What German State Stud Was Founded By A Decree From The King of England and Ireland? Landgestüt Celle!
King George II, was born in Herrenhausen Palace in Hanover, Germany in 1683. He was the only son of the German prince George Louis (King George I of Great Britain from 1714 to 1727) and Sophia Dorothea of Celle. He grew up in Hanover and married Caroline of Ansbach in 1705. They had nine children.
In his lifetime, George II was of King of Great Britain & Ireland, Elector of Hanover and Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, an historical ducal state from the late Middle Ages until the late Early Modern era within the North-Western domains of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The dukedom emerged in 1235 from the lands of the House of Welf in Saxony and was granted as an imperial fief to Otto the Child, a grandson of Henry the Lion. Its name came from the two largest towns in the territory: Brunswick and Lüneburg.
King George I and his son despised each other throughout their lives, as George I imprisoned George II's mother during his childhood and forbid his son to see her. After his accession to the throne, George II followed foreign and domestic developments closely. Throughout his life George II, maintained a passion for anything military, one of the reasons for his support of the establishment of the Hanoverian State Stud at Celle. King George II displayed courage while fighting the French at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743—the last time a British king appeared on the battlefield—and he organized each day with the precision of a drill sergeant.
At his decree, The Lower Saxony State Stud of Celle was founded on July 27, 1735. This was 41 years before the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. This was also sixteen years after King George II died at Kensington Palace in 1760 and was buried at Westminster. Celle's foundation is unique among the state studs of Germany, because it was not originally based on a royal stud or courtly stables. Although established by royal decree, the stud has always been "exclusively for the improvement of horse breeding for farmers."
The quality of local stock directly impacted the safety of this sovereign region. In times of war, cavalry horses were recruited locally from farmers, and the quality of remounts affected the outcomes of battles. Furthermore, nobles wanted quality riding horses for personal use and as harness horses for carriage transport. Poor quality local stock meant that nobles had to rely on importation for quality horses. Establishment of a state stud meant that fine riding and driving horses could be purchased locally, reducing trade dependence on other regions.
The first sires to stand there were 12 black Holsteiners. Young stallions were generally imported from Mecklenburg and England. Despite the close connection between Hanover and Great Britain, Thoroughbred horses could not play a role in the founding of the stud, as the breed was in its infancy in Celle's own early years. Pedigrees were recorded in Celle's studbooks as early as the end of the 18th century.
The Napoleonic Wars, from 1803 to 1815, decimated horse populations, including those at the State Stud of Celle. In 1803, the 100 stallions living at Celle had to be evacuated to Mecklenburg, of which only 30 returned. While the war was responsible for the loss of many horses, horse breeding expanded to meet the needs of the cavalries, such that the population of stallions at Celle had returned to pre-war numbers within 15 years. In the aftermath of the wars, King George IV assisted in the repopulation of the State Stud of Celle with about 50 of his own stallions. These stallions, which came from his private stables, were stationed in various parts of his kingdom and utilized by locals. In 1829, King George IV discontinued this practice, and purchased 26 excellent stallions for Celle.
The pedigrees of Thoroughbreds were first organized on a large scale by the General Stud Book in 1791, effectively creating the original breed registry for Thoroughbreds. Within fifty years, the rising prominence of the breed and the personal union between Hannover and Great Britain saw an influx of Thoroughbred and part-Thoroughbred stallions to Celle. Further use of Thoroughbred stallions is credited to the state equerries of the mid-19th century. The state equerry is a government appointment and this person oversaw activities related to the horses of a region.
From 1866, the state equerries of Hannover were two brothers, August and Frederick von Spörken, who imported over 100 Thoroughbred-influenced stallions from England. These stallions were used to breed larger, more refined, more energetic and enduring mounts. In the late 1800s, nearly a third of the sires at Celle were Thoroughbred or of Thoroughbred decent. This demographic resulted in horses that were too physically and temperamentally refined for farm work, and a period of consolidation followed this explosion of Thoroughbred influence.
World War I raged between 1914 and 1918. During this period, warring nations avidly developed new advantages in the form of mechanized warfare. Simultaneously, demand for cavalry horses during the war itself was high, and Celle helped meet this demand by increasing the number of stallions available at the main stud and its outposts from 350 to 500 by 1924. The prestige associated with the cavalry made many nations slow to replace them, but the role of the horse in warfare dwindled steadily with the advent of tanks.
Without the armed forces to purchase their stock, breeders around Celle began to cut back, and then to refocus. Between the First and Second World Wars, horses primarily fulfilled agricultural roles, such as pulling plows and farm machinery. This market change was not limited to any one part of Germany, and as a result, Celle supplied breeders with heavier, stronger stallions with which to breed their mares. To cope with the expansion of horse breeding during this period, new outposts of the State Stud were established.
This change did not endure, due to World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. One of the outcomes of the war was mechanized agriculture. The widespread access to tractors all but eliminated the need for farm horses. Mechanization of transportation, warfare, and agriculture eliminated, in succession, the working horse. What remained in the wake of World War II was need for lighter riding horses for sport horse competition and leisure.
In 1945, what remained of the refined Trakehners evacuated East Prussia, fleeing from Russian troops. Some of these elegant horses made their way to Celle, and as breeding aim changed to feature the riding horse, many were incorporated into the stud farm. Since 1945, many Thoroughbreds and Trakehners, and some Anglo-Arabians, have occupied stalls at the State Stud at Celle. Today, the stallion stock includes 120 state stud stallions, among them are 10 thoroughbreds and 2 Anglo-Arabians. Additionally, there are 30 three year old young Hanoverian stallions stationed at the stallion performance testing station in Adelheidsdorf. Since the 1980s, private stallion ownership in Hannover has steadily increased, however many of Hanoverian mares are still bred to the state-owned stallions of Celle.