Arabian Horse (1)

by | Jul 20, 2018 | Arabian Type Subgroup, Eastern-Oriental

A. orig. desert stallion   B. halfblooded mare   C. halfblooded gelding

The gender dimorphism by the Arabian horse is more noticeable in the formation of the head than in other breeds.

Original Arabian stallion Amurath Sahib
born 1932 in Breniowie.
Sire: Amurath II Dam: Sahiba

Imported desert Arab (1930s Europe)

Typical head of the desert Arabian
(note the typical wide forehead,
large eyes and nostrils)

Typical head of an Arabian halfblood

Typical Arabian fullblood

Arabian halfblooded stallion
Catania, Sicily born 1927

Fanfan IV, 5 yrs
French bred Arabian fullblood

8 yrs gray Arabian halfblood
1930s central Europe

The Arabian horse is the most typical and pure representative of the oriental type (group) horse and the most refined and beautiful horse among all the breeds of horses as well.

The “eastern” Arabian horse became known in Europe only in the medieval age. During the Christian crusades, the soldiers (knights) came across the Arabian horses for the first time. Bought or stolen, the Arabian horse found his way to Europe, where he was used in breeding to refine domestic horses. Of course in the early part of the middle ages, the Arab merchants often traveled to Europe, where they were selling jewelry, silk, ivory, spices, medicine and also horses. In those days the popular horse of the central Europe was a lighter version of the western type horse used primarily as a military and tournament horse. With the invention of the black powder, this western type of a horse became obsolete and useless for the military purpose for his lack of speed to escape the enemy fire. In those days, the eastern type of horse began to spread over Europe very quickly.

The eastern horse became property of Arabs only at the time of the prophet Muhammad that is, in the 7th century A. D. In the biblical times, there were no horses bred in the Arabian Desert. Greek explorer/writer Herodotus and Roman Strabo, who traveled through the Orient, wrote with amazement that they saw beautiful horses in Asia Minor and Persia, but about Arabia they wrote, that only camels and sheep are being bred there and that there is also living a large amount of wild donkeys. Already in the 6th century A. D. the Roman emperor gave to a Syrian nobleman 200 fine horses to promote the breed of horses in Arabia, but the idea didn’t catch too well. During the Arabian invasions east to the Caspian Sea in the siege of cities Samarkand and Turkestan, the Arabs were riding camels, whose appearance was scaring to death the opposition’s horses, who never saw them before. The sight of a camel was remote in those days in that region.

For the bloom of horse breeding, the Arabs give gratitude to Muhammad, who suffered many defeats by the enemy’s cavalry and came to know the value of a horse not only for the military purpose, but for spreading his religious ideology as well. Muhammad alone was a rider and lover of horses and in the Koran he encourages the love for horses and their breeding. “The earthly possessions rest between the eyes of a horse”, “The best earthly possessions are; a smart woman and pregnant mare”, although there is another quote; “every evil has two springs, a woman and a horse”.

Nomadic lifestyle of a Bedouin was closely combined with his horse, because he spent most of his life in the saddle and his well being depended on the endurance, speed and reliability of his horse. It is no surprise that not only for religious reasons but for economical as well, the Arabs managed to adjust the horse to a life in the desert and by careful selection kept this horse on a higher lever of refinement. For this reason, this fine horse was also adopted in other regions of Asia Minor and in Iran as well, the place of horses of an ancient date.

The homeland of the Arabian horse is the Arabian Peninsula that stretches from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea and covers an area the size of half Europe. The center of this region consists mostly of steppes, deserts and rocky terrain. The deserts are mostly rocky or sandy and water is scarce everywhere. Only at few places are Oases with palm trees, water, gardens and fields tended by settlers. The rest of the region is desert, which was occupied by nomadic Arabs/Bedouins, who used the horses for robberies or attacks against neighboring tribes, while for transportation they used camels. The climate is dry, plants are scarce, dry and hard; the robber’s lifestyle of a nomadic Arab, including the harsh use of a horse under saddle, were the hard living conditions which gave the Arabian horse the characteristics of undemanding/easy keeper and tough horse with immense endurance. The living condition on such a large region varies, and so do the types of Arabian horses.

In Arabia the horses are bred smaller or larger, with a “dished in” or straight, sometimes even “Roman” nose. Various forms of horses are both, on a tall or short leg, and of square or longer frames. The smallest and most refined fullblooded Arabian horses were bred in the center of the region called “Nejd” by tribes named “Shomar” (later moved north), “Vahabit” and “Anase”. In the eastern, western and northern Arabia including Mesopotamia, the horses are somewhat taller and less refined.

Arabian of pure “Nejd” blood is on the average 14’3 hands and varying between 14’1 to 15 hands, squared framed, unlike the English Thoroughbred being more rectangular shaped frame. The neck of an Arabian is high set and only by over-refined horses will get the “swan” look. Often in these horses is found so-called “elk neck” (U-neck) and these horses tend to carry their heads high (stargazers), mainly when galloping. The Bedouins see nothing wrong with it and insist that horse going in such way is more enduring. His withers is distinct, high and muscular sloping to relatively short back. Very seldom is the Arabian “overgrown” (higher in the hind end than in the withers) and his high set tail is the mark of his breed. The shoulder is long, but steeper than by the English Thoroughbred. The legs are “dry” medium length with high bone density with the front legs being for most part correct, while the hind ones tend to be “sickle hocked”. The hoofs are often hard and stumpy like. The pasterns are longer but firm, which enables the Arabian to move safely on rocky terrains.

Among the Arabs are also individuals that are not consistent with this kind of frame, often with longer lines, low set necks and more resembling the English Thoroughbred.

Every Arabian original is imported from the desert and often isn’t as beautiful and graceful as it is frequently described. The most common faults found on desert Arabian are; small size, elk neck (U-neck), steep shoulder, sway back, insufficient width, performance, too thin legs, soft pasterns, sickle hock, stumpy and too hard hoofs. This of course doesn’t mean that one horse has all these deficiencies, but one or two can be often found on an individual. Many of these deficiencies are blamed on improper raising of young foals, nutrition and careless use under saddle. The Bedouins, despite their “love” for horses show no concern about their horse, especially in sharp turns and instead of spurs they use sharpened stirrups that often injure horse’s leg joints.

The gait of the Arabian is energetic, roomy, light not high but higher in trot than the English Thoroughbred, with crisp, somewhat short but quick and enduring gallop.

The general impression bears a testimony to the refinement and through-breeding of the Arabian horse; not only in his exterior but also in his movement and the general positioning of his body accompanied with lively, often inflammable (not nervous) temperament. Shortly said a horse of a good character.

The colors of Arabians vary. The best and most practical are the gray (white) with gray pigment in the skin, thus reflecting the ultraviolet ray and protecting the horse from sunburn. Besides the gray, the most common colors are bay and black and less common are chestnuts and other colors or shades. Those horses who have markings on the head are excluded from breeding, because the Arabs believe that a black horse with a white “star” on his forehead predicts the owner’s death.

As far as racing is concern, the Arabian horse is hardly comparable in speed with the English thoroughbred, however in longer distances he is better.

The foremost quality of the desert Arabian is his ability to get most out of his feed (very “easy keeper”), which he passes onto his offspring.

Continue to Page 2 of the Arabian Horse