King John gave great encouragement to horse-breeding: one of his earliest efforts was to import a hundred Flemish stallions, and, having thus paved the way for improving the breed of agricultural horses, he set about acquiring a valuable stud for his own use.
Our information on the whole subject is but scanty down to the reign of Henry VII., who continued the enactment against the exportation of stallions, but relaxed it in the case of mares above two years old.
Prince George of Denmark, consort of Queen Anne, was himself a large horse-owner; and it was in a great measure owing to his intervention that so many valuable stallions were imported during her reign.
We append the pedigree of Blair Athol, winner of the Derby and St Leger in 1864, who, when subsequently sold by auction, fetched the then unprecedented sum of 12,000 guineas, as it contains, not only Stockwell (the emperor of stallions, as he has been termed), but Blink Bonny and Eleanor - in which latter animal are combined the blood of Eclipse, Herod, Matchem and Snap, - the mares that won the Derby in 1801 and 1857 respectively, as well as those queens of the stud, Eleanor's greatgranddaughter Pocahontas and Blink Bonny's dam Queen Mary.
The initial efforts began by securing the services of thoroughbred stallions for specified districts, by offering a limited number of " Queen's Premiums," of L200 each, to selected animals of four years old and upwards.