The Nonius and the Furioso were first bred in the 19th century in Hungary, using a horse-breeding philosophy dating 1,000 years back to the settlement in the Carpathian basin of the Magyar horsemen, the descendants of the horse peoples of the Asian steppes. From then on, Hungary dominated horse-breeding in Europe, producing hardy, quality horses, greatly in demand as cavalry mounts. In the 16th century, Arab blood was introduced. This improved and refined the native stock and the influence is still apparent.
MEZOHEGYES AND BABOLNA
The great studs at Mezohegyes and Babolna, owned by the Austro-Hungarian emperors, were founded in 1785 and 1789 by the Emperor Joseph II. Successive rulers and governments encouraged the horse-breeding industry, until at the end of the 19th century Hungary had over two million horses and some of the foremost studs in the world. At its peak Mezohegyes housed over 12,000 horses. It became the centre for the breeding of the Nonius and Furioso, while Babolna was famed for the Shagya Arab.
Nonius Senior, the foundation sire of the Nonius breed, was foaled in Normandy, in 1810, and taken by Hungarian cavalry after Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig in 1813. It is recorded that he was by the English half-bred stallion Orion (who very probably had Norfolk Roadster blood) out of a Norman mare. Nonius stood at 1.66 m (16.1 hh), and apparently was not a handsome horse. He head with small eyes and long ears, a short neck, long back, narrow pelvis, and a low-set tail. However, he was very prolific, and his progeny far surpassed him in conformation.
At first, Nonius was crossed with all kinds of mares ? Arabs, Lipizzaners, English half-breds, Spanish, and Normans. He sired 15 exceptional stallions, principally the genetically dominant Nonius IX. During the 1860s more Thoroughbreds were used, to eliminate the remaining physical defects, and the breed was divided into two types. The larger one became a carriage-type or light farm horse. Predominantly bay in colour, it was tough, sound, powerful, and active, with a notably economical movement and an equable nature. It stood at 1.60-1.68 m (15.3-16.2 hh).
When crossed with Thoroughbred stallions, the Nonius mares produce all-round riding horses with jumping ability, and greater scope and quality than the pure Nonius. The small type, which carries more Arab blood, works very well both as a riding horse and in harness. The Nonius is long-lived but is a late developer, not maturing until it is at least six years old.
The Furioso, was also developed at Mezohegyes, using Nonius mares as a base. Furioso and North Star were English Thoroughbred stallions brought to Mezohegyes in 1841 and 1844 respectively. Furioso sired more than 95 stallions, which were used at many of the imperial studs.
North Star was a grandson of Touchstone, who won the 1834 St Leger and the 1836
and 1837 Ascot Gold Cup. His dam was a granddaughter of Waxy, the 1793 Derby winner who was himself a grandson of Eclipse, and the horse chiefly responsible for perpetuating Eclipse’s illustrious line. North Star also had earlier Norfolk Roadster ancestry, but this was less important. Like Waxy, he sired many harness race winners. Later on, more Thoroughbred blood was introduced. The North Star and Furioso lines were kept distinct until 1885, when they began to be crossed.
The Furioso strain has since gained the ascendancy.The Furioso is now a first class riding horse that stands at about 1.63 m (16 hh), and has many Thoroughbred characteristics. It is sound, hardy, and intelligent, and goes well in harness. It is also a good competition horse. The Furioso is bred all the way from Austria to Poland.