History - International Stud Book Committee

Presentation made at the 2002 Paris Conference by PAUL GREEVES,
Operations Director of Weatherbys on behalf of Johnny Weatherby,
Chairman of the International Stud Book Committee


The International Stud Book Committee (ISBC) first met in October 1976 and
did so as a Conference not the Committee which it later became.

Photograph of the attendees at that very first gathering.

What could have brought about this momentous gathering? An examination of the records of the Tenth International Conference of Racing Authorities (Paris Conference) and the notes of the ISBC proceedings indicates that procedural and policy differences and unresolved issues between Stud Book Authorities around the world were becoming a barrier to free and effective movement of horses.

These differences involved subjects which required special expertise and the Paris Conference, whilst not the appropriate forum for their discussion, was becoming embroiled in trying to resolve them. Thus the Paris Conference suggested to the major Stud Book Authorities that they should meet to find a better way to tackle and resolve these problems. An effective means of communication and decision making amongst Stud Book Authorities was urgently needed.

Stud Book Authorities had spent decades if not centuries in relatively insular pursuit of their task of accurately recording and publishing details of all thoroughbreds. The growing movement of racehorses and the breeding stock required a new consistent and modern approach and it was in 1976 and specifically, the formation of ISBC, which saw positive steps taken to tackle this requirement.


Weatherbys and their then Chairman, Christopher Weatherby, were asked by the 1976 Paris Conference to organise the first gathering took place on October 21st 1976. Immediate progress was made. The minutes of this gathering record that it was decided to:

  • set up an International forum for standardisation of Conditions of Entry for Stud Books;
  • finalise criteria for promotion to thoroughbred status;
  • establish effective communication of proposals and decisions to all Stud Book Authorities;
  • create the ISBC as a separate but complementary organisation to the Paris Conference, serviced by Weatherbys, but with minutes circulated with those of the Paris Conference - (later this was replaced by delivery of a report by the Chairman of the ISBC annually to the Paris Conference).

The early years of operation were not without difficulty, even some tension, as the different approaches and practices of the major Stud Book Authorities, which had built up over centuries, were tackled and reconciled.

When studying the minutes of those first years, one can record that these early challenging times taught the ISBC some lessons which still guide the conduct today. Records indicate that the members accepted, over time, that:

  • members should recognise that each is responsible for Stud Books in their own Areas and cannot be forced into decisions which national considerations would not allow.
  • But, that members should strive to reach unanimous decisions wherever possible.
  • Expertise and continuity in the Committee's membership is essential. Some subjects need two or three years of informed debate.
  • The ISBC needs members who really know their subject in detail and can ensure full promulgation of decisions.
  • The ISBC should look for and expect members to be independent from breeders but that a practical degree of independence should be shown.

Importantly in 1995 the maturity of the ISBC was further demonstrated when it agreed a Mission Statement which was and is as follows:

The mission of the International Stud Book Committee is to establish standards of Stud Book operation that will ensure the integrity and future development of the Thoroughbred breed and provide the foundation necessary for a healthy international Thoroughbred industry. To accomplish this mission, the Committee will:

  • establish standards for:
- operating and maintaining a Thoroughbred Stud Book,
- breeding and identification of Thoroughbred horses,
- the movement of Thoroughbreds between Stud Book Authorities.
  • Review the procedures used by emerging Stud Book Authorities in the registration of Thoroughbreds; to ensure that those procedures meet the established standards.
  • Establish standards for reporting of information on Thoroughbred breeding, including:
- Publication of foal crop information
- Sharing of pedigree information
  • Make recommendations to Stud Book Authorities on how technology can be applied to benefit the breed and its management.


The ISBC started its life as a Conference but by 1979 it had moved on to operate as a Committee. Interest in the forum in those early years grew rapidly and it was clear to the original membership that they needed to find an effective means of communicating with the many and varied Stud Book Authorities around the world.

But, the nature and complexities of the subjects on the agenda meant that convening a meeting attended by all the Stud Book Authorities of the world was an impractical proposition and would make decision making most difficult.

It was decided that a better approach would be to operate via an annual meeting of a limited membership of principal Authorities timed to convene prior to the Paris Conference and tasked with communicating to all other Stud Book Authorities through Area conferences.

This arrangement prevails today. The membership of the International Stud book Committee is therefore restricted and each member is charged with representing its Area of the globe and with liaising with all Stud Book Authorities in their Area. The members and the Areas they represent are as follows:



South America



Great Britain & Ireland

European & Mediterranean

South Africa

Southern & Central Africa


North America, Central America & Caribbean

Johnny Weatherby is the latest member of the Weatherby family to hold the Chair and Weatherbys also provide the Secretariat. Members contribute to the costs of operation on a per country basis, and meetings are held annually. In the past the meetings have all been in Britain but it is now planned that they should take place every other year in Britain and by rotation in other member countries in intervening years.

The area conference and communication channels bring 70 Stud Book Authorities together. These are interesting given their diversity. The great majority are now Approved Stud Books but a number have yet to achieve this status so remain in the emerging Stud Book category. These are shown with an asterix in the following list of countries under their Areas:

The North American, Central America & Caribbean Area comprises 10 countries:



Costa Rica


Dominican Republic

Trinidad & Tobago




The Australasian Area comprises just:

New Zealand

Southern and Central Africa similarly consists of just 2 countries:

South Africa

South America (O.S.A.F.) comprises 10:











The Asian Stud Book Conference has 16 member countries










Saudi Arabia







and the European and Mediterranean Stud Book Liaison Committee has the greatest membership at 31 countries:













Czech Republic





Serbia & Montenegro*


Slovak Republic



Great Britain









Effective communication has been greatly enhanced by a comprehensive Internet web site which allows members to place papers, proposals and reports on the site for others to consider and view. Meeting agendas appear in full as of course do minutes. The site also provides an interactive 'chat room' for members to discuss issues and develop discussion between meetings.

Weatherbys Home Page


The breadth of the subjects which the ISBC has tackled and the depth of discussion and analysis of them is impressive. In fact it now seems inconceivable that the Stud Book Authorities of the world did not meet annually prior to 1976. Any examination of the history of the ISBC would be woefully incomplete without showing a selection of the subjects which the ISBC has addressed. Some are constant entries on the annual agenda.

  1. Definition of The Thoroughbred - was the first major subject addressed in detail and required very careful consideration. Every member had a slightly different definition. This meant that certain horses, although accepted in their own domestic Stud Books, were not accepted in the Stud Books of other countries because of perceived pedigree flaws, often dating back well over a century. For an industry looking to international expansion this was an unacceptable barrier.

    After a great deal of discussion, the Committee decided mutually to accept, without question, the pedigrees of every horse in each of its member's Stud Books up to the beginning of 1980.

    This pragmatic approach produced the very clear digestible practice now embodied in Article 12 of the International Agreement on Breeding and Racing - with the requirement that entry in a Thoroughbred Stud Book is now only dependant upon registration of antecedents of a produce in a Stud Book approved by the International Stud Book Committee. This important achievement has eradicated the old problem of one Stud Book Authority accepting a bloodline but another refusing to do so. It was a momentous decision in the history of the recording of thoroughbreds and removed considerable barriers to the movement and exchange of breeding stock.
  2. Approved Stud Books - one of the main tasks which emerged from early discussions was the need to establish minimum standards of operation for Stud Book Authorities in order that Racing Authorities and the industry in general could be confident of the origins and identity of horses.

    Not unlike the first subject mentioned this led to debate over many years and to an evolutionary approach resulting in present policy. Originally a two tier system was devised with 'recognised' Stud Books and 'approved'. Eventually this was simplified and the single status of 'approved' was adopted. The ISBC therefore now maintains a list of Approved Stud Books on which the industry can rely.

    The list of Approved Stud Books appears in Appendix 10 of the International Agreement. The number has grown to 55.

    ISBC bases approval on a set of requirements which it uses both to monitor the performance of Stud book Authorities already on the Approved List and to test the efficacy of emerging Stud Books seeking Approval.

    This set of requirements covers procedures for registration of breeding stock, recording of breeding results, export and import movements, publication of relevant data and issue of documentation.

    Some recent additions to the Approved List have been Bahrain, Qatar, Tunisia and China. Others will follow.

  3. Artificial Insemination / Embryo Transfer - were amongst the first issues discussed and continue to find a prominent place on the current agenda. Support for maintenance of a ban has generally been resolute but, debate has always been healthy including liaison with Breeders' Associations.

    The ISBC has always recognised that a challenge to the ban on AI may come but in common with Racing Authorities, has maintained that it would not be in the interest of the industry to change.

    Members of the IFHA will indeed be aware that the Australian Stud Book Authority has been challenged to accept a foal resulting from embryo transfer and it may yet face legal action over its refusal to record the resulting produce.

  4. Blood Typing / DNA - these tools are now indispensable to the accurate recording of thoroughbreds worldwide. The ISBC has addressed and agreed all protocols and standards whilst overseeing both the introduction of blood typing and more recently, highly effective DNA testing. These advances have revolutionised the process of recording the birth of foals bringing with DNA certainty over the accuracy of published pedigrees. The ISBC has agreed that from 2002 onwards all foals recorded in an Approved Stud Book must be parentage tested.

    ISBC also oversees the maintenance of common and effective standards of testing through the International Society of Animal Geneticists.

  5. Promotion of Mares and Stallions to Vehicle Status - it is important for good order that all Stud Books should have a common approach to the eligibility of evolving bloodlines. Thoroughbred status is achieved after 8 successive crosses of thoroughbred blood and the produce of the seventh cross, if accepted by ISBC, is designated a "vehicle" mare/stallion. The ISBC is the acknowledged authority which can grant this status which is then recognised worldwide.

  6. Minimum Content of a Thoroughbred Stud Book - is perhaps a subject of less obvious impact but is nonetheless important. The ISBC has set standards for all Stud Book Authorities to follow, such that all published Stud Books not only contain foaling records but also lists of imports and exports, updates on name registrations and a statistical summary.

  7. Similarly ISBC has agreed a Minimum Content for Stud Books Published on the Internet - this is of course a topical issue and may well be the preferred means of publication in the future. Stud Books are very costly to print and publish and have very limited sales potential. The ISBC has provided the forum whereby those who most rely on the data determine just how much information must be included in an electronic publication.

  8. Electronic Transfer of Export Documentation - the ISBC utilising the technology of the American Jockey Club and Weatherbys has been active in developing systems which provide speedier transfer of vital horse details securely between Authorities when horses are permanently exported. It is possible that the major Authorities will move to electronic exchange rather than paper documentation with all the benefits of speed and ease of access which accompany it.

  9. Horse Identification - this is a topic of vital importance to both Stud Book and Racing Authorities. The ISBC has assisted progress via a number of initiatives including introduction of unique life numbers, moves to improve the standard of written and graphic descriptions and the setting of standards and procedures for the use of microchips as a complementary process supporting universally established identification techniques.

This is far from an exhaustive list of subjects tackled by ISBC merely an illustration. Other subjects addressed have been many and diverse of which the following is merely an illustration.

  • Intersexed horses.
  • Official birthdates, and covering seasons.

Naming issues including international protection of exceptional stallions and mares.

The ISBC members also provide other Stud Book authorities technical and practical Support whenever required. A good example concerns the diligent, patient and dedicated work carried out on behalf of the Russian Stud Book to deal with the major problem of the thousands of horses displaced during the Second World War whose documentation was lost. The ISBC Secretariat spent three years sifting through records and visiting relevant studs to take statements before resolving all the issues.


The emergence of racing and breeding as a truly international industry and sport has brought with it the need for its leaders and executives to maintain effective communication and a harmonised approach to administration. Only then can horses move freely without the risk of encountering frustrating bureaucratic barriers. The International Stud Book Committee came into existence to meet this challenge and is now firmly established as the body which oversees and co-ordinate the policies and practices of all Stud Book Authorities around the world.

It does of course work firmly alongside this organisation, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, working to ensure maximum commonality of approach amongst both Racing and Stud Book Authorities and will continue to do so. Its meetings will no doubt continue to take place before the IFHA meets in order that its proceedings and decisions can be recorded at the Paris Conference each year.

The ISBC will deal with all subjects which emerge to pose questions for Stud Book Authorities and it is already evident that scientific advances will bring new challenges. It is not too difficult to envisage that future ISBC agendas might include subjects such as :

Satellite tracking

Emerging Stud Book Authorities will be assisted and approved if they can meet the ISBC's exacting standards and there will be still greater use of the Internet for documentation transfer. Electronic publication of Stud Book records will be pursued if it continues to ease the path of the ever increasing number of thoroughbreds travelling the world.

Above all else the ISBC will continue to:

  • Facilitate the movement of thoroughbreds around the world
  • act in unison · liaise closely with Breeders representatives
  • work with and complement the role of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities
  • act in the interest of the breeding industry as a whole

All the members of the ISBC have to be thanked for the tremendous contribution they have made over the years. Here we have the Members at Newmarket last week who worked extremely hard in the interest of the subject of all our efforts, the magnificent thoroughbred.

2002 ISBC meeting held at Newmarket