a completely efficient and superior family, leisure, competition, hunting, and endurance horse. Shagyas have proven themselves successful in open competitions against warm bloods in jumping, dressage, and eventing. The 2006 WEG Endurance champion, Hungares, is a purebred Shagya.
Shagyas are born riding and carriage horses. The Shagya is a special breed which is not well known worldwide because of its rarity. The breed was developed 200 years ago on the famous military stud farms of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. With its origins deriving from the purebred desert Arabian, the Shagya breed was consolidated many generations ago so that it breeds consistently true to type.
The Shagya combines the advantages of the Bedouin Arabian, including elegant type, hardiness and toughness, endurance, easy keeping qualities, and the inborn friendliness towards humans, with the requirements of a modern riding horse - sufficient height, big frame, great rideability, excellent movement and enormous jumping ability.