The Godolphin Arabian was imported to England in 1730 to improve
the quality of English racing stock, adding Arab speed to English
stamina. The youngest of the three famous 'Pillars of the Stud Book'
from which all modern racing thoroughbreds descend, the Godolphin
sired more foals than either the Byerley Turk or the Darley
The Godolphin was a dark bay, foaled in 1724, and imported from
France in 1730 by Edward 'Neddy' Coke of Longford Hall, Derbyshire. The horse's stable name was Sham or Shami, and it has been
suggested he was one of four Arabs given to King Louis XV in 1730 by
the Bey of Tunis. He certainly fits the description by the Vicomte de
Marly of one of these horses, subsequently sold to England: 'The horse was called Shami, a bay-brown with reddish mottles and a very little
white on the hind feet, of beautiful conformation exquisitely
proportioned with large hocks well let down, with legs of iron and
unequalled lightness of forehand - a horse of incomparable beauty whose only flaw was being headstrong' (quoted in Lady Wentworth,
Thoroughbred Racing Stock, 1938, pp. 222-3).
The Godolphin Arabian was painted by John Wootton in 1731,
suggesting his early fame on arrival in England, and portraits of the
Godolphin continued to be popular throughout the eighteenth
century. Thomas Butler (fl.1750-1759) stated in his advertisements that he and his assistants would paint 'Horses, dogs, living and dead game, views of hunting etc., in order to compose sporting pieces for curious furniture in a more elegant and newer taste than has been yet' (quoted in Sally Mitchell, The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists,
1985, p. 142).