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

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series What's In A Name?

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.

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

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series What's In A Name?

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

The BINT YAMAMA Influence Summarized

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series What's In A Name?

(originally published as a sidebar to “What’s In A Name?”)

BINT YAMAMA produced three foals which bred on: the full sisters NEGMA and AROUSSA by DAHMAN AL AZRAK and their three-quarters brother *NASR by DAHMAN’s son RABDAN AL AZRAK.

It is not certain whether NEGMA was bred by the Khedive Abbas Hilmi or by Prince Mohammed Ali; Lady Anne Blunt records BINT YAMAMA as “expecting a foal” in December 1908 and with “a nice filly foal” at foot in January 1911, and it is tempting to suggest these were NEGMA and AROUSSA. On the other hand Prince Mohammed Ali’s letters in the 1930s, while they are not entirely consistent on the impression they give of NEGMA’s age, may be read to imply that she was foaled as early as 1906, which would make Abbas Hilmi her breeder.

NEGMA is represented in modern pedigrees by her sons KAFIFAN and JASIR, and daughters MAHROUSSA, ZAHRA, *AZIZA and *RODA. There are thin lines to AROUSSA and ZAHRA through EAO breeding, and all of MAHROUSSA’s known progeny came to Brown or Babson; besides the two “HHMA”- named mares they include the likes of the Van Vleet sire *ZARIFE, and those two major Babson influences *FADL and *MAAROUFA.

*AZIZA produced the influential sires AZKAR and JULEP and also left a substantial female influence through her daughters by KENUR, *CZUBUTHAN and *Raffles. *RODA was the dam of sons including HALLANY MISTANNY, JASPRE and TUT ANKH AMEN; her dam line is more extensive than that of *AZIZA, through two daughters each by AGWE, *Raffles and IBN HANAD.

*NASR was a respected sire at Traveler’s Rest, influential today through numerous daughters and his prominent son SIRECHO. Traveler’s Rest is responsible, too, for the only surviving (at least within registered Arabians) descent from KAFIFAN: his line persists only through *MATTARIA. JASIR was for many years the head sire at the Marbach Stud and his name is widespread today in international pedigrees.

See also: "*Aziza & *Roda" by R.J.Cadranell