Tag Archives: Davenport

Preservation Breeding and Population Genetics

by Michael Bowling © 1995
from CMK Record XI/2 Spring ’95

(This discussion is based on outline notes for the talk I gave at the 1994 Annual Meeting of the Arabian Horse Historians Association. The timeliness of the topic is underscored by a comment from the outgoing AHHA president, Carol Schulz, that at least 90% of the Arabian foals registered in the last several stud books are of generalized “show horse” lines, representing no particular breeding direction or identity. This does not say anything against the show horses, but makes it clear that all other aspects of the Arabian horse–and that includes straight Polish, Egyptian, Russian and Spanish–must be divided among less than 10% of current US breeding activity.)

AZZ (Ibn Nura x Bint Azz), shown here with Lady Anne Blunt, was the last of her line. Lady Anne sent the mare to England in the vain hope that more sophisticated veterinary care might preserve this branch of Dahman Shahwan. (NBGS)

What do we actually mean when we talk about “preserving” a genetic stock? The object of the exercise is not simply, or even chiefly, keeping names in pedigrees; pedigrees are merely a tool which may aid in evaluating the structure of a breeding group. It is obviously possible to breed in a preservationist sense with stocks that don’t even have recorded pedigrees. It is also perfectly possible to have a name present in pedigrees, while no modern representative carries a gene from the individual in question.

The goal of preservation breeding is to keep in the world the traits, characters, hereditary factors which make one aspect of a breed or species different from another–in short, to preserve genes for the future. Preservation breeding carries the unspoken assumption that the “preserved” genes will benefit a larger population in future; defined breeding groups have value and identity in their own right, but in another sense they are being maintained for future use.

This brings us inescapably into the realm of population genetics: the aspect of the science of heredity which considers the behavior of genes over time, as affected by particular mating systems. Population genetics is a mathematical and highly theoretical discipline–frankly in graduate school I found it the least compelling aspect of genetics–until you have a real problem to which it applies, when the charts and equations suddenly take on life and meaning.

Much of population genetics theory is derived for the special case of “random mating”–defined as a situation in which every individual in a population has equal probability of mating with every other individual of opposite sex. Clearly this is an imaginary construct to simplify the math. Real-life matings are constrained by geography, finance, fashion, etc., any of which will lead to wide use of some lines or individuals, and neglect of others, and so directly to loss of genetic diversity.

Any individual horse standing before us is the product of its genetic makeup interacting with all the environmental factors it has encountered. Nutrition, training, medical care–all these come under the heading of “environment,” not just weather and soil conditions. Genetic diversity buffers the population against the effect of environmental change; it is what gives a breed the potential to respond to new conditions. Diversity includes the physical and mental traits of the traditional Arabian; “new conditions” in our context may include things like an increased appreciation of the traditional using and companion Arabian horse.

A breed is the sum total of all its individual horses. Historically the genetics and veterinary literature has treated members of breeds as if they were interchangeable average mathematical units. Fortunately with the recognition of genetic diversity as a positive good, an alternative approach is gaining currency. Preservation breeding emphasizes that a breed must not be viewed as the average of all its “random mating” individuals–in order to preserve we must identify and try to understand the differing strands of its makeup.

I have referred before to that useful metaphor of “the tapestry you are preserving.” One may “preserve” almost anything, from a near-perfect wall hanging which just needs to be cleaned and protected from future damage, down to a scrap of authentic thread which may be very useful for repair or reinforcement of a more complete but related fragment.

A static image of conservation or preservation could be misleading (any metaphor however useful is a comparison, not a description). We do need to remember that in Arabian horse terms there are no perfect tapestries, and clarify one difference between preservation breeding and other kinds of conservation (working with animals even differs from preserving rare plant stocks): Genes (DNA molecules) are essentially unchanged over the generations; individual horses are transient, ephemeral, fleeting combinations of genes. The tapestry image works so long as we keep in mind that the process is analogous, but the object of the process is quite different.

What classes of fragments might we conserve? All will be arbitrary, defined in some historical terms–“species” at least in the ideal is a natural, biological classification, but we are not working at the species level. Fortunately we can describe any group in biological terms once we’ve defined it.

  • Large closed groups: this is certainly the easiest category if you have one.
  • Large groups, with fuzzy edges: this has practical advantages but must be defined.
  • Small closed groups: working with these is challenging but possible.
  • “Endangered species”: this is where we run the greatest danger of “keeping a name in a pedigree” without any associated biological reality; small fragments are meaningful only if maintained in some relevant larger context.

Large closed groups: These are easy to define once we decide how large is “large”? Bottlenecks are relative, the more numbers we work with the better our chance of keeping a major proportion of the genetic variation we’re trying to save. We can describe a general picture here, and the other situations can be treated as they vary from it. This is where we need to introduce some population genetics concepts:

“Gene frequency”: a thing, a number, which tells us something about a breeding group; don’t worry about how to develop the actual number. All traits are based on genes, and all genes exist at some frequency–it’s just harder to measure the interesting ones so we sometimes use “markers.”

“Effective population size”: another informative number, which takes into account the relative breeding contributions of males and females. An effective population of 10 can retain genes existing at frequency of 0.1 or higher; uncommon (below 0.1) and rare (below 0.05) variants will likely be lost. For our purposes, in a typical horse-breeding situation, “effective size 10” means some number much larger than 10. Note: it does not matter whether the population expands in numbers; expansion helps to keep in circulation the genes that you do have, but it does not do anything about ones that were lost when the founders were selected.

“The sire is half the herd”–we all know that maxim. In a preservation breeding context the point is precisely that we don’t want any one sire to dominate any program to the extent of half its genes. The more one narrows down the sire selection, the more, and the more diverse, mares must be kept in order to retain the original genetic variation. The most efficient way to maintain diversity is to use multiple sires on several small sets of mares, and rotate the sires. The idea, always of course influenced by real-world considerations, among them the phenotypic suitability of a particular combination, is to equalize breeding opportunity in order to maximize the proportion of genes retained.

Inbreeding and selection pressure are considerations in any breeding situation–they are not specialized aspects of the preservationist approach. Inbreeding, like random mating, simplifies the math, so is overly important in population genetics theory. Inbreeding can be a useful tool, and incidentally is a fact in any closed breeding group–inbreeding operates at the level of breeds, so long as they have closed stud books, not just within limited subsets of breeds. Inbreeding drives genes to fixation and can lead to the loss of alleles from the population, so one goal of presevationist planning should be to minimize the average degree of inbreeding. Inbreeding is not an end in itself.

Once we have a preservation group defined (say for now all the horses, or at least a representative sample, are in preservationist hands, though that is not a trivial assumption) and reproducing, the best way to retain maximum genetic diversity is to spread the horses among more than one program, and let subgroups happen. In theory we want a set of “cooperator breeders” working toward a shared vision. That calls to mind another non-trivial problem: preservation breeders as people will, by definition, be eccentric and… let’s say independent minded. Those independent visions are essential, each maintaining its own distinct sample of the horses in question; there still must be enough of the shared vision, and some sort of working definition, to retain the genetic identity of the preserved group.

Part II (CMK Record, XI/3 Fall, 1995)

(Continued from last issue — the “to be continued” text block was lost in production. Last time we outlined the basic notions of population genetics, in terms of preservation breeding with a large closed population. Further implications arise when other kinds of genetic entities are to be preserved.)

Large blurry groups will maximize the contribution from the founder animals. Generally, by the time any breeding group needs attention at the preservation level, the genetic influence of many founders will be lost among those descendants which qualify for inclusion in a closed group. Whether through attrition of numbers, or use in outcross programs, or most likely both, any set of “straight” pedigree horses carries only a fraction of the founders’ genes–compare, for example, the original Blunt or Davenport array, with the sample of those influences represented in modern straight Blunt or straight Davenport breeding.

Gene frequencies among the surviving descendants of anything reflect the action of mutation (negligible over human time scales), chance and selection. The gene frequencies of any modern closed group likely will be very different from the frequencies that would have been calculated among the founders. This effect is apt to be less exaggerated (simply because more of the founders are represented) if we define our modern population so that it descends “largely” (deliberately vague) from those founders. To follow up the previous example, there are Blunt and Davenport genes in modern CMK Arabians which have been lost from their straight Blunt or Davenport relatives.

Philosophically and historically the breeding group with blurry outlines is different from more traditional approaches but it is squarely based on an accurate biological view: species are naturally distinct biological entities with more or less firm barriers against crossing; breeds are artificially maintained subsets of a species. “Breed” is a historical (originally geographic) concept, and acquires biological reality only after the fact; this cannot be overstressed. “Breed” and “species” do not have equivalent implications, in terms of original or maintained genetic differences. In evolutionary terms, the genetic distance between pairs of species is measured by comparing their relative frequencies for marker genes–in making such measurements researchers do not expect to find complete non-overlap between related species. Obviously then this will not be expected between breeds, leave alone subsets of a breed.

Working with a blurry edged pedigree definition is not the same as maintaining a closed group, and not a substitute where the closed group still exists–the two approaches are complementary. In setting up a blurry group its organizers must neither claim that it is something else, nor allow it to be thought less than it is in its own right. There must be a working definition which sets off a biologically and phenotypically distinct entity from the breed at large.

Few (if any) absolute genetic differences exist between breeds. Still less can there be absolute differences between subsets of a breed, and there simply is no way to tell what caused such differences anyway–they are every bit as likely to have arisen through chance loss of genes from one set but not from the other, as they are to reflect an original difference. Given they were shown to represent an original difference, such still could represent accidents of sampling the original population (in our case the Bedouin horses, which ranged over a large area geographically and were more or less separated in terms of tribal origins).

Working with a blurry-edged definition gives tremendous possibilities in terms of developing subgroups: founder genes of different origin (in Arabian terms, different desert samples) will get together and produce new combinations not existing in the original animals. This may suit a particular breeder’s approach admirably, while it strikes another as highly undesirable. Neither response to this biological fact is “wrong,” but this does underline that one must be aware that gene combinations are not static, even in a closed group.

Preservation breeding of livestock is not like working with, say, historical rose varieties. Modern bushes of a rose bred in 1830 are biological clones of the same plant, with exactly the same gene combinations as the ancestor (barring rare mutations). Modern descendants of an individual Arabian horse which lived in 1830 need not actually carry any of its genes, and they certainly carry those genes in different combinations than did that ancestor. To give a simple coat color example from a more recent individual, Skowronek was homozygous for grey and heterozygous for the black and red pigment genes at extension locus. There are modern chestnut Arabians of intense Skowronek breeding–horses bred to maintain a high relationship to this ancestor have lost three (at least) of his detectable genes at these two easily defined loci.

Small closed groups make for the most difficult and challenging and certainly the most intellectually fascinating kind of project. We have already acknowledged that large groups will develop subgroups. Over time these may be selected or defined into their own distinct existence, so eventually the “small group” scenario becomes a concern in almost any preservation breeding context, regardless of your starting level. Keeping to our original examples, the Davenport program is developing an elaborate substructure, and within the English descended aspect of CMK there are a number of possible distinctions, including straight Blunt, Skowronek-Blunt, straight Crabbet, GSB-eligible, Crabbet-Old English, and CMK of high Crabbet percentage. Each of these may be maintained in its own distinctive form, while individuals of the more specialized groups may contribute genes to the more general ones.

The narrowly defined groups exist in their own right but they also serve as a resource of mental and conformation traits, soundness and performance ability, for use in other contexts. This is quite analogous to the position of preservation-bred stock relative to the breed at large. The drawback, at least in theory, to maintaining the maximum number of small sub-groups, is that inbreeding within each subgroup will increase more rapidly than it would if the entire set of horses had been crossed freely among themselves. The other side of the same coin is that crossing sub-groups will later provide a way to increase heterozygosity, and theoretically vigor and fertility, without going outside the original closed definition.

The notion to take home here is that maintaining population substructure is an efficient way to maintain genetic diversity; the modern Thoroughbred, with its history of international exchanges of sires and overall genetic homogenization, possesses far less genetic diversity than does the Arabian, with its history of breeding in national or smaller subgroups.

We all learned long ago that “inbreeding creates uniformity.” If you take nothing else away from this discussion, at least cross that off your list of life’s basic concepts. Inbreeding drives genes to homozygosity and thereby shows up underlying genetic variance. Inbreeding actually creates phenotypic variability. Selection among the results of inbreeding may give rise to uniformity. Is this what you want?

A program cannot possibly maintain the full range of genetic diversity, and is not likely to maintain representative frequencies, of any founder population, through a bottleneck of two or three or five individuals. “Rare” genes are defined to exist below 0.05 frequency–nothing in a group of five horses (among them possessing a theoretical maximum total of 10 genes at any locus, and in practice there will be fewer) can exist below 0.10. If a “rare” gene from the original population, of which these five horses are a sample, is by chance present, it automatically has gone above its original frequency; if it’s not in there it never can come back, so long as the group is bred closed. This effect is not automatically either good or bad, but is simply what happens, and it illustrates that “preservation” operates at different levels. Clearly one can only “preserve” what is still in the world to be worked with, but just as clearly, the more extensive the sample with which one starts breeding now, the more correctly the desired population will be reflected in future generations.

A program cannot achieve flat phenotypic “uniformity” without losing genes; selection for a totally uniform true-breeding group is in fact the opposite of genetic preservation (besides being a highly theoretical construct–biological reality is quite different). A program, or a group of cooperator programs, can maintain or reproduce something closer to the original population by crossing derived lines back together. Sublines will automatically develop when more than one breeder is directing the course of selection, and so far from being disadvantageous, these can be highly useful from many viewpoints. (I am deliberately running this idea into the ground–it is one of the most important things of which preservation breeders must be aware.)

Endangered Species: At this level (“threads and fragments” in our tapestry analogy) a real genetic presence can readily be reduced to “a name in a pedigree” unless the line is maintained in some appropriate biological context. When a breed is evolving rapidly, saving descendants of an uncommon element means nothing, unless the breeder interested in preserving that element is working with some semblance of the breeding background to which it belongs historically and genetically. This point is missed by many people who breed horses–perhaps especially Arabian horses–who boast they have a line to Mare X or Great Sire Y but haven’t noticed (or alternatively may be quite proud of) how often the descendant bears little resemblance to the ancestor. No one would try to deny that such resemblances can persist across a breed–but the point of preservation is precisely that more such resemblances may be more predictably maintained if breeders don’t depend simply on chance to bring them forward. Chance will tend to swamp the real genetic influence of rare lines, by simple force of numbers, outside the preservation context. [See Ann T. Bowling’s “Questioning breeding myths in light of genetics“]

Sire lines tend to be the most rapidly evolving aspect of any breed of any species, except where a closed stud book has been essentially taken over by a line or two and there’s no more room for change. The Y chromosome is a biological entity and is only handed on from sire to son. It is possible to measure genetic distance by sequencing yDNA. Probably more important for our discussion, old and traditional sire lines are more likely to be maintained in old and traditional breeding contexts; the persistence of a no longer fashionable sire line is an obvious marker for the program directed by a breeder who appreciates the traditional stock. Emphasis on sire lines works both ways then–it definitely helps us to find genes of diminishing frequency, and it theoretically carries them physically (but remember few genes on the Y are known, except those directly relating to male fertility). [NB: to date (2007), while Y chromosome variation is easily found in most species tested, none has been detected in the horse.]

Dam lines tend to be biologically conservative. Rare and uncommon genes tend to be carried through the bottom of the pedigree–simply because so many more mares than stallions breed actively in each generation. By simple chance, more carriers of any uncommon gene will be used on the female side than on the male. Occasionally a mare will hand a rare gene on to one or more influential stallion sons and a breed experiences a major change in gene frequency. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is associated with the cytoplasm, not the cell nucleus, and thus transmitted almost entirely through the egg, essentially only through the female line. Very little mtDNA is carried by sperm (though such transmission has proven detectable in carefully designed mouse experiments). [See M. Bowling’s 1998 article “What’s in a Name“] [NB: it has been shown since this writing that sperm transmission of mtDNA does not occur under normal conditions.]

mtDNA carries important genes which interact with nuclear genes; also, like yDNA [which has not proven to be informative in the horse], it can be a tracer for historical and biological change and the interrelationships of lines. Generally populations have more dam than sire lines so mtDNA theoretically is more useful than yDNA; it has also proven more variable in practice. This area is only beginning to be investigated in the horse but it carries exciting potential.

“Middle of the pedigree” elements may readily be overlooked. Historically breeders have thought in terms of sire (west) or dam (east) lines–we often study published charts of sire and dam lines as a shorthand way of handling pedigrees. Sire and dam lines in fact reflect the smallest portion of any pedigree, and certainly of gene transmission–only the Y chromosome and cytoplasmic mtDNA respectively are guaranteed to run along the top or bottom of a pedigree. Except in terms of those two elements, and thus for the vast majority of genetic material, position in the pedigree has nothing to do with potential genetic influence; important horses, still visibly influential, may not have left direct sire or dam lines. Davenport’s *Haleb and the Blunt’s Bint Nura GSB come readily to mind as examples.

This opens an enormous area for discussion or consideration, and space forbids addressing it in more than this very elementary fashion. The underlying reality is that any ancestor in any pedigree may have contributed genes to any modern descendant–but at the same time any ancestor’s genes, once we get back a few generations, may have been lost completely. There is no way to tell by looking at the list of names which is a pedigree, the ancestors that actually are genetically important in the horse to which that list belongs. We must look at the horses and learn as much as possible about the ancestors, in order to make rational judgments on this point.

Mid-pedigree names may become important in developing subgroups. Simply as a fact–with neither negative nor positive associations–breeders may use any name as a marker to define a group (and it may be used by its presence or absence). The bigger and more influential the “name,” in fact, the more useful it may be, in terms of future genetic balance, to reserve some lines for crossing back to it–within the large group however defined.

What are we trying to preserve? Genetic diversity buffers the breed against change; genetic diversity interacts with environment to provide the basis for all variation within a breed. Preservationist breeders have one underlying goal: to promote the maintenance of genetic diversity. It should not be necessary to state that the preservationist approach grows out of having observed negative changes in the breed. We are preserving the genes which influence major traits, including disposition, soundness and endurance, which are not necessarily addressed in the show ring.

Different preservationist groups have more in common than they do dividing them; it is to all our benefits to make common cause for a generally different approach to breeding the Arabian horse. A listing of preservationist group contacts would be a very useful practical tool in advancing this goal, and the members of the Arabian Horse Historians Association, assembled at their 1994 Annual Meeting, agreed that serving as the clearing house for such information was a valid role for AHHA. Preservation breeders may themselves become an endangered species–no one has any choice without a vigorous preservationist movement.

from: “For the Record” CMK Record, XI/3: page 10/12 Fall, 1995

(GMB–We’ve edited Deborah’s letter because as we understand her point it’s not so much to comment on other preservationist activities, as to caution CMK breeders about mistakes they might be in danger of making. Of course we suspect, too, Deborah would agree if we pointed out that there are many registered Arabians which are not preservationist-bred in any sense, but which also “should not be bred on” for their lacks with regard to conformation, soundness, disposition or breed character. Overall we certainly second her warning and are glad to see such thinking in the CMK ranks: this movement absolutely would lose its identity, its purpose and its point if it did not continue to turn out the beautiful, traditional using Arabian that brought all of us into the CMK circle. Fortunately it is clear that CMK pedigrees continue to produce just that kind of Arabian. We have thought about this quite a lot, over the years, and it strikes us that CMK breeders in particular are not so much in danger of full-blown “preservationist syndrome” as may be the followers of some other lines of breeding. It is easy to be caught up in enthusiasm over the rarity of a particular individual, and obviously we all have our own preferences for some style of horse as opposed to another. That said, very few of us began in CMK Arabians with the idea first and looked for the horses later; a more typical CMK story is learning to appreciate a particular kind of Arabian–we would say practically always starting from a using, riding horse orientation–and then finding that “our kind of horse” belongs with the CMK Heritage. Other major advantages to CMK as a preservation scheme are its avoiding a closed definition and the great genetic diversity it maintains. Large-sense CMK breeders have much more room to operate than do the people working with other narrow closed preservation groups; specialized narrower groups within CMK may be crossed with other CMK lines without losing their CMK identity.

As the CMK preservation movement explores more kinds of promotional efforts, we can expect to hear from more people who actually do set out to see what these CMK horses are about, with no preconceived idea of what kind of horse they’re going to find. That is precisely why we need to go cautiously on the promotion front: we must be sure we are attracting people who can understand and appreciate this kind of horse, rather than those who may latch on to the name yet expect to modify the horses to suit some other set of criteria.

Deborah may not have had this next point in mind but many horse activities pursued these days do not place very high priority on the well-being of the horse, whether physical or psychological [the two are very closely intertwined]. [See Rick Synowski’s article “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder In Arabian Horses“.] No thinking breeder would care to see any horse exposed to such dangers, but we are convinced the CMK Arabian in particular is ill served by certain aspects of modern training and presentation [and statements by show trainers bear this out]. The CMK Heritage will place more emphasis in future on the actual physical “preservation” of individual horses in this day-to-day safety sense. This must include, almost by definition, the encouragement of alternative systems of use and presentation which do maintain horsemanlike values and do emphasize the well-being of the animal.

We find, too, we can’t close without attempting to give a slightly different slant on “preservationist syndrome.” The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy distinguishes conservation–the simple maintenance of a stock in existence, without changing it–from improvement, breeding with selection toward any set of visual and functional standards. ALBC advises conservation of very primitive breeding groups, whose raison d’etre is to serve as a reservoir of basic genes for health and soundness which may be at risk for loss in high-performance domestic lines. By contrast selection for continued improvement is accounted appropriate in traditional “improved” stocks whose history includes a performance standard.

The using Arabians of the Reese and Dean circles, whose breeders provided the background for the CMK movement, certainly were highly selected. So were those of the Crabbet Stud. The breeders of the CMK Heritage can call on the genetic strength resulting from that selection; at the same time we have, as Deborah pointed out, a grave responsibility to maintain the standards which were achieved by those past breeders. The problem in modern Arabian horse circles, of course, is to recognize “improvement” when one sees it. There certainly are Arabian breeders who see any change that has come about since the horses left the Bedouin tribes as change for the worse, and who think in ALBC’s conservationist terms, of maintaining a comparatively primitive stock as little different as may be from the desert war mare. There are many more of us who are not impressed with the way the show horses have changed in this country over the past two decades [the wink of an eye compared to the breed’s history in the west, leave alone its prior existence]. There is a place for all of us, but it is essential that we understand the implications of our positions.

Do remember that many of the preservationist programs are operating with minuscule numbers of horses — all recognizable activity with an identity other than “mixed source show horse” amounts to little more than 10% of the breed combined. We address this not in terms of what level of selection a given program may have room to impose, if they are to breed any horses at all; but of the simple fact that their horses have relatively little impact on the 400,000+ living Arabians in North America. They cannot change the breed’s nature, and if such horses fill a place in their owners’ lives, that is really all that need be asked of them. There is nothing wrong with conservation breeding, in the ALBC sense, so long as one recognizes one is doing it, and does not make impossible claims for the results.

It’s a completely separate subject, of course, but we have never been comfortable with those overarching schemes one occasionally sees put forward, whereby some party or official entity is meant to “certify” breeding stock–not because we approve of breeding from poor horses, but because we cannot picture how any breed-wide selection scheme could be at once effective, in the sense of doing anything in particular, and sufficiently inclusive to recognize all the range of variation which the breed includes and which must be maintained for future reference.

As to the other-bashing of “preservationist syndrome,” we do consider it basic to be civil to one’s neighbors. In fact we always think it’s a pity when anyone with a preservationist slant doesn’t recognize that we are each other’s natural allies.)

[For more thoughts on this subject, see M.Bowling’s 1997 article “Preservation and Improvement.”]

See also:

The Arabian Horse in Motion… An Anthology of Glimpses

221 Baker Street: “The Arabian Horse In Motion… An Anthology Of Glimpses”   Compiled by Robert J. Cadranell from ARABIAN VISIONS Jan ’91 used by permission of RJ Cadranell  

        Below are some descriptions of the Arab horse in motion written by people who knew the breed well and who also happened to publish books about it. These statements were made prior to 1945. The advantage to the early dates, is that all of the writers were familiar with foundation stock of Arabian breeding in the English speaking world and can tell us about those horses. The disadvantage is that some of the statements are likely to be out of date and might not apply to our modern Arabians. Additionally, the writers were more or less limited to those Arabians of which they have personal knowledge, what they say might not reflect the breed as a whole. Nonetheless, a reader gets the impression of graceful, agile horses, which one hopes Arabians will always be.

        ”The Arabian in his purity is a horse… with elastic and graceful movement.” (1) [page 446]

        ”No other breed has such harmony of motion, giving the rider a delightful sense of riding over the ground on wings and springs.” (11) [page 27]

        ”The natural Kehilan gallops easily and trots with the freest shoulder and hock action. Knee action, however, is not a characteristic of the breed nor should it be sought for.” (8) (W.S.Blunt quoted, page 225)

        ”In action, the Arabian gives the impression of daintiness in the handling of his feet, — a certain dwelling of the feet just before being placed on the ground, with a light and airy tread,” (7) (page 59).

        ”At the walk, the powerful hindquarters come prominently into play, sending this small horse along at a great pace, far beyond expectation, the hind foot often overstepping the fore foot from two to three feet, and giving him a speed of close to five miles an hour. It is considered a point of breeding among the Arabs that a horse should look about him to right and left as he walks… ” (7) (page 78).           ”…Queen of Shea made a sudden rush, tail curved over back and neck arched, snorting proudly.” (9) (page 203)

        ”The shoulder… should have… the freest possible action, and there is no better test of quality than to turn a colt loose in a paddock and take note of how he moves his shoulders and forearms. There should be little high knee-action, but the whole limb should be thrown forward and the hoof ‘dwell’ a second in the air before it is put down. This, with corresponding action behind, like that of a deer trotting through fern, is most important in a sire and a great test of quality.” (5) (W.S.Blunt quoted, page 221).

        ”…her action was beautiful in the extreme; she had a long sweeping stride, and great reach; her movements were most springy and elastic, and full of force, power, and energy.” (4) (page 346)

        ”His action should be from the shoulder and not from the knee, and he should bend his hocks like a deer.” (5) (WSBlunt quoted, page 226).

        ”Generally the men rode up four or five at a time in line, and it was a pleasant sight to watch their mares coming towards us, with their long striding walk and the slightly swinging motion of their hindquarters and tails, their graceful necks bent as they turned their heads to look from side to side, their riders sitting easily on them, swinging in their hand the end of the halter rope, until, as not infrequently happened, one mare would make a snatch at her neighbour’s neck or shoulder, causing the other to spring to one side from the aggressor, when the men would rate them with a peculiar sound, which ‘Yach–k!’ might express to some extent, but indifferently; and we were constantly reminded of the Arab description, that mares resemble well-formed and beautiful women, distinguished by their swinging walk, and looking from side to side at objects as they pass.” (4) (page 260)

        ”Myself [mounted] on Siwa who goes up and down hill with catlike agility.” (9) (page 282)

        ”The Barb is held to have more knee action than the pure Arabian, who has shoulder action. The Arabian gait is pendulous, forward and ahead, and he dwells without much bending or lifting of the knee.” (7) (page 121).           ”Trotting is discouraged by the Bedouin colt-breakers, who, riding on an almost impossible pad, and without stirrups, find that pace inconvenient; but with a little patience the deficiency can be remedied, and good shoulder action given. No purebred Arabian, however, is a high stepper.” (5) (page 422).

        ”Trotting action should be smart and free and darting from the shoulders, the forefeet dwelling a moment before touching the ground with a semi-floating dancing movement, which suggests treading on air and springs and recalls a deer trotting in fern. The hock action powerful, and the hocks well lifted and brought forwards with a swinging stride… The knee action is rather higher perhaps than that of the Thoroughbred, but it is the shoulder action which matters.” (2) (page 227).

        ”…Mutlak[rode] the strange mare that we might be able to see her properly. One glance was enough, her going was heavy, as Mutlak said adding ‘but galloping is of the Arab horses,’ as saying she was not of them.” (9) (page 216)

        ”The Arab… is an easy horse to sit on. His gaits are so smooth and elastic one does not grow fatigued. This, no doubt, is accounted for by the fact that he does not lift his feet high or pound the ground. He is a good walking horse and has a nice trot, at which he merely lifts his feet high enough to clear the ground, and his canter, or gallop, is low, but smooth and graceful.

        ”…His trot is smooth and easy to sit, as are all his gaits, but he is not a fast trotting horse, nor a high stepper” (6)

        ”As to the action of the Arabian, it is very well described by the writer of an able article who signed himself ‘Picador.’ ‘Sit easily and flexibly on him, put your hands down, and set him going, and then you will experience a sensation delightful to the man who really can ride; he will bound along with you with a stride and movement that gives you the idea of riding over India-rubber.” (10) (page 151).

Abbreviations refer to the following works:

1) Arab Horse, by Homer Davenport. (Article appeared in the Cyclopedia of American Agriculture).

2) The Authentic Arabian Horse, by Lady Wentworth.

3) The Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates, by the Blunts.

4) Gleanings from the Desert of Arabia, by R.D.Upton.

5) Greely, Arabian Exodus, 2nd ed.

6) The Arabian Horse, by Albert Harris. (Reprinted in volume V of The Arabian Stud Book).

7) The Horse of the Desert, by W.R.Brown, 2nd ed.

8) The Crabbet Arabian Stud, Its History and Influence, by Archer, Pearson, and Covey

9) Lady Anne Blunt, Journals and Correspondence, edited by Archer and Fleming.

10) Newmarket & Arabia, by R.D.Upton.

11) Arabian Type and Standard, by Lady Wentworth.

The GSB Arabians

The GSB Arabians

© 1996 by Robert J. Cadranell
Reprinted from the March-April 1996 issue of Arabian Visions

Look at the bottom of most pre-printed Arabian horse pedigree forms and you will likely find explanations of some standard abbreviations. For example, DB stands for Desert Bred, while PASB stands for Polish Arabian Stud Book, and GSB stands for the General Stud Book. What on earth is a General Stud Book?

Until about 30 years ago, the General Stud Book was a registration authority for Arabian horses in England. It was the stud book cited for the parents of virtually all horses imported from England’s Crabbet Arabian Stud, as well as many horses imported from other studs in England. But why was it called the General Stud Book rather than, for example, the British Stud Book?

The General Stud Book was the world’s first published stud book for any breed of livestock. Before the advent of the GSB, stud books were records kept by individual breeders and were specific to animals in a breeder’s own herd. The new compilation was known as a “general” stud book because it was general to the whole country. The preliminary edition of the GSB appeared in 1791. It was an example of the eighteenth century obsession with assembling enormous compendiums of knowledge, which included Dr. Johnson’s dictionary and the original encyclopædia. The GSB documents “Pedigrees of Race Horses” stretching “From the earliest Accounts” up to the closing date of each successive volume. Its compiler was James Weatherby, whose family continued to issue the GSB after him. Thus it is also known as “Weatherby’s stud book.”

The breed of horse that the GSB defined was the English Thoroughbred. The GSB demonstrates the Thoroughbred’s descent from Oriental sires and dams such as the Darley Arabian, the Leedes Arabian, and the Darcy Yellow Turk.

GSB Arabians in England: Volume XIII of the GSB appeared in 1877. This volume included a new Arabian section to register several horses recently imported to Britain from the desert near Aleppo. The first group, imported by Mr. Sandeman, had arrived in 1874. It included Yataghan and Haidee, sire and dam of *Naomi. The second importation, made by Mr. Chaplin, arrived in 1875. This group included the mare Kesia, carrying an in-utero foal named Kesia II. These early registrations were the beginning of current Arabian horse breeding in the English speaking world. The Arabian section was included in the GSB with the hope that the new imports would, in time, “give a valuable new line of blood from the original source of the English Thoroughbred.”[1]

Volume XIV of the GSB was published in 1881. The Arabian section was expanded several pages by the first importations of Mr. Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt, who founded their Crabbet Arabian Stud with desert bred Arabian horses they imported to England in 1878. The Crabbet Stud was to endure so long and to achieve such fame that today “Crabbet” is far better known than the stud book which registered its bloodstock. Crabbet has taken a place alongside Egyptian, Polish, and Spanish as one of the Arabian breed’s major bloodline categories.

The Crabbet horses overshadowed the other animals in the Arabian section of the GSB, even though Crabbet horses were not the first and were never the only ones registered there. There are several reasons for this. First, Crabbet was the single largest importer of GSB registered Arabians: approximately 51 animals from 1878 to 1910, two-thirds of which are still in Arabian pedigrees. Second, the Crabbet horses were imported especially to become breeding stock at the Crabbet Stud – not brought to England as retired officers’ mounts or as curiosities. Third, the Crabbet Stud owned and bred more than a thousand Arabians during a period of over 90 years – so long that it even outlasted the Arabian section of the GSB. Fourth, nearly all the non-Crabbet GSB imports with lines still breeding today come down to us only in combination with Crabbet blood.

The Arabian section of the GSB contained many imported Arabian and other Eastern horses (including a Barb mare named Safed) which either had no registered offspring or whose lines quickly disappeared from the stud book. Other than the Blunt horses, only about a dozen imported GSB foundation animals found their way into modern Arabian pedigrees.

Most of the non-Crabbet GSB foundation animals were owned by, or otherwise connected to, the stud of the Hon. Miss Etheldred Dillon. She began her program with the 1880 importation of El Emir, and later acquired some horses from Crabbet. Also among Miss Dillon’s foundation stock were the mares Ishtar, Kesia II, and *Shabaka (Mameluke x Kesia II), as well as the stallion Maidan. Miss Dillon had Rev. Vidal’s mare *Naomi on her farm – and Vidal’s use of *Kismet as a sire introduced that horse to modern pedigrees.

At the turn of the century Miss Dillon’s program was winding down; other breeders introduced the last four horses. Mootrub is in pedigrees through two foals: a colt out of a mare of Dillon+Crabbet breeding, and a filly out of Shakra. Dwarka stood at stud for the Prince of Wales (later Duke of Windsor), who bred him to the Crabbet mares Amida and Rangha. And Skowronek, imported last, is perhaps the most famous of all the GSB founders. After Lady Anne Blunt died in 1917, her husband and her daughter, Judith Blunt-Lytton (Lady Wentworth), disputed the ownership of the Crabbet Stud. The dispute went to court, and in 1920 Lady Wentworth emerged as the stud’s sole owner. Also in early 1920 she purchased the white stallion Skowronek, imported several years earlier from Poland. Skowronek quickly became one of Crabbet’s chief sires.

Skowronek was hardly the last Arabian imported to England, but he was the latest import to gain access to the GSB. In 1913 the Jersey act had closed the GSB to imported Thoroughbreds unless their pedigrees traced in all lines to horses entered in previous volumes. A 1921 decision did the same thing for the Arabian section. Thus a “GSB Arabian” became an Arabian from a clearly defined, closed pedigree group. Britain’s Arab Horse Society (AHS) was founded in 1918, and published its first stud book in 1919. This was likely a factor in the decision of Weatherbys not to enter any more new Arabian imports – the GSB’s Arabian gene pool was sufficiently large to continue indefinitely. Why not let the new stud book of the Arab Horse Society register future imported Arabians?

Thus for the next 45 years, England had two stud book authorities registering Arabian horses. Weatherbys continued to register those Arabian bloodlines “eligible for GSB” – and there was strong incentive for British breeders to maintain GSB registration. For one, the export market was crucial to them. Often countries overseas might not have an Arabian stud book, but probably did have a stud book for Thoroughbreds. An Arabian with a GSB certificate could be entered in virtually any Thoroughbred stud book in the world.

From the first, the stud book of the Arab Horse Society allowed entry of new desert imports. As a registration authority for Arabian horses, it also entered imports from Poland, the United States, the U.S.S.R., and elsewhere. Most of the GSB Arabian foals carried “dual registration,” entered in both GSB and AHS. If a GSB foal did not appear in AHS, it was often because it had been exported young or died young.

The GSB continued to register Arabian foals until Weatherbys announced that as of January 1, 1965, the Arabian section would be discontinued. Rosemary Archer, owner and breeder of GSB Arabians since the late 1940s, described the response to this.

“…a strong representation was made by The Arab Horse Society asking [Weatherbys] to retain the Arabian section. . . . [Weatherbys] intimated that if the Arab horses registered in the G.S.B. had been used for crossing with Thoroughbreds to produce racehorses, they might have been interested in retaining the Arabian Section but there was no question of a reservoir of pure Arab blood being kept for possible future use…. ‘it is sad,’ Weatherby’s spokesman conceded, ‘after so many years, but there it is.’ “[2]

Thus the stud book of the Arab Horse Society was left as the Arabian breed’s official registration authority in Great Britain, and GSB Arabian foals born 1965 and later did not carry Weatherbys registration. Nonetheless several breeders in Britain continued to breed GSB Arabians, whether “straight Crabbet” or carrying crosses to the non-Crabbet GSB founders. Beginning in the mid 1970s, imports of Arabians from around the world flowed to Britain in increasing numbers. While breeders in England today have a much wider selection of bloodlines, this has also meant that the older English bloodlines, including the “straight Crabbet” and GSB horses, are in danger of being crossed out of existence. As a means of fostering the breeding of these horses, A Catalogue of Arabians in Great Britain Descending from G.S.B. Registered Horses appeared in the early 1990s.

GSB Arabians in America have been present almost from the first. The earliest imported mare with descent in registered Arabian pedigrees was *Naomi. In the years before World War II when American breeders were laying in their foundation stock, GSB imports outnumbered those from any other source, including Poland, Egypt, and the desert itself. Into the 1930s, foals theoretically “eligible for GSB” if sent back to England made up fully one third of all U.S. registrations. Of the remaining two-thirds, most carried substantial Crabbet or other GSB ancestry.

The list of the GSB imports brought to America prior to World War II is a familiar litany. It is impossible to imagine traditional American Arabian breeding without these horses. The Roger Selby imports included *Raffles, *Indaia, *Rose of France, *Kareyma, and *Rifala. The W.K. Kellogg imports included *Raseyn, *Ferda, *Nasik, *Rifla, *Rossana, *Ferdin, *Rissletta, and *Crabbet Sura. W.R. Brown’s group contained *Berk, *Rijma, *Ramim, *Rokhsa, and *Simawa, among others. F.L. Ames brought in *Astraled, *Narda II, and *Noam, while Homer Davenport imported *Abu Zeyd. Spencer Borden brought us *Rose of Sharon, *Ghazala, *Shabaka, and *Rodan. Counting in-utero foals, there were 111 pre-World War II GSB imports in all, of which some 77 are still in pedigrees.

Our stud book shows another 28 GSB horses brought in between 1947 and 1956. These include *Ranix, *Silver Crystal, *Rithan, *Shamadan, *Sun Royal, *Serafix, and *Electric Storm.

In 1957 Lady Wentworth died, and so did her rival breeder Miss Gladys Yule of the Hanstead Stud. The heirs of both women were forced to reduce the herds. This enabled Bazy Tankersley of Al-Marah Arabians to assemble the largest single importation of Arabians to America up to that time. Among the horses were *Salinas, *Silwara, *Thorayya, *Little Owl, *Royal Diamond, and *Silwa. The stallion *Count Dorsaz joined them a year later. From 1957 to 1959 about 61 GSB horses, including the Al-Marah shipment, were imported by various parties.

Importations of GSB horses continued through the next several years, then tapered off toward the end of the 1960s, for a total of some 53 imports for that decade. The early 1960s brought *Nizzam, *Silver Vanity, *Oran van Crabbet, and *Silver Drift. The Lewisfield imports of the same era included *Fire Opal, *Touch of Magic, and *Lewisfield Magic. In 1966 came Bazy Tankersley’s *Royal Dominion.

Only 13 GSB horses were imported in the 1970s, of which one was *RAS Indian Silver. However the 1980s saw a renewal of interest in GSB horses, with 43 more imports. These included *Silvern Magic, *Sa’ika, *Achim NSB, *Odessa NSB, *Seffer, *Rimmon, and *Seyad.

Importations of all Arabians have slowed in the 1990s. To this writer’s knowledge, thus far the only registered import of GSB pedigree is *Star Reflection, imported in 1995.

Counting *Star Reflection, the Arabian Horse Registry of America has registered 311 imported horses of GSB pedigree. But another approximately 2,000 registrations are of GSB horses bred in the United States. Sixty years ago “GSB eligible” Arabians were about a third of all registrations. Now, they constitute less than half of one percent. This does not mean they have vanished from the gene pool, because most Arabians in America have some GSB blood somewhere in their pedigrees – and many are 50% or more GSB-derived. But “straight GSB” Arabians have become rare.

For years GSB stallions and their sons dominated the lists of top sires of American show winners. These GSB stallions included *Serafix, Ferseyn, Abu Farwa, Indraff, *Raffles, *Silver Drift, Aarief, *Count Dorsaz, Sureyn, Al-Marah Radames, Rapture, Aaraf, Gulastra, *Silver Vanity, and Al-Marah El Hezzez. But prominent sire lines in a breed can change rapidly. In the last 25 years other sire lines have taken a substantial market share away from the lines of Mesaoud, Mahruss, and Skowronek.

In the 70s and 80s marketing emphasis was placed on horses of “pure” or “straight” national origin. One might think this would have boosted the numbers of GSB and straight Crabbet Arabians. Paradoxically, it worked to their disadvantage. Many GSB mares were outcrossed to stallions of Polish and Egyptian lines. The outcrosses no doubt produced lovely horses, as such crosses did in past decades, but registrations of GSB foals in America skidded to new lows in the mid-1970s.

In the 1990s, with more Arabian horses and semen flying around the world than ever before, the traditional 20th century distinctions between national breeding groups are breaking down. In the interest of the Arabian breed’s genetic diversity, it makes sense to identify and conserve those living horses from distinctive breeding traditions. Among these are the GSB Arabians and their various subsets. These subsets include, for example, horses tracing entirely to Blunt imports, and horses of Blunt+Skowronek pedigree.

Arabian Visions offers a catalog of the GSB Arabians registered in the United States. It includes a complete pedigree index tracing GSB Arabians imported to America back to the original foundation horses imported to England, and quotes the entries for these horses from the GSB.

1. Quoted from GSB Volume XIV.
2. Quoted from the introduction to A Catalogue of Arabians in Great Britain Descending
from G.S.B. Registered Horses.

Arabians at the Big Apple Circus

Why Young Stallions Run Away to Join the circus

Arabians at the Big Apple Circus

Copyright 1993 by R.J.CADRANELL from Arabian Visions Sept/Oct 1993 Used by permission of RJCadranell  

        Katja Schumann cannot imagine a circus without four essentials: clowns, acrobats, elephants, and horses.

            ”Horses do anything you can ask them. They are like an empty canvas. Each has its own talents to develop to the fullest. Some will be great, others good.”

Katja Schumann, a fifth generation circus equestrienne, came to America from Europe more than ten years ago. She performs with the Big Apple Circus. Because of transportation, insurance, and labor costs, permanent circuses do not keep many horses. Katja has 12, including Saddlebreds, Arabians, a Palomino, and a Shetland pony. She says her horses need to be versatile and work hard.

        The Big Apple Circus performs in the northeastern corner of the United States: shows take place in New England, New York, Ohio, and Washington D.C. [and Chicago Ill. in 1997 and ’98]. The circus performs in one ring under one tent, accommodating an audience of 2,000 in summer and 1,500 in winter. It takes four to five hours to raise the tent, four hours to create the footing in the ring, a day and a half to prepare for a show, and eight hours to take everything down. There are horses and elephants, aerialists, clowns, jugglers, and acrobats. The program changes every year, and there are two shows a day.           The basic training of the horses Katja does on an individual basis. Each horse has a name and must respond to it. She uses the horse’s name to ask it to come to her, or to get its attention.

            ”And if they know their names, later you can get an individual’s attention when they are in a group,” Katja explains. “They must come when called, and respond to the long whip, which is an extension of your hand and arm.”

        Circus horses performing at liberty, however, do not rely on voice commands.

            ”The music is so loud the horses must respond to whip and body movements,” Katja says. “When the whip is behind, it means go forward. When in front, it means stop. But cues must be applied differently because all horses are individuals, and when communicating with one you cannot disturb the others. If I show the inside of my wrist one horse knows to speed up. There are other commands for a turn in place or a change of direction. To turn five to eight horses at once, they must all be on track. Later they learn to rear. That’s the basics.”

        Work is done with a longe line and halter,

    not jerking on the mouth,” Katja says. “Sometimes the horses are ridden after they learn the basics, and sometimes before.”

        Katja has a few geldings, but she prefers stallions for circus work because they show themselves better. She comments,

            ”The inexperienced grooms and people who don’t know what they’re doing get along better with geldings. The horses live outside my window so I can watch. The inexperienced grooms want to learn, but they make mistakes.”

        Katja prefers Arabians for circus performance, explaining that circuses have used Arabian and part-Arabian horses for centuries because of their looks, durability, and trainability.

            ”Arabians will do anything as long as they understand what you are asking,” Katja says. “That sounds simple, but from one day to the next the same aids may not work. Sometimes you need to ask one way, sometimes another. The Arab will respond to what he thinks you’re asking. Understand that principle. If you get on someone else’s horse, the key might be to raise your hands a little. Books don’t tell you that, but the horse responds.”

          Katja finds her horses though the grapevine, following hunches, and reading magazines. Her needs are specific as to color and age. Currently she is assembling a liberty act of eight grey stallions.

        When Katja came to America she had to leave her horses in Europe. She knew she wanted Arabians, but the prices in America were prohibitive in the early 80s.

            ”Some of those high-priced horses should have been donated to circuses.” Katja comments. “They were just not as good as the price might make you think.”

A friend suggested she consider Saddlebreds, but Katja had never seen any. She went to Kentucky and then bought some. She now has three Saddlebreds and likes them.

            ”They have been bred as show horses, and the slightest noise makes them jump. But you can use that to your advantage.”

        New horses cannot be younger than age three. For her team of eight, Katja needed white Arabian stallions with minimal handling:

            ”That way I can be sure no one has messed them up.”

The horses also had to be accustomed to living with other stallions. She found a source of such stallions at Craver Farms in Hillview, Illinois. The young Davenport stallions Angevin CF, Thespian CF, and Bohemian CF have all joined the circus, where they are known by their stage names Abiyad, Yussef, and Pasha. Two more Davenport stallions may follow shortly.

        The horses go back in all lines to the 1906 Davenport importation of Arabian horses from the Anazeh and Shammar tribes. Davenport blood is present in an estimated 90% of American Arabians. The Davenport horses have also been bred as a closed herd since 1906.

        Yugoslavia used to be a primary source of large groups of horses for the circuses of Europe. Purebred Arabians were available and also horses “of Arabian breed,” meaning Shagyas and warmbloods. The Bertram Mills circus in England used horses with Crabbet lines, known in the circus trade as “English Arabs.” They were known for being bigger, often more beautiful, and more pampered. Polish Arabians are popular today in European circuses because they are plentiful and tough.

            ”Many of the Polish Arabians performing in circuses wouldn’t make show horses, but they are very good circus horses

Katja says of them.           Katja sees herself carrying on her family tradition and trying to keep alive her inheritance. Her ancestors were circus proprietors who rode and trained and put together shows.

            ”One day the circus might be looked on like the Spanish Riding School or the American Ballet Theater. It’s something people need: to sit two feet from circus horses roaring past.”

        Commenting on the durability of the Arabian horse Katja says.

            ”If you spend five to ten years training a horse, you want to keep him around. A circus horse is not a product for resale.

Her horses are in many ways like the members of a dance troupe.

            ”They are our colleagues, not our pets. We and the horses depend on one another. I think the bedouins and cowboys did the same.”


The Big Apple Circus is a nonprofit performing arts organization.

Northwest CMK/Al Khamsa 1999 Symposium

It has been said that folks who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. Preservation breeders love to make a study of history and then have great fun getting together to repeat it.

1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition, Portland,OR. *Nejdran is the horse in the photo. Homer Davenport is standing on the porch.

1994 Northwest CMK Symposium. Aly Binis is the horse being admired by Charles Craver and RJ Cadranell among others who were unable to attend the ’05 exposition. They do plan to be back in ’99 for the

NORTHWEST CMK/AL KHAMSA 1999 SYMPOSIUM August 20-22, 1999 McMinnville, Oregon (45 min. SW of Portland)

For information contact

Ardi Allnoch 12560 Moores Valley Rd Yamhill, OR 97148-8013   or Rick Synowski at: rsynowski@iname.com

Strained Relations

Copyright by Michael Bowling used by permission

“Strain” is defined courtesy of Messrs. Funk & Wagnalls as follows:

“1. Line of descent or the individuals collectively in that line; race; stock; also, a variety, especially when artificial and but slightly differentiated.

“2. Inborn or hereditary disposition; natural tendency; trace; an element or admixture; as, to have an heroic strain in one’s character.

“3. A special line of individuals belonging to a certain race or species and maintained at a high standard of perfection by selection; said of animals or plants.”

There are further definitions which do not relate to our animal breeding context.

The standard text, Genetics and Animal Breeding (Johanssen and Rendel, Stockholm 1963; English translation 1968) has this to say: “Very often a breed can be divided into different strains which from a breeding point of view are more or less isolated from each other due to geographic conditions or when in some respects the aim of breeding is different.”

An amazing amount of confusion has been generated on the Arabian scene by the fact that Bedouin breeding has been described in terms of “family strains” when no two speakers seem to have defined “strain” in quite the same sense. For that matter, “Bedouin” seems to have been used in a number of senses and it is not surprising that contradictions have arisen. “The horse breeding tribes” are not and as far as we can tell have never been a monolithic entity with entirely uniform horses or ideas on horse breeding. Since different travelers spoke with different tribes, different ideas as to the importance of the “family strain” concept and totally different ideas as to what the “strains” were like and which were more important or desirable have come down to us.

The only real certainty out of it all seems to be the fact that the Arabian horse was bred in the desert with attention to tail-female descent (this is all “family strain” in the Arabian breeding sense is; it  is the eastern equivalent of the Western idea of placing emphasis in breeding on the tail-male line).

When the Bedouin Said “Strain”, What Did the Europeans Hear?

Before considering what the implications of emphasis on matrilineal (just another word for tail-female) descent might be, it could be instructive to consider the background from which the early European travelers were coming when they encountered the Bedouin. In some ways our experience is as foreign to theirs as theirs was to that of the desert raiders, so we can learn by trying to understand the differences.

The history of Europe is the story of small countries—often of individual tribes—warring among themselves for control of circumscribed areas which they felt to be especially valuable. The great empires which unified the scene were by comparison short-lived and even during their heydays they did not unify the people in the sense of producing a homogenized culture throughout their areas. This is the background from which the many local varieties—isolated from intercrossing by wars and war’s aftermath, suspicion and rivalry—developed into “nations” of humans and “breeds” of livestock, each closed among themselves.

Travelers coming from this history were not prepared to understand that the Bedouin “tribes” were nomads who wandered over vast areas in the course of a year, their paths crossing and sometimes running together. Even when individual tribes held themselves aloof from their neighbours they were not physically isolated like the citizens of little European countries barricaded behind their rivers and mountain ranges. Each tribe doubtless held that its warriors were the fiercest, its women the loveliest, its horses the swiftest and most enduring—they were nomadic, not inhuman—but they were saying and believing these things in a different context from the European experience.

When the Europeans heard the Bedouin describing the different lines of horses which they maintained, it did not occur to them to ask whether they could be, or ever were, inter-crossed. Such things were foreign to their ideas of stock breeding which could not conceive of a single breed spread over the Arab countries. Indeed, we are lucky that the terminology did not become set at the earliest stage for it would have us referring to Kehilan, Seglawi, Maneghi etc, as different breeds; even the Blunts made this error at first though they learned better soon enough.

There may be some significance to the fact that the American, Homer Davenport, when he journeyed with the Arabs buying horses for his 1906 importation, did not come home with the idea of strain separation or of “good” or “bad” strains. He recorded the strains of his horses and the information he was given on them but when reading his accounts one does not get the feeling he thought of this as anything but a source of knowledge of their background. Certain strains are spoken of as being prized in certain areas or by certain tribes but it is not with the feeling of metaphysical superiority. Rather, these became celebrated through the fame of celebrated individuals which happened to belong to them.

In summary, the Bedouin seem to have used a word which may be translated “strain” in the first sense of the dictionary definition at the beginning of this article. Perhaps it would have been better in a number of ways to have called these entities just “families” rather than “family strains” as we have come to do. European travelers who encountered this idea interpreted it more along the lines of definition 3 and of the animal breeding sense of Johanssen and Rendel. By questioning the Bedouin and sometimes by their own observation of such horses as they saw, the Europeans developed their own concept of “strain” or even “breed” and took it home with them because the Bedouin sense of “female family line” did not make sense to them. Only a few long-term observers carried their ideas beyond this preliminary level.

Because the casual observers outnumbered the careful ones and because even the careful ones could be misled by thinking one tribe had examples of strains that were like those of all tribes, the descriptions of “the breeds of Arabians” became current in Europe. In fact, what they were describing was not “the Seglawi breed” but “the Seglawis of this tribe” and interpreting this in light of their own experience (in which a breed name would not be used by two different groups for their stock unless the stock were indeed the same in type and by descent).

Implications of the Matrilineal System

Emphasizing tail-female inheritance is foreign to our Western way of doing things but indications are that it used to be rather general among the human family. It is the more primitive system and is based of course upon the fact that even members of groups which have not quite worked out yet how offspring are fathered are pretty clear on the fact that they have mothers (the women are anyway). At a slightly later period of cultural development, it still remains possible to wonder about paternity while maternity, until the era of embryo transplants, was a fixed and certain quantity defined by the legal phrase, “born from the body of”.

In our horse breeding example, it clearly must have appeared to the hard-headed Bedouin that the thing to do was to place emphasis on what you knew for certain. It may be going farther than the evidence warrants to suggest that at an early point in their tradition sires were not known or at least not recorded. Even had this been the case at some time, of course they were too sophisticated not to have come to the realization eventually that emphasis on sires was important in horse breeding. After all, aside from any traditions of maintaining “the right Arabian breed,” their success in raiding and at times their lives depended on the horses they bred. There is surely no question of ignoring sires in historical times—strains of both parents are almost always given on desertbreds that have come into our knowledge through being sold to Westerners.

It seems that as far back as we have any record, the Arabs used and emphasized the mares; stallions were a noisy but necessary encumbrance and the great majority of colts was sold. This implies that, with few stallions in each tribe, most of the young stock of any generation would be shared out among relatively few male parents. And it follows necessarily that much of the visible variation among the youngsters would be attributable to their dams. This would tend to reinforce the matrilineal emphasis.

We are told in the records of the Abbas Pasha purchases that certain strains (in particular one Seglawi family) were uniform when the mares were bred to stallions of the same strain but varied more in shape when the sires were of other strains. This is often quoted to show that the Bedouin crossed strains and as often used to show that they bred them within themselves to fix type. I think a much more interesting implication emerges if you consider the scarcity of stallions maintained for breeding in the desert along with this description of strain behavior when outcrossed or not. If much of the breeding of a tribe’s mares was done within the tribe, then a small choice of sires was available. If out of this small number a Seglawi was to be picked for the Seglawi mares, it was highly likely that all the Seglawi mares would be bred to one and the same horse. Naturally, if the mares were related by female line and they were bred to the same sire, the offspring should have been uniform. Since, further, the Seglawi stallion(s) of a tribe must have come from that tribe’s Seglawi mares, it suggests that mares were bred to their own near relations in female line if they were bred within strain within the tribe.

I sometimes get the feeling that modern Arab breeders think of “strain” almost in the sense of definition 2 of this article, as a mystical or metaphysical quality. I think it is important to keep in mind that if a strain type were fixed in any given situation, it was done so by the straightforward and comprehensible action of inbreeding and selection.

Maternal Inheritance

We have considered mammalian sex determination any number of times. Recall that sex is determined by chromosomal constitution. Normally XX individuals are female and XY individuals are male (where X and Y refer to the sex determining chromosomes). Recall too that chromosomal segregation is random. Genes from the other chromosomes of the individual do not travel with any particular sex chromosome. It is also completely a matter of chance whether a fertilized egg is XX and will be a female or XY and will be a male.

Figure 1 shows the consequences of this mode of sex determination on the sex chromosome make-up of sons and daughters of sires and dams. Only the sex chromosome are indicated as the others all assort at random compared with this pair. Note that the Y chromosome follows a patrilineal mode of inheritance; the Y chromosome of any male came from his sire, his sire’s sire, and right on back.

FIGURE I. Chromosomal Consequences of XY Sex Determination Mechanism in Mammals

Note that a male offspring always receives his sire’s Y chromosome and never receives the sire’s X chromosome. The female, of course, must receive one X from each parent. This means that the Y chromosome, because it is male-determining, always follows the “tail male” line. There is no such necessary pattern with the X chromosome; a female must receive an X from her own dam, but she need not receive one from her maternal granddam. (The numerical subscripts serve to distinguish one chromosome of the same type from another—they are not meant to have genetic significance.)

There is no comparable matrilineal pattern. Since each individual has at least one X chromosome, it is possible in as few as two generations to lose both X chromosomes of the original female founder. (NB: mitochondrial DNA is not mentioned because this was written about 20 years ago.)

In other words, any tail-male Skowronek stallion has Skowronek’s Y chromosome. A tail-female Bint Helwa mare is no more likely to have Bint Helwa’s X chromosome than she is any other chromosomes.

Two points here: firstly, there is little crossing over between X and Y and thus we can speak of the Y as being handed on as a unit unlike other chromosomes; secondly, the Y has little or no known function beyond sex determination. Having Skowronek’s Y chromosome implies only that his descendant will resemble him in being male, not necessarily in any other traits.

Something can be said for maternal inheritance in the sense that the egg is a much larger cell than the sperm and thus contributes much more mass to the earliest developmental stages. This becomes a case of splitting hairs in defining “inheritance” for it is just as true to say that the maternal parent has more environmental influence on the offspring than the sire. This begins from the moment of fertilization and continues at least until weaning. It might be best to formulate this as “the dam being the single most important influence in the offspring’s environment up to the time of weaning” rather than trying to define “maternal inheritance”. Chromosomally of course the two parents make exactly equal contributions to the offspring’s genotype.

“Family Strains” in Modern Breeding

Every modern Arabian has a strain except for a few whose strains were lost because early-day records were not kept as we might have liked before the founding of the various Studbooks. Of course those, the knowledge of whose strains is lost, still have them; we just don’t know what they are beyond the generic “Kehilan Ajuz” or “Old Thoroughbred”. It is interesting to speculate about the significance of strain names today, especially when there are relatively few sources of a particular strain name (as the Kehilan Dajani which seems to trace back in all cases to just two 19th century foundation mares, Dajania in England and Mlecha in Poland). As we understand the family strain system, this must mean that a Kehilan Dajani of one country is related to an individual of the same strain in another country. The question of course is, “How closely related?” and the answer is, “Probably not very.”

“Strain breeding” in a more specialized sense is practiced by those who attempt, by working within a limited group, to reconstitute separate strains by close breeding among the descendants of each foundation mare, or small group of mares of the same strain. This certainly is “strain breeding” according to the sense of Johanssen and Rendel—”the aim of breeding is different,” in this case in meaning to separate the strains—and it also agrees with all senses of the dictionary definition 1. We would like to hope that definition 3 would also be applicable here but of course the key is that the “high standard” is “maintained… by selection,” and that differs with the individual breeders involved.

Whether or to what extent modern “strain bred” Arabians resemble the original Bedouin versions of their named strains is a trickier question. We have seen that it is at least open to discussion whether the strains ever were uniform and bred to a certain general type in the desert. It is certainly difficult to accept that all the characteristics of the members of a given strain, as they existed 200 years ago in the desert, can be recaptured by inbreeding one family deriving the strain name from one or two mares and containing contributions from many other strains along the way. To risk being repetitious, this absolutely is “breeding a strain” or “strain breeding.” The questions are whether the Bedouin practiced “strain breeding” in this sense—and if they did how closely modern horses bred within a named strain resemble their desert progenitors.

What Strain Breeding Means to Me

I’m for it, every time, in the 3rd dictionary sense. If you aren’t trying to develop “a special line of individuals … maintained at a high standard of perfection by selection” then I don’t want you breeding Arabian horses. If thinking in terms of strains helps you to reach this goal, then go to it. On the other hand, of course, if confusion over “family strains” gets in the way of emphasis on the “selection” aspect, then give up family strains by all means.

The Bedouin seem to have done just fine without them until at least the 14th century when the Arab type was already numbering its age in the thousands of years.

From: CHAPTER X The Court of Ri’ad — Journey to Hofhoof

Voices of the Past:

Arabia in The 19th Century — Excerpted from:

THE BOOK OF THE HORSE Edited by Samuel Sidney, London 1875 Buying Arabian Horses from the KHAMSAT Volume 10 Number 1 March 1993


“All the horses offered to us for sale by the Bedouins were stallions. I do not at this moment remember having seen a gelding in their possession; and although they frequently rode mares into our camp, they never offered any to us.

(MAMELUK’S CHARGER 19th century engraving by J. Greenway)


            …”The huffiness exhibited by Bedouins in their horse-dealing transactions, in a great measure the outburst of an insolent, overbearing nature, is seldom able to stand its ground permanently against the greater strength of their passion for money. Of a hundred bedouins that ride off in a fury as resolved never to set eyes on you again, ninety-nine will come back again. Perhaps the hundredth will not. A Bedouin brought a horse of extraordinary size for an Arab into the camp. I did not much admire the animal, but a sum equal to LB100 was offered for him. the owner, a breechless savage, in a sort of dirty night-shirt, rode away in wrath, and we never saw him again.

            “The sum total of horses bought by us in the desert was one hundred. Of these seventy-two were Anazeh, from the Qulad Ali and the Rowallas; the remainder from the tribes of Serhan and Beni Sakhr, and from men of doubtful tribe. The following statements refer to the Anazeh alone. The highest price paid was LB71, 17s. This was given for each of two horses bought by private hand, of which one was the finest that I saw in the desert. Putting these aside, the highest price was a little more than LB50, and the average price about LB34. The average height was 14 hands 1-1/2 inches, and the commonest age four and five years; but this would be an over-estimate both of the height and age of the mass of Anazeh horses offered for sale, as we selected the biggest and the oldest. Many of the horses brought were two and three years old, and might have been brought at much lower prices. Of the different breeds, the Kahailan seemed to be the most numerous, the Soklawye the most esteemed.

            “The Anazeh inflict a temporary disfigurement upon their young horses by cropping the hair of the tail quite short, after the cadgerly fashion creeping in amongst English hunters, but leave the tails of the full-grown animals to attain their natural length. They denied being in the habit of making, as they are commonly believed to do, fire-marks on their horses for purposes of distinction; and denied also all knowledge of grounds for a report which I have seen brought forward very lately, viz., that English horses had been used to improve the breed. The foals, the said, though dropped most frequently in spring, were yet produced all the year round, in consequence of which the age of their horses dated from the actual day of birth, and not from any particular season of the year.

            “With the exception of one Anazeh vicious at his pickets, I remember no instance of an Arab horse showing vice towards mankind.

            “We had an Italian horse-dealer with us, a great black-bearded man, one Angelo Peterlini. He was a good and useful man in his way; well acquainted with the dodges and mysteries of Bedouin horse-dealing; cunning in guessing the price that an Arab would take for his horse, and careful to offer him only the half, that he might work up the other half in process of bargaining; sharp-sighted in detecting the two or three “unlucky” hairs which in the Bedouin estimation might lower the value of a horse, and as pernicious in making them tell upon the price as if he believed in them; in fact, altogether well acquainted with the Bedouins, and monstrously polite to them before their faces, but with, at heart, a horror of them unspeakable (by anybody of less gifts of eloquence than himself), and with the intensest aversion to anything of the nature of what he called a ‘baruffa’ with them. Dogs, thieves, hogs, canaille, people of the devil — I wish I could convey the magnificent and sonorous emphasis with which he rolled out these and other epithets upon them behind their backs, or the ingenuity with which he framed speeches setting forth their precise relationship with the fiend, and the exact nature of a most curious connection with the hogs which he attributed to them.

            “I must add a postscript. Do not let any man, because I have rated the average price of an Anazeh horse at LB34, suppose that LB34 is to buy him a striking specimen of the race; or, because I have described the Anazeh horses as fine, imagine that the very fine ones are anything but the exception to the rule. With the Arab horse, as with everything else in the world, the average is grievously removed from the ideal, and all that you want above it you must pay for. Finally, let any one who may be tempted to seek for an Arab horse in his native deserts remember that though we, buying horses by the hundred, could attract numbers of sellers to our camp, it does not follow that he, in search of a solitary animal, could do anything of the kind, or, indeed, that he could draw together a sufficient number to offer him a reasonable choice; and above all, if he wish to avoid tribulation, let him receive as great truths all Angelo Peterlini’s remarks upon the Bedouins, and shape his course so as — if he will take any advice — to keep perfectly clear of them.”

            Having given an extract which conveys so unfavourable an idea of the moral qualities of the Bedouin, of whom we have been accustomed to read such picturesque and romantic accounts, it is right to add that the British cavalry officer’s admiration for the Anazeh as a horseman is unbounded; and I give his description here, although the subject does not properly come within the contents of this chapter.

            “His horsemanship, when he chooses to display it, is very striking and curious. He puts his horse to the gallop; leaning very much forward, and clinging with his naked legs and heels round the flanks, he comes past you at speed; his brown shanks bare up to the thigh, his stick brandished in his hand, and his ragged robes flying behind; then, checking the pace, he turns right and left at a canter, pulls up, increases or diminishes his speed, and, with his bitless halter, exhibits, if not the power of flinging his horse dead upon his haunches, possessed by the Turks and other bit-using Orientals, at all events, much more control over the animal than an English dragoon attains to with his heavy bit. On theses occasions, it appears to me that the halter served to check, and the stick to guide; but I have seen the same feats performed when the horseman was carrying the lance, and, consequently, was without his stick. Our purchases in the desert amounted to one hundred horses; amongst all I saw tried, I never saw one attempt to pull, or show the least want of docility.”


            “Most horsemen will admit that this is an extraordinary performance, and that none will allow it more readily than those who are acquainted with the Arab horse as he appears in our hands in India, where-so far as I may trust my own experience-he is hot, and inclined to pull. Why should he display this failing with us, and not with his original masters? My own impression is that the secret lies in the different temper of the English and the Bedouin horseman. The Bedouin (and every other race of Orientals that I am acquainted with seems to possess somewhat of the same quality) exhibits a patience towards his horse as remarkable as the impatience and roughness of the Englishman. I am not inclined to put it to his credit in a moral point of view; I do not believe that it results from affection for the animal, or from self-restraint; he is simply without the feeling of irritability which prompts the English horseman to acts of brutality. In his mental organization some screw is tight which in the English mind is loose; he is sane on a point where the Englishman is slightly cracked; and he rides on serene and contented where the latter would go into a paroxysm of swearing and spurring. I have seen an Arab stallion broken loose at a moment when our camp was thronged with horses brought for sale, turn the whole concern topsy-turvy, and reduce it to one tumult of pawing and snorting and belligerent screeching; and I never yet saw the captor, when he finally got hold of the halter, show the least trace of anger, or do otherwise than lead the animal back to his pickets with perfect calmness. Contrast this with the ‘job’ in the mouth, and the kick in the ribs, and the curse that the English groom would bestow under similar circumstances; and you have, in a great measure, the secret of the good temper of the Arab horse in Arab hands.”

[ED NOTE: It is interesting to note in this excerpt the lack of trust and also contempt for the Bedouin on the part of these particular European horse purchasers. This, however, was not the case for Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt, Homer Davenport and his party, and Carl Raswan among others. Each of these people by establishing respect and trust with the Bedouin resulted in a number of important foundation horses we are now the beneficiaries of in Al Khamsa.]

The Arab: the Horse of the Future (Part II)

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series The Arab: the Horse of the Future

Articles of History:

FROM THE PAST: Excerpted from


by Hon. Sir James Penn Boucaut
The Khamsat Vol 10 Num 4 Nov 93

Circassian Warriors, 19th century engraving courtesy of Judith Forbes.

In the autobiography of General Sir Harry Smith, of Aliwal, a very great soldier of wonderful energy, reference is frequently made to his celebrated Arab horse Aliwal, which carried the veteran in all the battles of Gwalior and Sikh campaigns in 1847, accompanied him to the Cape, returned with him to England, afterwards served him faithfully in his commands at Davenport and Manchester, and was in his possession for eighteen years. It is related that on the anniversary of the Battle of Aliwal, when there was a full-dress dinner at the General’s house, someone would propose Aliwal’s health, and Sir Harry would order him to be sent for. The groom would lead him all round the dinner-table, glittering with plate, lights, uniforms, and brillent dresses, and he would be quite quiet, only giving a snort now and again, though when his health had been drunk, and the groom had led him out, you could hear him on the gravel outside prancing and capering.

Sir Harry writes:

‘I had one little Arab, not 14 hands, descended from Arabs; he never gave me a fall, and I never failed to bring the brush to his stable when I rode him; but with all the other horses I have had some awful falls, particularly after rain, when the sand is saturated with water and very heavy.’

It is further written of the General that he usually rode his little Arab Aliwal, and always when the troops were in line he would suddenly put his horse into a gallop and ride at the line, as if he were going to charge through them; that the men were, of course, well up to this trick, and stood perfectly steady, and the little Arab always suddenly halted within a foot of the line.

The following epitaph on his horse by Sir Harry, in his own handwriting, is still preserved:



‘Sir Harry rode him in the Battles of Moodkee, Ferozesshahur, Aliwal, and Sobraon. He was the only horse of the General Staff that was not killed or wounded. He came from Arabia to Calcutta, thence to Lahore; he was marched nearly over India, came by ship to England. He was twenty-two years old, never sick during the eighteen years in Sir Harry’s possession. As a charger he was incomparable, gallant, and docile; as a friend he was affectionate and faithful.’

Is this all a romantic dream? Can the opinion of a racing gentleman founded upon ‘sprinting,’ or of a stable youth founded upon ‘tips,’ or of a ‘dandy’ of Piccadilly, or of the ‘best boy’ of a Melbourne barmaid, be placed against the practical experience of all these great soldiers?

In the Franco-Prussian War the Arab again proved his sureriority. The Times of February 24, 1871, gave an account of the entry of General Bourbaki’s army into Berne, and the distress of both men and horses, but it qualified this as to the Arabs by adding that

undoubtedly the Arabs justify the established reputation of their breed for endurance by the very tolerable condition they presented and the comparative elasticity of their paces.’

Mr. W.G.Palgrave, in his ‘Central and Eastern Arabia.’ vol. II., says of some horses then before him, that never had he seen or imagined so lovely a collection. their stature was indeed somewhat low–he did not think that any came up to 15 hands; 14 appeared to be about their average — but they were so exquisitely well shaped that want of greater size seemed hardly, if at all, a defect. He says that they appeared a little, a very little, saddlebacked — just the curve which indicates springiness without weakness; every other part, too, had a perfection and a harmony unwitnessed, at least by his eye, anywhere else — an air and step that seemed to say, ‘Look at me: am I not pretty?’ Their appearance justified all reputation, all value, all poetry.

Captain Burnaby, in his Ride to Khiva, says of horses of the Kirghiz, that no horses that he has ever seen are so hardy as these little animals. He bought one with saddle and bridle, 14 hands, for 5 Lb. Of excessive leanness, and by his description only fit for the knackers, which in England would not have been considered able to carry his boots, yet, in spite of quite 20 stone on his back, he never showed the least sign of fatigue. There is Arab blood in these horses, or they are of a kindred breed. All over the steppes Arabic words are used, showing the influence of the Arabs in the past; indeed, they overran much of this country.

In July, 1270, a French expedition (the seventh Crusade), under Louis IX. attacked Tunis. Mr. Pellissier, writing in 1844 on this Crusade, says that the Arabs attacked the French Crusaders every day, and that

if one pursued them they fled; but when the French returned to their quarters, tired out by a bootless chase, the Arabs turned round and assailed their pursuers with arrows and javelins. This is exactly how they treat us today.’

In the latter sentence he referred to the Arabs under Abd-el-Kader in Algiers. It was as bootless a chase for the French cavalry to try to catch the Arab horses in Algiers in 1840 as it was for the same cavalry to try to catch the Arab horses in Tunis in 1270; 600 years had not lessened the difference in merit between the two breeds: the Arab was still facile princeps.

General De Wet could furnish instances yet sixty years later of other European cavalry having bootless chases after Arab horses. In 1535 the Emperor Charles V. attacked Tunis with success, and amongst the terms of the treaty of peace which was made it was provided that the suzerainty of Sprian was to be recognised by a yearly present of twelve horses. No such term would have been made unless the horses had been known to have been of unusual excellence. You don’t take coals to Newcastle nor Arab horses to Arabia. But you send them elsewhere. Another Bey of Tunis, Ahmed Bey, in 1842, sent, amongst other things, a present of an Arabian horse to Louis Philippe, King of the French. So that we have three Kings of France in three far-apart periods receiving presents of Arab horses from the Bey of Tunis, and there are scores of other instances where an Arab horse has been deemed worthy of being a present to be received by one Sovereign from another. Was I not justified in saying that it was childish of my unknown friend, above referred to, to say that there is neither speed, stamina, nor docility, in the Arab horse?

Napoleon Bonaparte, in his ‘Observations on Egypt.’ states that although discipline made 1.000 of the French cavalry superior to 1.500 Mamelukes, yet man for man the Mamelukes were the better — ‘two of them were able to make head against three Frenchmen,’ because they were better armed and better mounted; and Sir Edward Creasy says that Napoleon is the best writer on the subject of Egypt that a general or statesman can consult.

The Mamelukes were probably Arabs, but were certainly mounted on Arab horses, and Cook’s ‘Guide to Egypt‘ cites Warburton as stating that the Mamelukes were the most superb cavalry in the world. Major Upton says in effect the same with reqard to the present age:

The real armour of the Bedaween horsemen, offensive and defensive, is the speed of his mare.’

Polybius wrote that it was the superiority of Hannibal’s cavalry which gained him all his victories. That cavalry was Numidian — that is, Arab.

‘Thormanby,’ in a book on The Horse and his Rider, whom I should by no means take to be an Arab enthusiast, affirms that the Arab is in many respects entitled to take the lead among all breeds of horses; that his pace is rapid and graceful; that his is hardy, and can continue traveling at the rate of from fifty to sixty miles a day; that it is proved beyond doubt that for slow, continued work the Arab is immeasurably superior to his English brethren. that distance is the mileage that one of Mr. Quin’s Arabs at Tarella, New South Wales, bought of me, went day after day during the great drought about the end of the nineteenth century, with, I believe, only native grass, or what was left of it. Is that properly to be called ‘slow’?

“Thormanby’ can, clearly, have meant ‘slow’ only as opposed to short sprinting with light weights; in fact, he admits as much in almost the very words that I hears applied to Mr. Quin’s stallion, that an Arab seems at his own pace to be able to go for ever. But I deny that his pace is slow; it is very fast, as many a defeated army has discovered. ‘Thormanby’ describes two Arab horses sent to him from Bombay to Lucknow, which did not reach him for five months, having marched continuously, with many vicissitudes, continual forced marches, and irregularly and scantily fed, still arriving in perfect trim, and continuing to do fast work throughout the hot season. I note particularly the word ‘fast,’ which is the author’s. ‘Thormanby’ might therefore have said more in the previous passage than to say the Arab was immeasurably superior for ‘slow’ continual work! He fairly enough says that, all things considered, he sould prefer in the Indian or Egyptian climate an Arab to any other horse, habituated as he is from infancy to scanty food and water, and to enduring heat and rough usage, and above all with sounder legs and feet — a good tempered, willing and docile slave, and a rare agent to traverse a distance in an open country. Another passage from “Thormanby’ shows how ill adapted the ordinary horsey man, used to the ‘leggy, weedy creature who would fall over a straw,’ is to judge of the merits of the Arab. Says ‘Thormanby’ of five Arabs of the ordinary stamp — by ‘ordinary,’ I take it, he means Bombay Arabs of the old style, not pure-breds of the desert —

To an eye accustomed to European horse-flesh they would have looked, perhaps, at the first glance like a lot of screws; but when you came to examine them closely, you found undeniable points about them, and a look of gameness that showed it was, at any rate, no plebeian animal that you had before you.’

A former Duke of Newcastle, one of the best judges of horse-flesh then in England, shows how few people can judge an Arab accurately. He thought very little of the Godolphin Arabian!

‘Thormanby’ points out that the wild-horses of America, both North and South, have descended from Andalusians imported by the first settled Spanish settlers, and that they are fine animals, very hardy, and when caught soon docile. He describes the common amusement of the Mexicans and South Americans in charging like lightning, and stopping so suddenly that the horses’ feet will exactly touch the wall, and even at times will tremble over a precipice, and yet wheel round in safety.

This is of a piece with the description given by Layard and many others of the Eastern Arabs, who would stop in full charge with their spears so close to his face that an accident would have caused his death. I have cited Major-General Tweedie’s references to this, and those of several others.

‘Thormanby’ relates a story of Sir R. Gillespie on the Calcutta racecourse, when a tiger had escaped. A Bengal tiger is no kitten to play with. Sir Robert called for his Arab, a small gray, and attacked the tiger with a boar-spear, which was in the hands of one of the crowd. Immediately the tiger saw Sir Robert, he crouched for a spring, at which Sir Robert instantly put his horse in a leap over the tiger’s back and thrust his spear through the animal’s spine.

This grand and fearless little fellow was afterwards given as a present to the Prince Regent. Though he was like all his race, a born war-horse, cool in the presence of the tiger under a rider that he knew, and not afraid of jumping over him, et, alas! he could probably not have won a half-mile race with 5 stone on his back! How sadly degenerate! Nevertheless, he was not quite ‘so extinct as the dodo‘ on that occasion!

Mr. W.K.Kelly, the traveller, in his book on ‘Syria,’ 1844, says that the Bedouin and his horse should be seen together. When the rider’s feet are on the ground, he creeps listlessly about, and the horse stands tamely, looking hungrily after the few blades of grass. but when the Bedouin springs into the saddle an electric energy seems breathed into the man and horse. The horse makes the air whistle with his speed, while his streaming tail often lashes his rider’s back.

This is exactly what Madam Ida Pfeiffer writes in her ‘Travels in the Holy Land,’ about fifty years ago. She said that at first sight they looked anything but handsome. They were thin, and generally walked at a slow pace, with their heads hanging down. But when skilful riders mounted them they appeared as if transformed. Lifting their small, graceful heads with fiery eyes, they threw out their slender feet with matchless swiftness, and bounded away over stock and stone, with a step so light, and yet so secure that accidents very rarely occurred. It was quite a treat to see them.

Madam Pfeiffer and Mr. Kelly both dwell on the arab’s powers of endurance. Mr. Kelly says they are most remarkable. His on more than one occasion carried him for sixteen or eighteen hours at a stretch without food, and once he cantered him from Hebron to Jaffa, nearly fifty miles, without pulling bit. At the end of such a journey, Arab horses, he says, get only a few handfuls of barley, no bedding or grooming, and generally the saddle is not removed. They are sure-footed and exceedingly sagacious, and exhibit a wonderful degree of activity and fleetness. then he cites Baron von Taubenheim, first equerry to the King of Wurtemberg, who, writing to a friend, reminded him what an anglomaniac he (the Baron) was, but said that nevertheless from henceforth he should set the Arab horse above every other, from experience of his extraordinary performances. The Baron describes the horrible roads of Lebanon — rocks over which the horse has often to mount or descend two or three at a step, loose rolling stones, a track running jaggedly and unevenly along the verge of a precipice. Yet along such roads as these the Arab goes on without flagging from six in the morning till eight at night, and he averred that he never discovered the least flagging, even in the last quarter of an hour, and for many days he literally never took hold of the reins.

The Rev. Dr. Porter, in his “Five Years in Damascus,’ refers to these dreadful roads of Leganon, which, he says,

are startling when your steed assumes a vertical attitude or passes along a precipice brink, where a false step would hurl him hundreds of feet below.’

After many other instances of endurance, cleverness, bottom, and docility, Baron Taubenheim says that he knows that vanity would make him in his own country again seek out a six-foot-high English horse, but that he also knows that the Arab is capable of doing much better service. For the day of battle he should, perhaps, make choice of an English hunter, but for a whole campaign, says he,

give me one Arab in preference to two English horses.’

He also says that a traveller feels amazement ot think that in such a country men can trust themselves upon horses where you would expect to see them mounted only on goats. Those horses don’t fall over a straw. The Baron’s vanity which he speaks of gives you a part of the key to the Anglomania vanity, the desire of being on a tall horse — the vanity of the horsey youth in top-boots and knee-breeches, whom the Times satirizes as a ‘tendollar amateur’; the vanity of the Piccadilly masher prancing before the dames in the Park; the arrogant vanity of the insular mind, which thinks that nothing can be good which is not English. The other part of the key to this absurd Anglomania is the gambling.

In another place Mr. Kelly says that it is only in the East that you can form a just idea of the Arab horse, and he devotes a full page to enlarging on his merits, his beauty, his gentleness, his picturesque form, his caressing manner to his groom, his playfulness, his inquisitive attention, evincing as much certainty, force of character, and varied play of feature, as the emotions of mind on the face of a child. Many of my guests have noticed and spoken of this caressing manner shown by my young horses, as also their inquisitive attention and wonderful appearance of intelligence. It has been stated that an Arab would prefer his horse to be stolen rather than injured in a long and heavy chase, and that he has been known to rejoice, by reason of his pride in her, when his favourite mare has carried the thief safely away from his pursuit. If he is to be kicked, he hopes that it will be by a horse of pure breed!

Dr. Porter writes of the arrival of a stranger who drew up after a very rapid pace, whose mare stood patient and gentle without symptom of weariness or quickness of breathing, but with expanded nostril and proud eye.

‘I could see,’ said Dr. Porter, ‘why the Arab loves his horse.’

Mr. Frederick Drew, in his book ‘The Northern Frontier of India,’ says that Baltistan is one of the homes of polo, which is so ancient a game that it was played in Constantinople in the middle of the twelfth century.

‘The ponies of the Baltis,’ he says, ‘may be taken fairly enough to embody the experience of generations of players as to the right kind of animal. They stand about 12.3 or 13 hands, rather large-boned for their size, of compact make, broad chest, deep shoulder, well-formed barrel, well ribbed-up, good hind-quarters, and a small, well shaped head.’

This well describes a small Arab; anyhow, the creature to which Mr. Drew refers is an Eastern horse, and certainly more or less crossed with the Arab.

Mr. W.P.Hogg, an American gentleman, in his book ‘The Land of the Arabian Nights,’ After several casual and cursory remarks as to ‘handsome Arab horses,’ ‘a mettled Arab.’ ‘a beautiful full-blood Arab horse,’ and their ‘wonderful endurance,’ and so on, describes his inspection of the stables of the Pasha at Babylon, where there were a score of the finest Arab horses, and naively says that, although he is not especially a horse-fancier, he would fully appreciate the present were the Pasha to give him one of those beautiful animals, so intelligent, docile, and graceful in every motion. Everybody seems to notice their beauty.

The Hon. F. Wallpole, in his book’The Ansayrii,‘ writes of an Arab mare he was shown of the Anazeh:

‘She was worthy of the pen of a Warburton or a Lamartine: clean gray, with black mane and tail, silvered at the end; her skin thin as a kid glove, and the long hairs fine as that which drops over the shoulders of beauty. The eye was bright, wild, and flashing; the nostrils full, almost bell-shaped; tall and strong, yet light and active, she well deserved her name — The Beautiful.”

In ‘Modern Persia.’ C.J.Wills, M.D., describes a fourteen-hand pure-bred Arab which he bought, with a huge scar of a spear-wound a foot long on his shoulder, otherwise perfect, of angelic temper, but small by the side of the Persian horses, as all pure Arabs are; his muzzle almost touched his chest as he arched his neck, and his action was very high yet easy; he seemed an aristocrat; his thin and fine mare and tail were like silk.

He says that he had that Arab ten years; he never was sick, and he never had to strike or spur him; a pressure of the knee and a shake of the rein would make him do his utmost. And he was a fast horse.

“Small as he was, he carried my 12 stone comfortably, and as a ladies’ horse he was perfect, having a beautiful mouth, while he followed like a dog, and nothing startled him or made him shy.’

He speaks, too, of the Arabs which come from Bagdad as all that the heart can desire, except as to size, being seldom more than 14.2. Which is the better — 14.2 that can carry one, or 16.2 that cannot?

The Australasian, April 2, 1904, in showing that the success of mule-breeding largely depends on the sire, says that the best mules in America are by Jacks descended from Catalonian sires imported from Spain — introduced to Spain centruies ago by the Moors, and always carefully bred. Who can doubt that this excellence is owning to the Arab stock owned by the Moors, which made the Andalusian jennet celebrated? Who can doubt after this the prepotency of the Arab sire, and his ability to benefit any breed he mates with, when even his hybrids became famous? Mr. Sydney Galvayne also testifies to this excellence of the American mule.

Captain R.V. Davidson, formerly of the Indian Staff Corps, writing of boar-hunting in India in the Wide World Magazine, says that

he and Bethune Temple were on Arabs, and could count on their turn if it came to jinking,’

and that when again and again

the active brute, scenting danger, jinked away to right or left, his stanch little Arab followed him like a cat.’

Mr. F.C. Webb, M.I.C.E., in his “Up the Tigris to Bagdad,’ relates that they took on board three splendid Arab horses, which he would not have written if the Arab is only what some of the racing gentlemen affirm. An observation like this — by the way, as it were — is almost better testimony than a designed panegyric.

Professor A.B. Davidson gives a very celebrated line by Imrulquars, an ancient Arabian poet, describing the skirmishing of the horse and the irresistible impetus of his charge:

Attacking, fleeing, advancing, backing at once,

Like a block of rock swept down by the torrent from a height.’

He gives part of another poem, in which is the line:

‘My heart is with the horsemen of Yemen.’

The reader asks why I cite this. Because I am not writing for the ‘knowing ones,’ and I desire to show beyond all cavil that, at all times, in all countries, amongst all peoples, the Arab horse was famous. Such fame could never have been achieved for a breed that did not deserve it.

M. Tisset, in relating his travels in ‘Unknown Hungary,’ says that all along the Turkish frontier, and especially in the upper military borderland, a small race of horses of Barbary origin is found well suited to those rugged and rocky countries, which corroborates the statements that the Hungarian horses are largely indebted for their excellence to Arab blood.

Count Henry Krasinski, a Polish soldier, in the ‘History of the Cossacks of the Ukraine,’ says that their horses are small in make, but extremely vigorous, and proof to all kinds of fatigue, clear all difficulties of the ground, carry their riders everywhere with facility, and are, like their masters, content with the most meagre fare; and he describes them as hovering round the enemy like a vapoury cloud, augmenting, fading away, or dissipating entirely again, to form into shape when required. This fortifies the accounts I have given of the Arabs of Tunis in the third Crusade, and of the Arabs of Algiers recently in the time of General Daumas.

These Ukraine horses are Eastern, and, if not pure Arabs, have been imporved by Arabs, and are of a kindred race. Count Krasinski states that at the great annual fair in the government of Volhynia 1000,000 horses often to be seen from all parts of Russia, Poland, Austria, and Turkey, and even Persia. The Kurdish mountains as well as Asia Minor were celebrated for their breed of horses in the time of the prophet Ezekiel (xxvii. 14).

In Mr. E.H.Parker’s ‘Thousand Years of the Tartars‘ it is stated that Tukuhum of Koko-nor, one of their rulers, who reigned in the sixth century, obtained a number of splendid Persian mares for breeding purposes, and their young obtained great repute for swiftness. Of course, these were ‘Eastern horses,’ and yet not up to the level of the pure desert-bred Arab.

Mr.W.B.Harris, in his ‘Journey through Yemen,’ states that the Arabian King Tubba-el-Akran took an expedition to Samarcand, and afterwards, in A.D. 206, Abou Kariba, another Arabian King, invaded Chaldea, and defeated the Tatars of Adubijan, so that all this country from Arabia to China was saturated with the blood of Arabian horses.

I see by the London Daily Telegraph, February 6, 1904, that the Sultan of Morocco sent a present of six pure Arabs to President Roosevelt from Fez, one for the President himself, the others for his wife and children, the one for himself being a pure white thoroughbred. In ancient times white horses were most esteemed; e.g., Herodotus says that the Sicilians paid an annual tribute of 360 white horses, Arabs or Arab crosses, to Darius, King of Persia. Sicilian horses, of course, came from Africa (Barbary, etc), just opposite. Other instances are given of the preference for white horses; Arab horses have always been deemed worthy of being gifts from royalty to royalty. Incidentally several instances appear in this little work. I may summarize a few more which I have come across in casual reading:

In the year 800 Haroun al Raschid sent a present of five Arabs to Charlemagne. In the tenth century the Grand Vizier presented to the Caliph fifteen Arab horses of the best breed.

In 1131 Alexander I. presented an Arabian horse to the Church of St. Andrews. Mehemmed Khan, governor of Balk, presented Shah Abbas, amongst other presents, with fifty horses of Turkestan. The Imaum of Muscat sent a present to King William Iv. of some horses of the purest breed of Arabia.

Megder, a Tartar Prince, one of the great conquerors of history, sent a present of Tartar horses to the Chinese Emperor about 200 B.C. In A.D. 635 the Turkish Khan sent a present of horses to the founder of the Tang Dynasty in China.

When Ibn Batula visited Sarunda in Asiatic Turkey in 1332, the Sultan presented him with a dress of honour and riding-horses. They never thought of sending pigs or oxen or Suffolk punches, admirable in their way as these creatures may be, and all these horses from Cyprus, and Edward III. purchased fifty Spanish steeds (of course Barbs), and got special permission for their safe transport through France and Spain.

Edward III. was a great warrior. Did he not know the value of the creature he purchased?

Major Butler in his Great Lone Land, describes a wonderful little horse of the prairies whose endurance could not be excelled day by day. He feared that he must give out; but not a bit of it! he still held gamely on, seldom traveling less than fifty miles a day, nothing to eat but the grass, and no time to eat but the frosty night. these prairie horses were descended from Spanish importations — Andalusians, i.e., Arabs or Barbs.

Count Rziewuski (Russian ) says that Asiatic horses are of one family, different from the European horses, except the English, which have much Arab blood, and that Napoleon did his best to improve the horses in France, but they were far inferior to English horses. This was in the middle of last century. The Count could not say that now. The Count also stated that the Poles had spared no expense in introducing Arab stallions, and gives many instances. Why were the English horses of that day superior to the French? Plainly, because up to that time the English had used the Arab very much more than the French, as the Stud-Book shows and as Count Rziewuski states. Why are thy inferior now? Because they have fallen off from the use of the Arab.

M. Chateaubriand, in his Travels in Greece, testifies to the hardihood of the Arab horse, and enters at length into what hardships he can stand, and says that a horse of well-known noble blood ‘will fetch any price,’ while you can get an ordinary horse for 80 or 100 piastres.

Major Denham, on losing a fine Arabian, describes how keenly he felt the loss, and says that although he was ashamed of it, yet he was some days before he could get over it; the animal had been his support and comfort through many a dreary day and night. Almost all riders of Arabs have felt the same sort of affection. As several authorities have observed, ‘the Arab is always a gentleman.’

Type in the Arab

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.

Gulastra No. 521, Seglawi strain; dam, Gulnare; sire, *Astraled by Mesaoud, great grandson of Zobeyni. Gulastra has proven a highly important sire.

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.

Azkar No. 1109, Kehilan (Seglawi) strain; sire, Rahas by Gulastra; dam, imported *Aziza, Egypt, out of Negma, finest recent representative of the Jellibiet Feysul mare line. (Today this line has been shown through mtDNA analysis to be Seglawi-Jedran)

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.

*Rifala No. 815, Kehilan strain, imported from England; sire, Skowronek, grandson of Mahruss, Zobeyni line. Rifala is of the Rodania female line, and dam of *Raffles by Skowronek.

Aarah No. 1184, Kehilan, and foal Aarafa. She is representative of the female lines of Ghazieh, Rodania and Jellibiet Feysul.

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:



Potocki, Count Joseph (son of Skowronek’s breeder) “Skowronek’s Pedigree and the Antoniny Stud” The Arabian Horse News, Feb. ’58.




Polish Arabians May Have Been Saved

by Ben Hur (Western Horseman Mar/Apr’44)

Raffles, by champion Skowronek, out of champion Rifala.

Friends and students of Arabian horses will be deeply interested in the report that the castle and estate of Count Potocki in war-harassed Poland have been saved from destruction. A deep American interest in the Arabian horses of Poland arises from the fact that during the past ten years or so the bloodlines of some of the best Polish bred Arabian horses have proven extremely popular in this country. There was a time when very little, if any, contact was had with Arabian breeders of Poland, and little was known of their methods of breeding and the quality of their horses.

It will be recalled that Wilfred S. Blunt and his wife, Lady Anne Blunt, established the Crabbet Arabian Stud about 1880 with horses they imported from the desert and, later, others from Egypt. They became the most extensive breeders of Arabians in the British empire, and Arabians bred there were exported to the far corners of the world. Many importations have been made by breeders of the United States.

Commenting on the later work of Lady Wentworth and her Crabbet Arabian Stud, William R. Brown, former president of the Arabian Horse Club of America, said in his book, The Horse of the Desert (1936): “In recent years, a white stallion, Skowronek, bred at the stud of Count Potocki in Poland, has been introduced in order to freshen the blood.”

Skowronek, a few days after he was brought to the U.S. [sic] from Poland. The famous stallion later turned white.

Through the fact that Lady Wentworth deemed it necessary or expedient to freshen the blood of Crabbet Arabians by the importation of Skowronek from Poland shortly after the first world war, a deep interest in Polish Arabians was created in breeders in America. Arabian horses have been bred intensively in their desert purity in Poland for several hundred years. It has been the practice there of certain breeders to obtain a new desert bred stallion every five or ten years and this rule has been followed for many generations. The sire of Skowronek is Ibrahim, desert bred, and his dam is Jaskolka, on her dam’s side from a long line of Polish bred Arabians.

Skowronek’s blood has been disseminated to two continents. Several of his get were imported to the United States — the first possibly being the grey stallion, Raseyn No. 597, and the grey mare, Rossana No. 598, imported in 1926 by W. K. Kellogg. The grey mare Rifala No. 815, by Skowronek, was imported in 1928 by Roger Selby, followed by a double son, Champion Raffles No. 952, imported by Mr. Selby in 1932.

It is significant that the mare, Rifala, was bred back to her sire, Skowronek, and foaled Raffles while still in England. Raffles then is the in-bred son, the son and grand-son of Skowronek, and three quarters of the blood of his sire rather than the usual one-half.

Rifala and foal. Her blood is potent in passing on extremely desirable qualities to her offspring.

Possibly for this reason the blood of Raffles has been found unusually potent in passing on the extremely desirable qualities, from the Arabian breeders’ point of view, to the offspring. From these two sons and two daughters of Skowronek in the United States, in the relatively short period of about ten years, the get and bloodlines have gone to a surprisingly large number of Arabian breeders from coast to coast.

After the importations of the two sons and daughters of Skowronek from England to the United States, the interest in Arabian horses from Poland grew. J. M. Dickinson imported seven Arabians direct from Poland to the United States in 1937, the most prized mare possibly being Przepiorka No. 1309, her dam being Jaskolka II (no doubt a daughter of Jaskolka). In 1938 Mr. Dickinson imported eight more Arabians from Poland, while Henry Babson made a visit to Poland and personally selected five which he imported into the United States. Mr. Dickinson then imported still another in 1939 and Mr. Babson two more.

Dickinson had the honor and distinction of exporting in the meantime to Poland the American bred Arabian, Antez No. 448, a stallion representing some of the best blood lines of the Homer Davenport (1906) importation from the desert to this country. Later, Antez had the distinction of being imported back to the United States from Poland after being used successfully as a stud there.

These importations from Poland were from a number of different estates and breeders as well as the Polish State Stud. With the invasion of Poland by Germany early in World War II, most of these estates and studs were liquidated, the horses confiscated, some being taken to Germany and added to breeding establishments there. So it has been with deep sorrow that many breeders of Arabians in America have followed the ebb and flow of the war across Poland, realizing that the breeding of several hundred years had been wiped out.

Recently, however, more welcome news has come from Polish Vice Consul Jozef Staniewicz in Chicago who reports that despite the terrific destruction in Poland there is one estate which stands untouched, Lancut, the historic castle of the Potockis, fifty miles from Cracow. The ancient house, the only one in Europe remaining intact as it was in the Middle Ages, stands in the center of 150,000 acres of fields and forests.

At the time of the German invasion in 1939, members of the German general staff lost no time in getting to Lancut and making themselves comfortable under Count Potocki’s roof. German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop and Reichs-marshal Herman Goering have engaged in boar hunting on the estate. The upshot of it was the famous castle and its historic properties and collections remained intact under the German high command. Other castles and country houses, universities and churches were sacked, but Lancut was saved.

This information from the Polish vice consul gives added assurance that the Arabian horses owned by Count Potocki were also saved and can be used as a nucleus for re-establishing the studs for which Poland has long been famous.

See also:

Skowronek — Magic Progenitor