Despite the fact that the Morab has only been registered through its own association since 1973, records show that breeders have been experimenting with a Morgan / Arabian mix for many years. In fact, the first documented Morab dates to the middle of the 19th century, with breeders experimenting with the cross throughout the 20th century. Here we'll take a look at the history of the Morab breed and the breeders that helped define the horse we know today.
The first documented Morab, though the name "Morab" hadn't been coined yet, was a stallion named Golddust, which was foaled in 1855. Registered as #69 in the Morgan registry, Golddust was the offspring of a Morgan sire and a Hoke mare, who in turn was the offspring of an imported Arabian. Not only was Golddust unparalleled in competition, as he easily won in every show ring in which he appeared and famously won a trotting contest against Iron Duke in 1861, the stallion was also extremely prolific at stud, giving his offspring a great deal of speed. Golddust went on to sire 302 foals and 44 trotters of note, and these numbers are doubly impressive when it is considered that his career was cut short because of the Civil War. Today, as many as one hundred Morabs can trace their heritage back to Golddust.
As tastes changed and the advent of the automobile rendered the riding horse less necessary, the Morab nearly disappeared until the 1920's, when famed newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst began experimenting with the cross at his ranch, San Simeon. Hearst, who is credited with coining the term "Morab", was well known for his impressive Arabian breeding program and crossed two of his Arabian stallions with several Morgan mares. Hearst is reported to have said that the results of these crosses were very suitable for work on his ranch.
Around the same time, a breeding program in Texas was also experimenting with the Arabian and Morgan cross. The Swenson brothers, working on their father's famous SMS Ranch, purchased two Morgan stud colts and seven Morgan broodmares just before 1920. Not long after, they purchased three Arabian stallions from the Government Remount program that were introduced into the breeding program. The results were Morabs that became well known cutting horses, including Rey Boy, who was bought by Hollywood rider Wild Bill Elliot.
Of course, the most significant breeding program was started by Martha Doyle Fuller of Clovis, California. Fuller worked for over twenty years, experimenting with different crosses, in order to find a successful cross that could win on the show ring circuit. Fuller found the most consistent success with the Morab cross over several generations. It is from her breeding program that the first registry was created. Even though the registry started by her family nearly faded away after her death in 1980, other enthusiasts and breeders picked up the torch in the 1980's and the breed is going very strong today.