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Breed History

HAVING BEEN KEPT FOR OVER 400 YEARS, THE KLADRUBER IS AMONG THE WORLD’S OLDEST BREEDS OF HORSES. A REPRESENTATIVE OF WARMBLOODS, IT WAS FORMED BY COMBINING OLD SPANISH AND OLD ITALIAN BLOOD.

In the second half of the 16th century and, in particular, in the 18th century, started the era of development of horse breeding started in Central Europe. Stud farms were set up by rulers and their families or secular/religious nobility; the same trend occurred in the lands of the Czech Crown. Initially a court stud, the establishment in Kladruby nad Labem was founded by Rudolf II through the decree issued at Prague Castle on 6 March 1579; it was situated in a game preserve, a part of the Imperial Estate of Pardubice.

During the first two centuries of its existence, the stud underwent its ups and downs depending on the funding, likes and needs of monarchs. It suffered the biggest loss during the Seven Years’ War, when the breeding stock was moved into the stud farm of Enyed, Hungary, to remain there until 1771. On 10 June 1757, while celebrating Laudon’s victory in the battle of Kolín, the stud farm burned down - as did the local breeding records - and was eventually rented to the Dutch company Tuissant, which used it as a warehouse of textiles. It was not before 1770 when Emperor Joseph II ordered to re-establish the stud farm and recalled all of the breeding stock. The stud was tasked with producing horses for the imperial court that would match the type of a stately galakarossier of varied colours as the prevailing court etiquette required and fancied.

Up to the first coup d'état in 1918, coach horses were supplied from Kladruby to the location of court stables, which under the rule of Rudolf II was Prague (Hradčany), but from the period of Rudolf’s brother Matthias II and his successors, Vienna. Initially, a herd of Spanish and Spanish-Italian horses was used for the purpose and - according to emperor decrees - had to be maintained as purebreds even in the times when these horse breeds were discontinued even in their original homelands, which happened in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a result of rising general interest in English horses and lack of demand.

Since there was no other place to get an Italian-Spanish horse afterwards, “Kladruber Horse” became a new name of the breed, used in horse and animal management guidebooks and indicating their continued existence in the form of two herds - black horses and grey horses - although a herd of Kladruber bay horses also existed until the 1830s, but was discontinued subsequently as a result of crossing with Dutch stallions.

In the first half of the 19th century, a stock was launched of Cleveland Bays in Kladruby to be used for the standard coach service at the court. They were animals of a neat, figurative physique with a beautiful posture of the neck in movement; they became famous for their perseverance and speed, even at their rather high, cadenced gait. They were also easy to control.

When the Kladruby stud was taken over by the Czechoslovak state after the overthrow of 1918, it was decided that the new purpose of the Stud would be to produce sires for land stocks of each of Czechoslovakia’s lands because the existing resources in the former Austrian and Hungarian state studslocated in Radovec, Bukovina, Piber etc had ceased to exist after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the breeding stock was allocated to the individual successor countries. As a result, Kladruby received a part of the dams and sires of English and English-Arab half-bloods of Przedswit, Gidran, Furioso and North-Star; dams of these foundation stocks arrived from Radovec as well. During the First World War, there were even three years of Lipizzaner foals placed in Kladruby; after the overthrow, they also became the property of the State and were transferred to Topolčianky in 1923. Until the formation of the CSR, remnants were preserved of what was formerly the widespread stock of Old Kladruber horses; they were bred in two colour variants: grey with sire lines of Generale and Generalissimus, and black with lines of Sacramoso and Napoleone.

As a result of hate against everything belonging to the Habsburgs after 1918 including herds of horses, a decision was initially taken in Kladruby to remove the stock of what was formerly the “k.u.k.” court stud farm, which involved the historic herd of Kladruber greys and blacks as well as the herd of Cleveland Bays as breeds not fitting the new purpose of the stud.

Eventually and despite great difficulties, the historic herd of Kladruber horses was successfully retained in Kladruby as an animal science showpiece of Czechoslovakia, the saving of which attracted a lively interest from abroad as well. It was resolved to preserve, albeit to a reduced extent, the herd of greys while that of blacks - seen as less noble and, thus, ordinary draught horses - was silently condemned to gradual elimination.

The process was launched by selling Napoleone Solo - a black founder stallion in full strength - for slaughter; it was also resolved to discontinue its bloodline in the progeny. A single pure-bred black stallion was left to cover black Kladruber dams (Sacramoso XXVII - Aja). The then records of the farm reveal an apparent effort to destroy the stock of black dams as early as possible. The operation would have progressed more rapidly but for the fact that exactly black horses presented the strongest and the best draught horses in the holding of the stud farm. After all, it was always the case in Kladruby as well as in Vienna that, in addition to random funeral processions, black horses worked as carriage and coach animals and in the service of building authorities; they could also be seen as they plough and collect the crops from meadows and fields or timber from woods. (This is in sharp conflict with what is actually reported and disseminated in horse science literature in this country, i.e. that Kladrubers were utilised only for the ceremony of Spanish etiquette.)

The large restriction of the black Kladruber stock occurred in 1925 in Kladruby nad Labem and continued until November 1931. Part of the stock was transferred to archiepiscopal farmsteads in Červená Řečice and Chrast near Chrudim, to the management of the farmstead in Průhonice, and to a number of private holders. In 1931, Jablůnkov-based management of the Spiš episcopal farmstead took over the remnants of the herd of black horses including Sacramoso XXIV - its founder sire. This dispersion of the Kladruber stock from what was its cradle and stronghold started the demise of black Kladrubers - a foundation stock of the only autochthonous breed of horses kept in Bohemia for centuries. Its recovery occurred only thanks to PhDr. et. MUDr. František Bílek, DrSc., a professor at the University of Agriculture in Prague, who started it in 1941. (More detailed information on the restoration of the black Old Kladruber horse is available in the book entitled “50 let hřebčína Slatiňany 1945 - 1995”, which was published by the Kladruby National Stud in the late 1995 to celebrate 55 years of the institution’s existence.)