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

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)

After the early 1930s the BINT YAMAMA horses were universally referred to as of the Kehilan Jellabi strain. In later editions of PASB the strain of KAFIFAN was changed to Kehilan. No hint of a connection between Prince Mohammed Ali’s [BINT] YAMAMA and YEMAMEH, the dam of MESAOUD, was ever suggested, and a substantial tradition grew up that BINT YAMAMA was a daughter of the Sheykh Obeyd YEMAMA, sometimes even to the point of suggesting BINT YAMAMA had been bred at Sheykh Obeyd.

Speculation is fruitless but also inevitable. Perhaps BINT YAMAMA was known to be half-sister to, or from the family of, “Lady Anne Blunt’s horse” and this came to be taken as a reference to one of the Blunts’ several Jellabi horses from Ali Pasha Sherif (besides YEMAMA there were MERZUK, KHATILA, MAKBULA, KERIMA, KASIDA, FEYSUL, JELLABIEH and MANOKTA), rather than to MESAOUD. Possibly the existence of a “BINT YEMAMA” daughter of the Sheykh Obeyd mare had become known in some circles, although access to Lady Anne Blunt’s stud records was strictly limited after her death. That name belongs at Sheykh Obeyd to a bay mare without a grey parent, foaled in 1904, who left Egypt for Greece in 1906; she cannot have had anything to do with a grey mare some 10 years older who appeared in 1908 in the Manial Stud.

Prince Mohammed Ali also commented that [BINT] YAMAMA “was a beautiful mare and produced till her age of 25.” If her last foal was the 1918 colt *NASR—there is no record of a later one—then this implies she was foaled in 1893, the same year as YASHMAK, so they could not have been out of the same dam anyway. If BINT YAMAMA produced a foal after *NASR then she was foaled later than 1893, when the bay YEMAMA was in the possession of the Blunts and her time is fully accounted for. The bay mare had some unnamed colts between YASHMAK and IBN YEMAMA, but no fillies until the BINT YEMAMA of 1904.

This was where matters stood on the 1986 publication of Lady Anne Blunt’s Journals and Correspondence. Lady Anne’s writings make it clear that she and Prince Mohammed Ali were on visiting terms and she repeatedly listed the mares, with their strains, that he possessed. Not only is no animal of the Kehilan Jellabi strain mentioned, but it is flatly stated that among his best mares is “the Seglawieh Yemama (daughter of the old Yemama, dam of Mesaoud),” and again that her dam was “Yemama owned by the Khedive.” These statements contradict over 50 years of accepted pedigree tradition, but it is worth noting that Lady Anne Blunt’s is the only contemporary reference we have to the matter. Not only was she writing at the time these horses and breeders were living, but she took particular interest in Arabian horses of Ali Pasha Sherif ancestry, in horses related to her own, and in the strains and origins of the horses which her contemporary breeders showed her.

Table: Yemama Bay and Yemameh Grey
Name Color DoB Breeder Produced for
Yemameh gr pre-1880* Ali Pasha Sherif Ali Pasha Sherif, Abbas Hilmi II
Yemama b 1885 Ali Pasha Sherif [?Moharrem Pasha], Lady Anne Blunt
*her first known foal was a full brother to Mesaoud, aged 4 in January 1884

In 1998 it became possible to address this pedigree relationship with the techniques of molecular biology (see Sidebar: The Science). Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) had already been used to reject the hypothesis that the coat color incompatibility in DOMOW’s registered parentage could be explained on the basis of a foal switch in 1913. Sequences from the mtDNA of tail-female descendants of DOMOW matched those of other *WADDUDA descendants, and were different from those of *BUSHRA and *ABEYAH descendants, these being the other dam lines from which fillies were available to be switched with DOMOW.

Addressing this Ali Pasha Sherif question demonstrates how the technique can be applied another 20 years or more back in time. It was possible to compare mtDNA from the three relevant families: direct female line descendants of 1) BINT YAMAMA; 2) BINT HELWA (attributed to the female line of MESAOUD and so of his dam YEMAMEH); and 3) MAKBULA, of Ali Pasha Sherif Jellabi origin (only one source of this family is recorded, the mare known as JELLABIET FEYSUL from Ibn Khalifa of Bahreyn, although the exact interrelationships among the Jellabi horses are not clearly stated).

In short, the mtDNA of the BINT YAMAMA descendants matched that of the BINT HELWA horses, and both were different from the MAKBULA descendants. Based on this testing, the conclusion is that BINT YAMAMA was indeed half-sister to MESAOUD, and not from the dam line which produced MAKBULA.

Postscript: Names and Identities

It is important to remember that the nature and identity of Prince Mohammed Ali’s mare have never changed; she has throughout been the same horse she always was. What has “evolved” over the decades is our knowledge about her.

Both Prince Mohammed Ali and Lady Anne Blunt refer to our subject mare and her dam by the same name, but the export pedigrees uniformly give her as “BINT YAMAMA,” and her dam as “YAMAMA,” a daughter of “WAZIRIEH” or “WAZIREH” from the stud of Abbas Pasha. This YAMAMA now appears to be identical with the dam of MESAOUD, the mare Lady Anne Blunt refers to in her stud records as YEMAMEH.

Since the 1920s YEMAMEH’s dam has been known as BINT GHAZIEH, but it may be that she had what might be called a “personal” name (BINT GHAZIEH is a description, “daughter of Ghazieh,” as much as it is a name, and as with the Banat Nura, might have been a generic term for any mare of the GHAZIEH family). In fact MESAOUD’s second dam’s name may actually have been “WAZIRIEH.”

This could be a reasonable name for a sister to WAZIR, as this mare was; further, this gives a possible origin for the confusing reference in Lady Anne Blunt’s journal to MESAOUD’s dam as sister to WAZIR, which seems improbable on chronological grounds (Peter Upton, personal communication): on a hasty reading, the dam’s name WAZIRIEH might look like a reference to YEMAMEH herself as sister to WAZIR. Unfortunately the relevant page of the document in question apparently has not survived for comparison with the journal entry.

The Science

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) codes for some of the proteins of the mitochondria, the “energy furnaces” responsible for cellular respiration. Mitochondria reside in the cell’s cytoplasm, not in its nucleus, so mtDNA is transmitted independent of chromosomal inheritance. In the nature of mammalian reproduction, the sperm cell’s mitochondrial contribution is swamped by that of the vastly larger egg cell, and so mtDNA is inherited for practical purposes through the female line, uninfluenced by the sires used over the generations.

A part of the research program at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of California at Davis involves the development of techniques for analyzing mtDNA. An advantage of mtDNA testing is that, in sharp contrast to nuclear genes, it can be applied even at many generations’ remove to address questions of maternity, provided direct female line descendants of the animals in question are available. A scientific manuscript surveying the usefulness of mtDNA comparisons for use in Arabian horse parentage testing is in preparation.

The march of science

Since 1998, it’s been shown that there is a specific enzymatic system which eliminates the sperm mitochondria from the developing embryo—the male contribution is not just overwhelmed by the numbers in the egg cytoplasm, as was believed then; there actually is none under normal circumstances. — mb, April 2004

The mtDNA identity of the descendants of BINT HELWA and BINT YAMAMA has one further very interesting direct implication. The pre-stud-book pedigrees of the Ali Pasha Sherif and Abbas Pasha Arabians are properly referred to as traditional beliefs. They are not documented pedigrees as would be the case for horses whose parentage is published in a stud book. It appears that the mtDNA results actually link the descendants of two GHAZIEH daughters: HORRA, second dam of BINT HELWA, and WAZIRIEH or BINT GHAZIEH, second dam of BINT YAMAMA. This strongly implies an actual existence for GHAZIEH and reinforces the reality of at least this particular set of traditional pedigrees.

Scientific papers:

  • Assignment of maternal lineage using mitochondrial nucleic acid sequence in horses, J.A. Gerlach, A.T. Bowling, M. Bowling and R.W. Bull. 1994. Animal Genetics 25: Supplement 2:31.
  • Mitochondrial D-loop DNA sequence variation among Arabian horses, A.T. Bowling, A. Del Valle and M. Bowling. Animal Genetics 2000 Feb;31(1):1-7.
  • Verification of horse maternal lineage using mitochondrial DNA sequence, A.T. Bowling, A. Del Valle and M. Bowling. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics, 115 (1998), 351-355.


  • Unpublished pedigrees and other documents from the files of Traveler’s Rest Farm, courtesy Margaret Dickinson Fleming
  • The General Stud Book
  • The Polish Arabian Stud Book
  • The Arabian Horse Families of Egypt, Colin Pearson with Kees Mol
  • The Banat Nura of Ali Pasha Sherif,” Robert J. Cadranell II (The CMK Record XI/2)
  • Egypt and Cromer, Afaf Lutfi Al-Sayyid
  • Journals and Correspondence 1878-1917, Lady Anne Blunt, edited by Rosemary Archer and James Fleming
  • My Diaries, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
  • Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt
Series NavigationWhat’s In A Name? Counting Doves a Century After They Hatch (part 1)The BINT YAMAMA Influence Summarized