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Clay Trotting Horses

Clay trotting horses were an American breed of thoroughbred horse during the 19th century now extinct.


Early years

In 1818 Richard B. Jones, American Consul in Tripoli lost a valuable Arabian stallion while it was in the care of some Danish officers. They replaced it with a Barb stallion named Grand Bashaw. In 1820 the stallion was shipped to Boston, Massachusetts where it sired a colt named Young Bashaw. This stallion was bred to a mare named Fancy by Messenger. A natural trotter, he sired eight foals, all fast trotters. He was finally bred to a mare named Charcoal Sal, who foaled a colt named Andrew Jackson, which became an extraordinary trotting racehorse.

Descendants of Young Bashaw

In 1836 Andrew Jackson was bred to Sally Miller and sired a foal named Long Island Blackhawk, a famous racer but with a short career. He was bred to a Canadian mare named Old Surrey or Lady Surrey and sired Henry Clay, foundation sire of the Clay breed of trotters.

The Smithsonian says this about him:

Old Henry Clay, often called "America's National Thoroughbred Trotting Horse" or "Father of American Trotting Horses", was foaled on Long Island in 1837 and purchased by Colonel William W. Wadsworth of Seneso, Livingston County, New York. When his days as a famous trotting horse were over, he was used for breeding and finally died at Lodi, New York in the spring of 1867. In life the horse stood 15 1/4 hands high (61 inches).

Some 14 years after his burial, Old Henry Clay's bones were dug up and his skeleton mounted by Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York. The skeleton was donated to the United States National Museum on April 22, 1881, by the Honorable Erastus Corning and Henry C. Jewett through the auspices of Randolph Huntington.

Only the mandible, a part of the skull, remains as a remnant of Old Henry Clay. It is kept in the research collection at the Smithsonian's Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland. Among his descendants was a trotting horse stallion named Cassius Clay. Randolph Huntington, an Arabian enthusiast, noticed after the Civil War that Clays were good horses but becoming increasingly rare. In 1877 after selling his other horses CMK Arabians[clarification needed] in an article about Randolph Huntington introduces him not only as a lover of Arabian horses but as a man also intent on saving the Clay Trotters.

Writing to a friend on Nov. 2, 1888, Huntington said,

"I know the horse [Henry Clay] thoroughly well and also his get. Residing in Brooklyn I knew also the horses there and on Long Island ... practical experience in handling and driving as a young man, as a matured man and as a dealer during and after the [Civil] war, I found my opinions in favor of the blood advocated. My investment was between $40,000 and $50,000."

Linden Tree and Leopard

On May 31, 1879, General Ulysses S. Grant returned from Turkey with two Oriental stallions in tow, Linden Tree and Leopard. It is often recorded that Linden Tree was a Barb and Leopard was an Arab.[citation needed]

Prior to the arrival of these horses in America, Clays were normally line bred to produce the desired results. Randolph Huntington wanted to breed to these stallions and negotiated to breed three virgin Clay mares to each of these stallions because he hoped to improve the roadhorse quality of his horses. In later years he called the new variety Clay-Arabs. Since Huntington wanted to breed only virgin mares it was not until 1880 or 1881 that he was able to breed and raise just what he wanted.

The resulting horses were good and continued line breeding produced quality horses. Within a few years many prominent men in the New York area were beginning to see the advantages of breeding these Clay-Arabs. A company was formed and Mr. Huntington moved his horses to Long Island. Unfortunately the depression of 1893 forced Randolph Huntington into receivership and all his horses were offered for sale on February 22 and 23, 1894. The Arabians went on to other barns, but this marked the end of the Clays.

The following quotation is also taken from the Oyster Bay Pilot:

We have the effort of Mr. Randolph Huntington to establish a type by mixing the blood of General Grant's Arab stallions with the mares of the Clay family. It will be recalled that when General Grant made his famous tour of the world he stopped at Constantinople, and was entertained by the Sultan, who gave the American soldier, as a souvenir of his visit, two stallions, Leopard and Linden Tree. These horses were landed in 1879, and Mr. Huntington at once began making arrangements to breed to them. Mr. Huntington has theories as to in-breeding, or close breeding, as he prefers to call it, that are more in consonance with the ideas that prevail abroad than here."

Of interest to the sports enthusiast is the record of one Clay stallion with the name Cassius. Although extinct now, the Clays did contribute to the creation of another American breed, the Standardbred Trotting Horse.


  • Conn, George. "Randolph Huntington, American Horse Breeder", Western Horseman, Apr 1949
  • Smithsonian Encyclopedia of the Horse [1]


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