Excerpts from Points of the Horse (Asiatic and North African Horses)

Excerpted from: POINTS OF THE HORSE

Chapter XXXII, Asiatic and North African Horses

by Captain M. Horace Hayes, London, 1897

From The Khamsat Vol 5, Num 4, Oct. 1988

We learn from General Tweedie that although Arabs pay great attention to preserving purity of blood in their horses, they have no written pedigrees of their animals, because they are illiterate. They apply the general term, Kuhailan, to their pure-bred horses in a manner somewhat similar to our use of the word “thorough-bred.” We read in The Arabian Horse, that the parent trunk of Kuhailan, has produced four great branches (Saklavi, U’baiyan, Hamdani, and Hadban); and that they, and it, are known in Arabic as al Khamsa (The Five).

Palgrave (Encyclopedia Britannica) tries to make out that pure-bred Najdi horses are not exported. Tweedie shows that this idea is entirely wrong, and that a large trade is done with India via Kuwait (Grane). As the Najdi Arabs ride only mares, they are naturally glad to get rid of their surplus entires at a remunerative price. Although they have a strong prejudice against selling mares for export, liberal payment enables them to occasionally overcome that feeling. Experienced Arab dealers whose friendship I have enjoyed, have often assured me that many of the best and highest caste horses bred in the Desert are to be found among the Arabs sent to India for racing…

“We do not know of an easier method by which a European might see and buy Najdi horses prior to export than by stationing himself from June to September in the well-oasis of Barjasia, a three day’s journey out of Kuwait. He would then be on the caravan route which leads from Najd to the sea coast.” (Tweedie).

The port of Kuwait is about 150 miles south of Bussorah.

Palgrave (Narrative of a Year’s Journey Through Central and Eastern Arabia), Skene (Sporting Review, March, 1864) and others have insisted that there is

blood and stride in the desert which has never been seen out of it” (Skene).

“Not only do all the facts refute the argument that Arabia contains better colts than those which she distributes, but they go further. They show that every desert of which we have any knowledge is so extensively stripped of its best blood-horses, that not many likely colts of from three and five years old remain in the hands of their breeders. If England possesses too many stud-horses, Arabia retains too few. One may visit a considerable encampment of the Aeniza and see no unweaned colts, except a few reserved ones and those which dealers will not buy. The stock which these people always have with them chiefly consists of well-tried mares, aged stallions and the rising fillies.” (Tweedie)

My friend, the late Esa Bin Curtas, who was a large importer of Arab horses into Bombay, always maintained that the best Arabs did not, as a rule, exceed 14.1 to 14.2 in height. From an all-round point of view, this opinion is undoubtedly correct, especially with regard to the true Sons of the Desert, the Najdi Arabians… Judging by the Indian racing records of the past sixty years, the balance of galloping excellence is a little in favour of big Arabs (those over 14.3)… Yet during the respective times when Anarchy, Chieftain, Shere Ali, and Turkish Flag raced in India, there were no faster Arabs than those brilliant 14 handers. Consequently, I see no advantage in an Arab being over 14.1. The more an Arab exceeds, say 14.2 in height, the more inclined is he to be long in the legs, light in the loins, and flat-sided. We may infer from the foregoing remarks, that the typical Arab is, according to our Western acceptation of the term, a pony.

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