by Ben Hur (Western Horseman March 1951)
IS THE ARABIAN horse a gift of nature, a natural , primary type like the wild beast of the fields and forests? Or is it a modified and developed type, created under man’s influence?
Type is that distinctive, familiar shape which immediately identifies a horse and classifies it with its breed. Type makes the breed. The type of your favorite breed is as familiar to you as the type-faces and typography of your favorite newspaper and magazine which you can identify at sight at a distance long before you are near enough to read the print.
What is Arabian type and what is its origin? You know it when you see it, but there are so many variations in the type. What is the explanation? Which is the most desirable?
Most Arabians fall within two type classifications:
1) the larger, longer, coarser and more masculine type;
2) the smaller, shorter, finer formed, “strength and beauty” type.
The larger, coarser type was used mainly as foundation for our present day light breeds. The smaller, finer type has been largely the foundation of the Arabians as a breed, bred in their purity during the past century in Egypt, Poland, England and later in the United States. This type, known as the elite in Egypt, as the classic in America, when highly bred, it that of a horse of transcendent beauty. It is more than that. It is the beauty of an ancient Grecian statue come to life. It is not sheer beauty alone, at one extreme, or sheer brute strength at the other. The ideal represents a blending of animated strength and beauty, a degree of perfection not achieved in any other domestic animal.
The ideal Arabian type is recognizable at sight to the experienced horseman and novice alike. It falls short of the ideal if it reminds one of another horse or breed. It falls short of the ideal if it is so plain and uncertain of type as to require a sign: “This is an Arabian horse.” It falls short of the ideal if it is so coarse and masculine as to remind one of a small Percheron, at one extreme, or so highly animated and elf-like as to remind one of a gazelle at the other extreme. The ideal type stands out alone. You know it immediately when you see it.
Because of its beauty and perfection, the most common error is the assumption that Arabian type is a natural gift of nature, a type that is as fixed as that of the bison, squirrels or bob cats. With that erroneous assumption as a premise, the new admirer of the Arabian dreams of the day he could visit the desert, make friends and barter for a few Arabian horses. From then on, with his horses safely back home, all that would be necessary, with a little feed, time and care, would be the multiplication and addition of the offspring. It would be as simple as starting with a pair of guinea pigs or white rabbits. Like would beget like and soon there would be many more of these wonderful Arabians. The idea still persists today, in spite of the history of the development of the breed and evidence all about of the bloodlines and skill required to produce the desired type.
On scores of occasions, elaborate and adequately equipped trips have been made to the desert (in some instances years and fortunes have been spent) in an attempt to bring back several of the “dream horses.” The results have been disheartening at best. The horses dreamed about could not be found, or an occasional one found was not for sale. After these many attempts, it is generally conceded that Abbas Pasha I of Egypt all but stripped the desert of the best horses a century ago and that the overwhelming majority of Arabians of the much preferred type desired today are of these bloodlines combined with and developed by the Blunts and later their daughter, Lady Wentworth.
There are three familiar proofs we may cite that Arabian type is not a gift of nature, a natural, primary fixed type:
1) the horses of Cortez and De Soto, of Spanish origin, were of the same root stock as the early Arabians. Left to run wild on the plains of the southwest, they grew smaller, lost most of the early type and good dispositions and became, in fact, untractable, rough ponies.
2) The Thoroughbred in England, on the other hand, under proper care, skill and environment, was moulded and developed from about the same root stock, about the same time as the reversion in type was making the wild mustang in America. Taking advantage of the variations in type found from time to time, and with selection and care, a new type, the thoroughbred, was created.
3) As further proof that the Arabian horse, as found in the desert, was moulded and pliable, a highly developed creature from the remote early type, we may cite that there was no universal, fixed type.
Travelers visiting the desert, from earliest recorded accounts, found variations in the distinctive, over-all type. They found some six or more main strains among as many main Bedouin tribes, and numerous sub-strains of each main strain, each further specialized to the liking of the families among the tribes breeding them. The five main strains were the Kehilan, Seglawi, Abeyan, Hamdani and Hadban, all more or less closely related, and many maintained that from the Kehilan the others were offshoots.These five strains were of the finer, elite or classic type. The sixth strain, the larger, coarser, was the Maneghi, seldom, if ever, crossed with the other strains. Breeding and identifying type followed the mare through these strain and sub-strain names. Stallions from one strain of the first five were often used on the other closely related strains, but his strain name was dropped in his offspring, which carried the strain of its dam. Pedigrees in the modern sense were unknown among the Bedouins.
Of the many horses imported from the desert to Egypt, England, Poland and the United States, early pedigrees and stud books reveal that many desert-bred horses had sires and dams of different closely related strains. The practice of continuing the identifying strain names in present day stud books, to give an idea of type origin, has continued in England, Poland and Egypt. In many instances in the United States, after 30 years of indiscriminate inter-mixing of strains from so many different sources, without regard to type or family origin, the resulting offspring was “neither fish nor fowl,” had so many different strains in the pedigree as to belie claim to any one of them in particular. So strain names were dropped in our stud books. There are, however, in this country important bloodlines that have been continued along the same early system of family line breeding and have a concentration of the blood of the type foundation sires and dams.
A study of importations of Arabians to this country for the past 50 years reveals many interesting facts relating to present-day type trends and influences. In no other country has thee been so much enthusiasm for imported Arabians. More than 200 have been accepted for registry from the desert, Lebanon, Egypt, India, Turkey, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, Poland, South America and England. Many of these have the same type root origin and are not as unrelated at the mere name of sire an dam would indicate. Some imported from Egypt credit sire and dam as “desert bred,” when in fact they are of Abbas Pasha and Blunt origin in Egypt with highly significant pedigrees. Numerous importations from various isolated sources from which high hope was held when the importation was made have left issue of little or no value. It is astonishing to note the toll that time has taken of some lines and how others more dominant have been preferred and have gone on and on.
The Maneghi strain or courser type Arabian was preferred for several centuries by those who thought of the Arabian as the best original seed-stock with which to improve and make new breeds. This strain was the foundation for the Thoroughbred and accounts for his type today.
The “strength and beauty” or elite type, later called the classic type, was first highly esteemed and collected from the desert with great fervor by Abbas Pasha I of Egypt (1803 – 1858), who used his knowledge of the desert and horses ,his immense fortune and his friendship with the Bedouins to make his vast collection of horses. He had as many as 600 head at one time. It is doubtful if the Bedouins ever again had the horses they had before he carried on, over a period of years, his systematic combing of the desert for the finest classic type Arabians, regardless of price, which he boasted he collected for their perfection of beauty like others in Europe and elsewhere collected priceless paintings.
Three of the Arabians of Abbas Pasha are among the most highly esteemed foundation of present day bloodlines, here and abroad. Zobeyni (see illustration), a grey Seglawi stallion, bred in the desert, used by him with great success, is founder of the male line that has been the most successful in England and the United States.The line has been of preponderant importance in contributing to other lines in other countries, notably Egypt and Poland. Zobeyni’s most celebrated son was Wazir, which has by some been considered the best stallion secured in Egypt by Wilfred and Lady Ann Blunt. Wazir was sire of many important mares for the Blunts at their Crabbet Stud; also the stallion Shahwan, famed for his beauty and perfection, imported to this country in 1895 by J.P.Ramsdell. Thus in this country was obtained some of the early Zobeyni blood. Zobeyni was also sire of Mahruss, sire of Ibn Mahruss No. 22. Mahruss was sire of Heijer, grandsire of Skowronek (Poland)(1), whose blood has been the largest contributing factor to modern classic type in England and the United States. Zobeyni was great grandsire of Jamil El Achkar, highly important foundation sire in Egypt; also Mesaoud, taken to England by the Blunts and the most successful sire at Crabbet Stud before the coming of Skowronek. Thus it will be seen that the United States shares richly in the early blood sources of the most important progenitor of Arabians in the modern world.
Abbas Pasha brought from the desert two mares that are tap root dams of the most important female lines. They are Jellibiet Feysul, a Kehilan, for which a fortune was paid, and Ghazieh, a Seglawi, as important possibly as the former. She is great granddam of Bint Helwa, dam of Ghazala, brought to the country by Spencer Borden. Through her daughters, Guemura and Gulnare, many Arabians share in this line.
The Bunts devoted their resources and many years of their lives bringing Arabians from the desert to England and Egypt and to world acclaim and favor. Through their daughter, the bloodlines have been further extended. Of all the many important sires they have owned, Mesaoud, great grandson of Zobeyni, bred in Egypt, and Skowronek(1), bred in Poland, both of the Zobeyni line, have contributed more than any others to the high esteem in which the classic type Arabian is held the world over at the present time.
The mares Rodania and Dajania, both Kehilan, obtained in the desert by the Blunts, have proven tap root foundation mares comparable to Ghazieh and Jellibiet Feysul. Their blood, too, is found generously in many pedigrees in this country.
Nejdme No. 1, of Chicago World’s Fair 1893 fame, has established an important female line here not found in other countries.
Of the Arabians imported by Homer Davenport from the desert, one stallion and two mares have contributed new lines that are increasing in popularity. Deyr, an Abeyan, bred in the desert, is founder of the male line. Sire of Hanad, his most illustrious son, and Tabab, and grandsire of Antez and Aabab (see illustration) and others of note, the line is noted for its vitality, personality and robust type. It blends well with and compliments the Zobeyni line. The most important of the Davenport mares were Wadduda (the war mare) and Urfah, both of the Seglawi strain. They have established female lines not found in other countries.
It will be seen that the type preference for the classic type had its beginning with the selections made by Abbas Pasha early in the 19th century, which were later augmented and supported by the desert selections of the Blunts and their development of the type and breed at their Sheik Obeyd Stud in Egypt and Crabbet Stud in England. The spark that kindled the enthusiasm and preference for this same type was the occasion of the (1893) World’s Fair. Numerous small, highly significant importations of the Abbas Pasha and Blunt bloodlines were made from England in the succeeding years. More than 20 years later, Wm. R. Brown made large importations from England of this same type and blood source and added them to his stud of Borden and other importations which he had painstakingly collected and saved for posterity. He did more than any other person to put the Arabian horse on a firm, consistent type breeding foundation by specializing in the production of the classic type and publicizing the type qualifications and standards. Ten years later, through the importations from England by W.K.Kellogg and Roger Selby of considerable numbers of horses of the same important bloodlines, the foundation for this type was broadened and strengthened vastly and to a degree which assured the future of the breed in the U.S. A few years later, Henry Babson and Wm. R. Brown made highly significant importations from Egypt of closely related bloodlines, selected particularly for the type they most esteemed. These important additions gave the breeders in this country the same type sources and foundation blood as those of Egypt, England and Poland.
There are in the United States more living registered Arabians than in England, Egypt and Poland combined as proof of the popularity and acceptance of the breed here, although this number is infinitely small, and no doubt always will be, compared to the total horse population of the country. There are among the registered Arabians in this country a substantial number bred true to the preferred type and from the bloodlines which are of the same origin and loosely related to the same families abroad. Because of the ravages of war and the difficulties under which horses have been bred in these other countries in recent years, it is now apparent from their stud books that we have here a larger number and wider selection of the type sources which originated in these countries than they now have. It is doubtful, after a study of their latest stud books, that they now have anything that would materially aid in further extending our type base of bloodlines.
In a study of type influences and origin in the Arabian horse we must conclude that:
1) there is no natural, fixed, primary type.
2) There are numerous type variations from the over-all, general type.
3) These variations can be divided ito two main classes.
4) The type generally preferred and held in highest esteem has its origin in one breed foundation desert bred sire of a century ago.
5) Four desert bred mares of the same period and type have had a tremendous influence in sustaining and propagating the type.
6) This type, through these bloodlines, has an inter-family relationship among Arabian horses n the United States, England, Poland and Egypt.
7) This international one type ideal and relationship has been carried on from generation to generation through the skill of breeders that comes from years of study and experience with the breed.
8) The United States has had important additions to this type influence by bloodlines of desert bred horses not directly related to the previous group.
9) The type is produced and sustained by following the same family or strain plan of breeding followed for centuries in the desert, more commonly known as line breeding where pedigree breeding is in practice.
10) A study of all the importations from the desert entering into our present day bloodlines clearly indicates there have been no Arabians from this source equal in influence and importance with the stallion Zobeyni, the mares jellibiet Feysul, Ghazieh, Rodania and Dajania.
((1) Today Ibrahim is accepted as a desert-bred stallion. For more information see:
Lady Wentworth’s THE AUTHENTIC ARABIAN HORSE
Schile,Erika THE ARAB HORSE IN EUROPE
Potocki, Count Joseph (son of Skowronek’s breeder) “Skowronek’s Pedigree and the Antoniny Stud” The Arabian Horse News, Feb. ’58.
Blunt, Lady Anne JOURNALS AND CORRESPONDENCE 1878-1917
Guttmann, Ursula: THE LINEAGE OF THE POLISH ARABIAN HORSES
Dickenson, J.M. A CATALOG OF TRAVELERS REST ARABIAN HORSES