What We Can Learn From the Godolphin Arabian’s Life?

James Seymour, Artist

He was one of the three original fathers of all modern-day race horses…

Here are a few things we can learn from the life of the Godolphin Arabian.

1. Even though life brings major changes – we can learn to thrive in a new environment.

This memorable Arabian horse was born in North Africa – possibly in Tunisia or Yemen – however he did not stay there. Sent far from his mother and home of origin, he traveled through France and then lived many years in Great Britain.

Just as this horse left everything to live life in a completely new environment, we can survive the same. In 2013 I had to downsize considerably and sell or give away most of what I valued so I could live a better life 700 miles away. This kind of transplanting happens to many of us, and we need to remember there are good times ahead. When we let go of the past, new good things can happen.

2. You can always find new friends.

Though the Godolphin Arabian lost everyone he knew in early life, he later made friends with a cat named Grimalkin.

Throughout my life I’ve had many close friends. I’ve moved a lot and each place I lived, I managed to make friends… at least one who I was very close to. Though I’ve moved on and left behind most of those friends, email helps me stay in contact with the friend I moved away from in 2013. Don’t be afraid to move on and meet new people. It may be time to learn from someone new.

3. Some people value you more than others.

This horse was exported from North Africa and probably given as a diplomatic gift to King Louis XV of France. There, he was used as a carthorse! A horse breeder, Edward Coke, bought him and took him to a stud farm at Longford Hall, Derbyshire in Great Britian. Later he was purchased by the 2nd Earl of Godolphin and moved to another stud farm at Babraham, Cambridgeshire. Our historically beloved Arabian horse was the father of many foals!

Have you met people who didn’t like you, who couldn’t see the value in you, who thought you useless and unworthy? Well, don’t let that bother you. There are always other people who will see the beauty in you, who will value and respect you for the gifts you have to give the world.

4. Even though you might think you haven’t achieved much, your life can affect others in unexpected ways.

This early Arabian didn’t race much, but he’s called “the father” of many successful racehorses. A few famous racehorses whose lineage can be traced back to this one horse, are War Admiral, Man O’War, and Seabiscuit. I’m sure nobody anticipated that.

Likewise, we don’t know our own true worth. I believe God has a plan for every one of us, and it may be something we cannot even imagine at this time. Hang in there!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

The Godolphin Arabian - What We Can Learn From the Godolphin Arabian’s Life?

And now for some history:

The Godolphin Arabian (also known as the Godolphin Barb), was born in North Africa – possibly in Tunisia or Yemen, in 1724. He was transported to Paris where he was bought by Edward Coke and transported to England to live on a stud farm. After his owner passed away in 1733, the horse was bequeathed to Roger Williams who sold him to Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin, and that is where the horse got his name. This noble, memorable horse lived from 1724 to 1754 – only thirty years – but made a huge impact on horse racing that continues to this day.


The Godolphin Arabian was bay brown with a little white on his rear heel. He stood 15 hands tall (60 inches, 152 cm) when fully grown.

On the word of a veterinarian:

“There never was a horse (at least, that I have seen) so well entitled to get racers as the Godolphin Arabian; for, whoever has seen this horse must remember that his shoulders were deeper, and lay farther into his back, than those of any horse ever yet seen.” — Osmer, a veterinary surgeon (quoted by Prior)

Painting of the famous racehorse – …shown with his cat, Grimalkin

The Godolphin Arabian - Stubbs, after Morier
Painted originally from life by David Morier (1705?-1770); this was a copy by famed horse artist, George Stubbs (1724-1806). This is one of the very few horses Stubbs didn’t paint from life. The original painting by David Morier can be seen here at Mutual Art. Many others have copied this famous portrait. The cat companion, Grimalkin, is an important part of this portrait, and of the horse’s life, but it does not appear in the original David Morier painting.

Why he was perfect for breeding racehorses:

“Behind the shoulders, there was but a very small space ere the muscles of his loins rose exceedingly high, broad, and expanded, which were inserted into his hindquarters with greater strength and power than in any horse I believe ever yet seen of his dimensions, viz fifteen hands high.” — Osmer, a veterinary surgeon (quoted by Prior)

The Godolphin Arabian – or The Godolphin Barb? – …what should it be?

Many horse researchers believe the Godolphin Arabian came from Tunisia and should be referred to as the Godolphin BARB as Tunisia is on the Barbary Coast of North Africa.

Portraits of this gorgeous horse show a dished profile with a tail carried high. These are features that differentiate an Arabian from a Barb.

The two breeds have a lot in common, but have different phenotypes.

Others have called the Godolphin Arabian a Turkoman horse, saying he was called an Arabian just to raise the stud fee!

The Earl of Godolphin called this horse an Arabian, even though he had other horses he said were Barbs. Also the horse painter, George Stubbs (1724-1806) called him an Arabian.

Which should it be?

Godolphin Arabian research links

For more history about this horse – see the Wikipedia page.
Thoroughbred Horse Portraits – learn more about this horse at a site devoted to the breed.

Precious – an Egyptian history of the Arabian horse breed

There have been many books written about the Godolphin Arabian. One I’ve read, written for children, won the Newbery Medal in 1949.

King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian

This is a children’s historical novel… and it won the Newbery Medal – the most prestigious award for children’s literature in the USA.

This book has been criticized for being inaccurate about the true history of the Godolphin Arabian, but one should remember the book was intended as a historical fiction novel for children. Historical fiction is not true to history – it is fiction based on history.

The book was written by Marguerite Henry, who won many awards for her much-loved novels about horses – all written for children.

Video Review of King of the Wind – the novel

King of the Wind was made into a film in 1993

King of the Wind at IMDb.
Here’s the trailer: