What’s In A Name? Counting Doves a Century After They Hatch (part 1)

Copyright © 1998 By Michael Bowling
(with particular thanks to Margaret Dickinson Fleming)
originally published in Arabian Visions Oct 1998, used by permission

(with added photos)

Names in 19th-century Egypt do not appear to have been the hard-edged entities we would like them to be; Ali Pasha Sherif himself first comes to our attention, buying horses at the auction put on by the heirs of Abbas Pasha, as “Ali Bey.” Who would realize at first glance that “Ibn Yemameh al-Saghir” on Ali Pasha’s own 1889 sales list is the same horse as the great Blunt sire MESAOUD?

Not only did the same horse (or person) appear under different names, the same or very similar names could be used for different horses. Different names may be spelled similarly, or the same name may be Westernized differently; the potential for spelling differences of transliterated Arabic names is almost infinite. The convention used varies not only with the native language of the writer but with the scholarly tradition to which s/he subscribed, and with the brand of Arabic native to the speaker or writer being transcribed (Susan K. Blair, personal communication).

Arabian mares appear to have suffered from a particular lack of nomenclatural precision. The same name might routinely be used for several generations of a dam line, or for a set of full and half sisters, or indeed for mares even more nebulously connected (cf Cadranell, “The Banat Nura of Ali Pasha Sherif“). How many mares named with some variation on “Yamama”—”Dove”—actually lived in Egypt in the 1890s? There were at least two.

The Khedive Abbas Hilmi II was 17 years old and at school in Vienna when he succeeded his father Khedive Tewfik as ruler of Egypt in 1892. The story of Abbas Hilmi II and his relationship to British colonial power is a sufficiently complex subject to qualify in its own right as a historical specialty, but the last Khedive also figures in Arabian breed history. On his return to Egypt to take up the position of ruler of that country, he began to breed Arabian horses, in the tradition of his great-grandfather Abbas Pasha I. One of his first acquisitions, the Ali Pasha Sherif mare YEMAMEH, had already produced the Blunt sire MESAOUD. Wilfrid Blunt in his diary mentions that on 11 January, 1896 he “[t]ook Anne and Judith to Koubbah to see the Khedive. He… showed us his stud. He has got together some nice mares, but nothing quite first class, except two of Ali Pasha Sherif’s, one of which is our horse Mesaoud’s dam, a very splendid mare, with the finest head in the world. He has bred some promising colts and altogether the thing is well done.”

Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt also bought a mare named YEMAMA in 1892. According to the original GSB registration for her son IBN YEMAMA, she was “stated to be an Abeyah, a bay mare brought from a desert tribe, through a Tiaha sheykh, to Mohammed Thabit, Sheykh of the Sualha tribe, in the Sherkieh Province, for Ali Bey Shahin, son of Shahin Pasha, and purchased from Ali Bey Shahin.” YEMAMA produced at Sheykh Obeyd from 1893 through 1904, taking time off for adventure in 1897—she served as Wilfrid Blunt’s mount on his eventful last desert journey. YEMAMA’s named offspring at Sheykh Obeyd were the grey 1893 mare YASHMAK by *SHAHWAN, and the 1902 and 1904 bay full siblings IBN YEMAMA and BINT YEMAMA by FEYSUL. YEMAMA was given away in 1906, aged 21; her only link to modern pedigrees is through her grandson IBN YASHMAK, taken to England in 1904 and returned to Egypt in 1920.

In a 1907 journal entry Lady Anne Blunt records a visit from Moharrem Pasha and a discussion regarding YEMAMA, “that bay mare Moharrem Pasha sold to us—to which the Pasha replied ‘O! that mare, the Jellabieh I had from Ali [Pasha] Sherif!” Later in the same entry “Ghania’s long tale about Yemama having passed through several hands on her way from the desert is all a fabrication!!!” This reads as though Ghania had been Moharrem Pasha’s agent in the 1892 sale of YEMAMA. The answers to other questions that come to mind (eg, how Ali Bey Shahin comes into the story, and why Moharrem Pasha is not mentioned in the mare’s GSB provenance) are not clear at this time.

Abbas Hilmi II was deposed by the British in 1914 and from that time lived in exile and never returned to Egypt. Most Arabian horse enthusiasts today are probably more familiar with the name of the last Khedive’s younger brother. Prince Mohammed Ali Tewfik continued to breed Arabians at his Manial Stud in Cairo for nearly 20 years after Abbas Hilmi went into exile. The Manial Stud provided foundation stock to the Royal Agricultural Society, to the Inshass Stud of the Prince’s cousin King Farouk, and to breeders in Poland, Germany and the U.S. The Prince’s name is enshrined in our stud book as a prefix to two of the mares he sold to W.R. Brown. HAMAMA 418 and *HAMIDA 509 already were registered, so the two Egyptian imports with the same names became *H. H. Mohammed Ali’s HAMAMA 887 and *H. H. Mohammed Ali’s HAMIDA 889.

Prince Mohammed Ali’s most esteemed line of horses was founded by the grey BINT YAMAMA, bred by his brother. In a 1933 letter to General J.M. Dickinson of the famed Traveler’s Rest Farm in Tennessee, the Prince wrote that he had exchanged a black gift stallion from Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey, plus 200 pounds, “to get [Bint] Yamama, wich [sic] was in the possession of one of my brother’s people.

This exchange can be roughly dated to 1908; Lady Anne Blunt’s published Journals and Correspondence record that she saw the black stallion from the Sultan in December of 1907, while a year later a daughter of YEMAMA [sic] is among “the principal mares.” The same mare is mentioned in similar terms again in January of 1911; in February 1912 she is accounted the second best of the mares, and parenthetically “the dam Yemama owned by the Khedive is dead.”

Ten Manial Arabians of BINT YAMAMA’s descent in the direct female line were used for breeding in Poland, in Germany and in this country (imported by W. R. Brown and Henry Babson). This breeding element is a widely influential one in international pedigrees; to pick a few names at random, KONTIKI, BEN RABBA, KHEMOSABI and many horses of the Al-Marah and Shalimar programs carry this Manial breeding. It is behind the majority of horses bred from Germany’s Weil-Marbach lines. There is also a strong tradition of breeding straight Egyptian Arabians carrying more or less of BINT YAMAMA’s influence (see Sidebar: The BINT YAMAMA Influence Summarized).

General Dickinson, on buying four of the Manial Arabians imported by W. R. Brown, had noticed a discrepancy in their strain designations, compared to that of KAFIFAN, a stallion from the same family which Prince Mohammed Ali had sold to Count Potocki of Poland in 1924. The Brown imports were given as Jellabi or Kehilan Jellabi; KAFIFAN, in the original (first edition) Polish Arabian Stud Book (PASB), was registered of the strain “Saklawi Djedran.” General Dickinson later bought from Poland the KAFIFAN daughter *MATTARIA, and in the summary of her ancestry supplied by the Polish registration authorities (the source would have been the records of the Potocki family) KAFIFAN also appears as “of the Saklawi family.”

Asked to comment on this apparent contradiction, Prince Mohammed Ali stated, not that PASB was in error on the strain of KAFIFAN, but that “[t]he Kehilan-Jellabi are descending from the Seglawi-Jedran.” This is a somewhat ambiguous statement; an Arabian horse of any strain may “descend” from horses of any other strain if they are not in its direct female line. If this statement refers to the strain-determining dam line, it runs counter to the conventional descriptions of strain evolution, in which the other strains are said to arise from, and originally to be named as substrains of, the Kehilan Ajuz. Furthermore, strain designations are not expected to change in this way over the course of a few years (from 1924 to 1932) and outside the tribal breeding system.

Prince Mohammed Ali puts more emphasis on the fact that BINT YAMAMA “is a descendant of the stables of Ali Pasha Sherif, who bought his horses from my grandfather Prince Ilhami, son of Abbas Pasha I… the strain of these horses is in our family since 80 years…” It may not be reading too much into this to suggest the Prince is telling General Dickinson that, whatever their strain name, the origin of this family is unimpeachable. On the record which survives, Lady Anne Blunt’s efforts to record precise pedigree relationships among her Arabians of Ali Pasha Sherif origins may have been the exception rather than the rule. More often her contemporaries appear to have accepted a horse of named strain, “of Ali Pasha Sherif” or “from the stud of Ali Pasha Sherif,” as sufficient, and indeed unsurpassable, provenance.

The Prince added in the same letter that the stud records of his brother Abbas Hilmi II had been confiscated at the time the latter went into exile. While these records may well languish yet in some British archive, there has to date been no suggestion that they were ever recovered. If Prince Mohammed Ali changed his mind about the strain designation of this line of horses, his decision clearly was not based on information from his brother’s stud records. Still less can any subsequent ideas about the BINT YAMAMA pedigree have been based on the relevant stud records.

Series NavigationWhat’s In A Name? Counting Doves a Century After They Hatch (part 2)