In the beginning…

~ my thoughts ~

Books are fabulous, though it really does depend greatly on what one is searching for. If the reading fits into the research of what the person is searching for and ultimately what they are prepared to accept given that the information gained is indeed relevant and accurate, then they are a wonderful resource. The benefit of most books is as a learning tool, and to learn one should be truly willing to open their minds to any and all information i.e. you should be prepared to learn. To quote a saying : “To speak truly one must be willing to be challenged, to listen Truly one must be willing to be changed.

Me?  I’ve been searching and will continue to search for the source ~ where did the Arabian come from? I’ll probably never be successful in finding the answer.  How the Arabian horse did evolve. Evolution – yes, my take on the whole issue is evolutionary, so it is from this angle that I approach the following. There are those who believe in Al Khamsa (the five (i.e. only five base mares) just like there are those who believe in Adam and Eve. There is nothing amiss with this at all and so be it. If you care to read on, be my guest…


“In the beginning”…

The earliest of version of equus is said to be the four-toed Hyracotherium or formerly, Eohippus (the Dawn Horse), with fossils being found in what is now known as the North America (McBane & Douglas Cooper, 1997) dating back some 50 million years putting it in the Eocene period, which is noted for the first grasses to appear, which is a resource for herbivores; trees thrive. Some modern mammals appear: advanced primates; camels, cats, dogs, horses and rodents

Reference chart :

To review a map of the world relevant to this era, the continents were certainly not as we see them currently.

Horse Genetics – online reading

Ancient Breeds of Horse from The Noble Horse

Early horses of the Desert of Arabia

Wentworth – The Authentic Arabian Horse, Three Voices Concerning the Horses of Arabia – Tradition (Nejd, Inner East); romantic Fable (Islam); The Outside World of the West (3rd edition – 1979)

RD Upton – Gleanings from the Desert of Arabia Olms Press

Early culture of the Desert of Arabia

The book The Authentic Arabian Horse also instills the author’s parents’ conceptual beliefs of life in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. Stated not only within the text itself but also within the Forward (by Sir Henry Abel Smith KCMG, KCVO, DSO) and by the author’s conclusion. These beliefs state the pre-Islamic concept of the Arabian Horse’s beginnings were different to the post-Islamic concept. The pre-Islamic concept dealing entirely with the evolutionary process of man and horse in the region.

More on the Al Khamsa / Post Islamic concept:

Quote 1 : P Upton on Strains

Quote 2 : Sherbatov and Stroganov on Strains

Quote 3 : Klynstra on Strains

Quote 4 : Gadzer on Strains

Modern interpretations of strain naming protocols within the Middle East today by Edouard AlDahdah

Early travelers to the Desert of Arabia

Major R D Upton’s writings – Newmarket to Arabia and Gleanings from the Desert of Arabia, particularly the latter, as with Wentworth’s The Authentic Arabian Horse promotes the concept of pre-Islamic beginnings of the horse of the desert. Both of RD Upton’s books are interesting reading.

Another reading which I have had access to is by the European Skorkowski.  Through his findings (examining skeletal structures of desert bred Arabians amongst others) suggests there are six sub-species to the Arabian Horse. The reading does go into some detail and can be relative to the evolutionary theory of the amalgamation of the breeds along with the ‘tastes’ or preferences of the Bedouin themselves by selectively breeding for their particular tribal and/or personal preference. Breedings consisting of in-breeding, line-breeding and where and when essential ‘out-crossing’ to suitably asil lines as defined by the Bedouin themselves. Most importantly, as westerners, our concepts of cultural purity are probably not the same as that of the eastern peoples (Middle East, specifically). For me, this is something that must be referred to constantly when reviewing the Arabian Horse. The notations of Upton in the segment “The People” (pp. 246-249) does somewhat describe the zealousness and strength of solid foundations pursued by the Bedouin.

The Russian travelers, Stroganov and Sherbatov, in their book, “The Arabian Horse: a survey“, follow their peers’ theorizing (post-Islam) is enlightening in their openness. They were trying to achieve a reason why desert bred Arabian Horses should be registered in imperialist Russia (pre 1900s). Their only objective from what they have written and my interpretation of their work, was to share information of their findings within the desert environment with the aid of the Blunts and RD Upton amongst their peers.

Many early historical articles can also be found on the WWW.

Modern views of the Horse of the Desert of Arabia

Klynstra’s book, Nobility of the Desert, proffers a somewhat evolutionary explanation to the equine we now know as the Arabian Horse. The author uses the reasoning of other popular Arabian Horse Historians to explain the differences / variances the early travelers saw in the strains as presented / bred by the Bedouin.

What Klynstra and Forbis have in common, is they suggest the equine became apparent in the region (Egypt and Arabia) around a similar time – 2500BC. Four millennium ago ~ ’tis an awfully long time for the Bedouin to hone their breeding skills and preferences, as has been suggested… “a measure of taste”! Along with natural selection of the strongest surviving all that is put before them.

Westernization of the Arabian Horse

Two recent revelations on separate issues have exposed some interesting history of the Arabian Horse in the mainstream modern breeding programs. The ramifications of this information are such that they could be ignored, treated with speculation or accepted for the values they show.

The Abbas Pasha Manuscript (Sherif & Forbis) tells that the Egyptian ruler, Mohamed Ali the Great, used a French veterinarian to run his stables. His duties included breeding decisions – essentially crossing ‘native’ Egyptian mares with Arabian Horses and then crossing the resulting female progeny back to their sires or other Arabian Horses. However, further in this book it is stated that Mohamed Ali the Great’s grandson, Abbas Pasha I, collected Arabian Horses from the Arabian Peninsula and bred these horses separately and in conjunction with his grandfather’s collection. It’s plausible the exact impact of this information will never be known.

Similar can be said of information the first Russian Studbook tells, as transliterated and translated by Melissa Paul et al. Essentially, the Imperialistic Russian program incorporated the Arabian Horse into their various horse breeding programs. However, the Russian’s also maintained the value of Bedouin-bred desert breeding and kept two distinct records of ‘desertbreds’ (of direct desert heritage) and highly bred derivatives from suitable ‘native’ foundation mares.

Timing was issue for both of these works, amongst others. In the case of the Russian text, it appears this information was not revealed until it was politically opportune and an enthusiasm to reveal, in English, what the Russian text holds. Not unlike the work of Sherif and Forbis with their opportune find of old Egyptian manuscripts and efforts to transliterate and translate; these too, we now accept as The Abbas Pasha Manuscript. To my mind, the impact of the Russian text is just about as great an impact as the Egyptian text!

Text: Russian version The Arabian Horse – a survey ~ can’t read Russian – try the English version as translated by GI Vassiltchikov.

Early Russian Perspectives

Another translation/transliteration by Melissa Paul

Westernization of the Arabian Horse

Not only is there the history of the Arabian Horse but there is the horse itself.

RD Upton in both his writings on the Arabian Horse – Newmarket to Arabia and Gleanings from the Desert of Arabia one can read how well versed RD Upton was at assessing the Arabian Horse in its own habitat. The one very clear point made through some of his descriptions was the lack of consistent uniformity of the Breed as a whole!

Stroganov’s and Sherbatov’s The Arabian Horse: a survey also gives adequate describes the Arabian horses they saw, also showing via early photographic work some of the selections they made and the reasons for their selections.

Carl Raswan’s work is somewhat controversial and very opinionated (which its entitled to be). His book The Black Tents of Arabia: my life among the Bedouins, explains some of his thoughts. The Raswan Index is an invaluable read.

Arabian Show Horse and the Arabian Horse of Heritage

I feel it is coming or has come to a situation where there will need to be decision to include all Arabian Horse types, as explained throughout this page (and subsequent pages) and its links there will be a need to accept the Breed as it was; with all its varietal types or to continue to homogonise the Breed into a modern show styled horse based on the Westernization of its historical fables.

To include all types equally into the show ring will need an over-haul of the Breed Standard as it is currently written. The Breed’s global Societies/Registries will need to confer and adjust the documentation (Arabian Horse Breed Standard). Education of judges to implement and include the adjustments in the judging assignment(s) will be vital. As is the education of junior judges relating to the future of the Breed. Publications giving a clearer picture of the Breed in general will need to be published and readily accessible.

This may take a life-time or longer to achieve but it will benefit the Breed, to the best of a westerner’s ability, as the Bedouin bred the asil horse in its desert environment.

Information found in books or other forms can present a substantial understanding of the life, the culture and the times which created the Arabian Horse. Correct interpretation of their information is vital. Education of the basics of the Breed is essential for the all enthusiasts to make sound judgments including breeding decisions. Essential so the breed and its many attributes can continue in their truest form, as bred and preferred by the nomadic desert Bedouin. Because, after all, it is the horse of the Arab (nomadic desert Bedouin) which we are ‘care-taking’ for future generations.

Education requires an an open mind particularly when reviewing the Arabian Horse Breed in light of their original breeder’s cultural beliefs. At which point, the owner of such a mind is willing to learn and investigate to the benefit of the Breed rather than themselves. That is, if it is the true Arabian (nomadic Bedouin) Horse they wish to breed on for the future. Yes, history is important to the Breed, as the Breed is history itself!

All attempts have been made to keep within general copyright understanding of generating general discussion.

Please, if any of these notations have left you with an interest to pursue the history of the Arabian Horse Breed, the culture of the Bedouin and/or the Region itself – obtain your own copy of suitable books (as illustrated above) via the publishers, specialist bookstores and/or second-hand – ‘pre-loved’ outlets.

Alternatively, try your local library and see what they have or can obtain for you through inter-library loans.

When all else fails – search the WWW