It is difficult to determine the origin of the Arabian Horse, since its history is clouded by legend and myth. Archaeological evidence is sparse since desert sands long ago pulverized the bones of the Arabian’s ancestors. The Koran says that Allah created the horse from a handful of South wind, saying: “Thy name shall be Arabian, and virtue bound into the hair of thy forelock…I have made thee master thy friend. I have given thee the power of flight without wings.” The Arab was clearly conditioned by its desert environment, where only the strongest and keenest survived. Today they are used for pleasure and trail riding, hunting, jumping, dressage, endurance, ranch work, parades, and in harness.
The Arabian horse is characterized by a small head and narrow muzzle, wide-set, large, prominent eyes, deep jowls, and a wide dished forehead. The neck is long and arched, and the throat is thin. The body is lean but muscular, and the legs are strong and straight. Arabs are commonly bay, chestnut, gray, and occasionally black and white. The Arabian’s height typically ranges between 14.1 to 15.1 hands. They possess great powers of endurance as well as elegance.
Besides mythological and religious accounts of the Arab’s origin, records show that the breed existed as long as 5000 years ago. The Arab has been very carefully bred throughout its history. The Arab is called “Kehilan” in Arabic, which means “Thoroughbred” a name passed on to the breed of that name due to its Arabian progenitors. The Arab is the “purest” of all breeds of horses. There are many types of Arabs which descend through 5 different linds of females: Kuhaylan El Adjus, Siglavy, Habdan, Hamdani, and Obajan. Each of these types has distinct physical characteristics.
The Arabian is one of the most popular breeds of horse in America. The Arabian Horse Registry of America, Inc. (which was originally called the Arabian Horse Club of America) was founded in 1908. The following year, the first stud book was published and listed 71 purebred Arabs in America held by 11 owners. By 1978, a total of 167,501 Arabians had been registered and the number of registered owners was 53,872 including Canada and Mexico. The highest (non-syndicated) price paid for an Arabian as of this writing was $350,000 paid for a stallion, Cometego, in 1917.
Arabians are found in a wide variety of uses, including hunting, jumping, endurance, dressage, trail riding and work on ranches. The first horse show devoted exclusively to the Arabian was held in California in 1945. By 1949, the A.H.S.A. had established a separate Arabian division. Arabian horse races were first held at Laurel, Maryland in 1959. At the other extreme of competition, the Arabian International Cutting Horse Jubilee began at Filter, Idaho in 1970.
The Arabian has greatly influenced other breeds of horses. Perhaps the most famous Arabian to come to Europe was the Darley Arabian. He became one of the three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred breed. Arabian blood has proved a significant influence on other breeds. In addition to the Arabian native to the Middle East, there are also distinct strains of Arabs in France, Germany, Poland, and America.
Unlike other horsemen, the Bedouins only used mares for the hunt and for war. Stallions were used only for stud. Most colts were sold to horse dealers because only a few were needed for breeding. Breeding was only traced through the mares, not the studs. A pure-bred or “Asil” mare was highly revered. It was believed that only an Asil mare could carry one to victory in war.
1. Asiatic Wild Stock
For more information, contact:
Arabian Horse Association
10805 E. Bethany Drive
Aurora, Colorado 80014