Tributes to the Arabian Horse

by Dr. George H. Conn (Western Horseman Apr’51)

Head study of Raseyn taken in 1942

As an owner and breeder of Arabian horses for the past several years, I recall very vividly some early attempts made by us to buy certain desirable Arabian horses. Many owners of Arabian horses, particularly “the Arabian horse,” value their horses above money, and strange as it may seem have no desire to sell them. In other words, without any pretense of rudeness, some of these breeders and owners apparently never hear the question when you ask them whether one of their favorite Arabs is for sale. Their conversation is oftentimes not interrupted at all, and your question goes unheard and unanswered.

In an effort to inform the reader as to the Arabian horse owner’s attachment to his horse, we have selected several tributes which we believe will impress the reader with the fact that the Arabian horse is really different from any other breed known to man.

The first quotation for your consideration is taken from Volume II of Wallace’s Monthly, which was the leading horse paper published in the United States between 1875 and 1893. The quotation is as follows:

“In the tents of the Arabs, the mares with their foals, and their masters with their families, dwell together, and the utmost confidence exists between them. The Arabian horse, the most intelligent of the equine family, is easily controlled when kindly treated, and ever ready to show resistance when abused. The Arab fully understands the fact; hence his success in training or educating vicious horses, and teaching them many amusing tricks. In handling colts, perhaps he has no superior on the face of the globe. He shows his love for his horse by frequently caressing him, feeding and cleaning him, he talks and sings to him, is always happy in his company, a mutual feeling of respect and love is prominent in all their acts; herein lies the secret of his success, and not, as many persons suppose, brought about by some mysterious or secret art of charming.”

Photo by McClasky
Aaraf, a son of Raffles and grandson of Skowronek, was first prize Arabian stallion, saddle class, at the National Stallion show in both 1949 and 1950. He is owned by the Ben Hur farm in Indiana.

In another another article in Wallace’s Monthly in 1877 we find a quotation from Col. George E. Waring, Jr., from his article, “The Saddle Horse — Thoroughbred and Arabians,” and the quotation follows:

The following statements are collated from Daumas’ Horses of Sahara, an accepted authority, and believed to be entirely reliable. The love of the horse, he says, has passed into the blood of the Arab. The cherished animal is the companion in arms and the friend of the chief.

“Said an Arab to him:
“‘You cannot understand, you Christians, that horses are our wealth, our joy, our life and our religion. Has not the prophet said: “The goods of this world, until the day of the last judgment, shall hang at the forelocks of your horses”? You will find this in the Koran, which is the voice of God, and in the conversation of our Lord Mahomet. When God wished to create the mare he said to the wind: “I will cause to be born from thee a being which shall carry my adorers, which shall be cherished by all my slaves, and which shall be the despair of those who do not follow my laws.”‘

“Abd-el-Kader, when at the height of his power, pittilessly punished with death every believer convicted of having sold a horse to a Christian.”

From a book published in 1841 entitled The Natural History of Horses, by Lt. Col. Chas. Hamilton Smith, a book which took us many years to obtain, we take the following quotation which is further proof of the attachment of the Bedouin or the Arabian horse owner for his horse. The quotation is as follows:

“Habitually in company with mankind, all the Arabian breeds become exceedingly gentle and intelligent; a look or gesture is sufficient to make them stop, take up with their teeth the rider’s jereed or any other object he may have dropped, stand by him if he has fallen off their backs, come to his call, and fight resolutely in his defense; even if he be sleeping, they will rouse him in cases of danger. Kindness and forbearance towards animals is inculcated by the Koran and practiced by all Musselmen, to the shame of Christians, who often do not think this a part of human duty; and as a Moor well known in London sneeringly remarked to ourselves, ‘It is not in your Book!'”

The Bedouin’s principal source of wealth consists of his ownership of one or more Arabians. As a general thing, the Bedouin who owns but one mare is very fortunate and has riches well beyond most others of his kind. That you may understand the attachment of the wandering Arab or the Bedouin for his horse, we quote from a book entitled The Horse, by H.D. Richardson. This book has no date, but we presume from the nature of the material it contains that it must be more than 100 years of age. The quotation is as follows:

“To the wandering Arab the horse is of the greatest value. The poorest Bedouin has his domesticated steed, which shares with him and his wife and children the shelter of his humble tent, his caresses, and his scanty fare. Oft may the traveler in the desert behold, on entering within the folds of a tent, the interesting spectacle of a magnificent animal, usually a mare, extended upon the ground, and some half dozen dark-skinned, naked urchins scrambling across her body, or reclining in sleep, some upon her neck, some on her carcass, and others pillowed upon her heels. Nor do the children ever experience injury from their gentle playmate. She recognizes them as the family of her friend, her patron; and towards them all the natural sweetness of her disposition leans, even to overflowing. The Arabs invariable keep mares in preference to horses. They find they better endure fatigue and the privations necessarily consequent upon a journey over the desert. A number of them can also be kept together without danger of their quarrelling or injuring each other. On this account it is very difficult to induce an Arab to sell his mare.”

In the Arabian desert or the land of the Bedouins; the Arabian horse owner is a constant companion to his horses, and by this we generally mean his Arabian mare. The Arabian mare is his source of wealth and she is stabled in the tent with him and his family. This accounts for the great attachment that the Arab or Bedouin has for his mare, which is in nearly every instance much greater than he has for stallions. From the book, The Wonders of the Horse, by Jos. Taylor, published in 1828, we take the following quotation from Mr. Buffon:

“So strong is the attachment that the Arab sometimes forms for his horse, that death alone can separate them. The whole property of a native of the desert consisted of a beautiful mare, which the French consul, it is said, wished to purchase for his master, Louis XIV. The Arab, pressed by want, long hesitated, but at length he consented to part with her for a very high price, which he named. The Consul, receiving authority to close with the terms, immediately informed the owner. The Arab, who had scarcely a rag to cover him, arrived, mounted on his mare. He alighted, and looking first at the gold, and then at his faithful and much valued servant, heaved a deep sigh. “To whom is it,’ exclaimed he in an agony, ‘that I am going to yield thee up? To Europeans, who will tie thee close, who will beat thee, who will render thee miserable! Return with me, my beauty! my jewel! and rejoice the hearts of my children!’ With these words, he sprang on her back, and was out of sight almost in a moment.

“So tender is the Arab of his horse, that he will seldom beat or spur him; and in consequence of this humane treatment, the animal considers itself as one of the family, and will allow the children to play round it, and to fondle it like a dog.”

Photo by Tallant
Ferseyn, son of Raseyn and grandson of Skowronek, sired the champion mare and grand champion of the show at the all Arabian show held in Pomona. He is owned by H. H. Reese.

For a period of 50 years until his death about three years ago, John L. Hervey, who wrote under the name of Salvator, was the most widely known and the best informed writer on the light horse in America. Mr. Hervey has produced some of the greatest books on the Thoroughbred, the Standardbred and on American racing, that have ever been written up to this time. As far as I know, Mr. Hervey never had any practical experience with an Arabian horse through ownership or use, but he evidently appreciated the Arabian horse, probably largely through his association with the Standardbred and Thoroughbred horse, which are of Arabian origin. On March 27, 1942, Mr. Hervey made an address before the Town and County Equestrian association of Chicago, and we quote the last paragraph of this address as follows:

“For the dominant quality of Arab blood is its eternal, its immortal persistence. Wherever, as the horseman of today looks about him and among these horses, observes beauty, speed, grace, fire, activity, docility and fineness yet toughness of fibre, he sees that eternity, that immortality, incarnated. It has triumphed over everything mundane, thousands of years, hap and circumstances, time and tide, incredible hardships and immemorial adversities, misuse, and abuse, the exigencies of mankind’s daily life and the flame and blood of the battlefield, unconquerable, indestructible and victorious. Everything worth while in the shape of a horse in the world today partakes of it. The Greeks believed it Godlike, and verily they made no mistake.”

Surely, the above quotations from a widely scattered source extending back for several hundred years, must impress upon the reader the fact that the Arabian horse is and always has been vastly different than any other breed of horse that is now or ever has been known to man.