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Horse Breeds
First Posted: July 17, 2009
Sep 26, 2010

Shagya Arabian Horse Breed

Shagya Arabian

Country of Origin: Hungary, southeastern Europe

The Shagya Arabian was developed in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the 19th century at the Bábolna, Mezohegyes, Radautz, Piber, and Topolcianky studs. Today it is most often seen in the Czech Republic, Austria, Romania, the former Yugoslavian countries, Poland, Germany, and Hungary, but has been exported to other nations and is bred around the world. A purebred Shagya Arabian today has bloodlines can be traced in all lines to the stud books of Radautz, Babolna, and Topolcianky. The breed is considered by some to be a subspecies of Arabian horse, but due to the presence of a small amount of non-Arabian breeding is considered an Anglo-Arabian or a partbred Arabian in some places.


One of the major founding sires was Shagya, a gray Arabian (or, some say part-Arabian) stallion with some ancestors of the Kehilan and Siglavy strains. Born in Syria in 1810, he was taller than the average Arabian of the time, standing 15.2-1/2 hands high (62 1/2 inches at the withers). He was mostly used for crossbreeding at Bábolna, bred few asil Arabian mares, and thus has no pure Arabian descendants today. Many of the Arabian stallions standing at Bábolna and other studs were crossbred with mares who already possessed a great deal of Arabian influence due to the long Turkish occupation of Eastern Europe. Some Thoroughbreds and Lipizzans were also used. In all cases, meticulous pedigree records were kept.

Originally, these predominantly, but not Asil ("pure") Arabian horses were referred to by the generic term Araberrasse (Arab "race" or breed, indicating predominantly Arabian ancestry) but was changed after the second World War into Shagya by the Hippologist Dr. Gramazky because he was worried that the non-purebred descendants of Shagya would be mixed up with the Purebred Arabian horses that were also produced in Hungary. At time, the name was chosen because Shagya was in virtually every Pedigree as an ancestor, though many other Arabian bloodlines are also a part of the Shagya breed.


While Shagyas are not considered "pure" or asil Arabians, they have a closed stud book and have special status within the World Arabian Horse Association (WAHO). In 1978, WAHO stated that Shagya Arabians that have been bred pure after the system of Bábolna and Topolcianky may be termed "pure bred Shagya Arabians," and the Shagya breeders' organization is under WAHO patronage as associate members, allowed to use the WAHO emblem. However, WAHO also was clear that "Purebred" in this case means that the horses have been bred pure among themselves and are not to be confused with the term "purebred Arabian." Some aficionados note that the meticulous record keeping of the Hungarian studs actually has produced horses with longer and more complete pedigrees than some horses accepted as "purebred" Arabians by mainstream registries. However, in spite of this argument, Shagyas remain a distinct bloodline group and are generally not accepted as "pure-blooded Arabians."


The Shagya Arabian exhibits traits similar to the asil or purebred Arabian horse, with high carried tail, sound bone and excellent endurance. However, due to the small influx of non-Arabian breeding and the breeding goals of the Hungarian studs, Shagyas tend to be taller, less refined, and bigger-boned than purebred Arabians; the modern Shagya is usually at least 15 hands tall and commonly 16 hands, whereas the breed standard for the Arabian ranges from 14.1 to 15.1 hands, with some individuals over and under that height.


This breed is recognized as a riding horse, and is also driven in harness. It was a hardy cavalry horse and is now popular in sport horse disciplines such as dressage, eventing and endurance riding. The 2006 FEI Endurance World Champion was a Shagya gelding bred at Bábolna.

For More Information

"Pure Bred Shagya-Araber Society International"
WAHO Definition of Shaya Arabian
North American Shagya Arabian Society
Shagya Horse Breed Spotlight
Shagya Arabian Cowboy Frank

Horse Breeds