The Arabian horse is also known as "Al Khamsa" in Arabic
and is a unique breed because it does not exist as a result
of selective breeding with other breeds, but as a breed that
stands alone and has been cherished for its purity for thousands
Arabians are thought to be the oldest breed in the world,
dating back at least 5000 years. The Bedouin tribes who lived
in the deserts of the Middle East believed the horses were
a gift from God and that they could "fly without wings". They
bred them for centuries and breeding was done carefully to
create horses that could withstand extreme conditions of the
Arabian Desert and tribal wars. Arabians were bred with a
large lung capacity, incredible endurance and superior stamina
and courage as well as speed and agility. This unique breed
has had a distinctive national identity throughout recorded
history and is an original breed that many other breeds owe
their ancestry to.
However, there is controversy as to just where the Arab
originated and its history is full of romance, legend, complexity
and contradictions. One thing we do know is that the original
Arabian horse was somewhat smaller than today's specimens.
Otherwise the horse has essentially remained unchanged throughout
The Bedouins valued purity and many tribes owned only one
main strain of horse. The five basic families of the breed
include Kehilan, Seglawi, Abeyan, Hamdani and Hadban. Other,
less "choice" strains include Maneghi, Jilfan, Shuwayman,
and Dahman. Substrains developed in each main strain which
were named after a celebrated mare or Sheik that formed a
substantial branch within the main strain. Each strain developed
characteristics that could be recognized and identified when
The Kehilan strain was noted for depth of chest, masculine
power and size and stood up to 15 hands. The heads were short
with broad foreheads and great width in the jowls and were
most commonly gray and chestnut.
The Seglawi was known for refinement and almost feminine
elegance. They were likely to be fast rather than have endurance
and had fine boning, longer faces and longer necks than the
Kehilan. The average height is 14.2 hands and usually Bay
The Abeyan strain is very similar to the Seglawi and tended
to be refined. They had a longer back than a typical Arabian,
but were small horses, rarely taller than 14.2 hands. They
were usually gray and carried more white markings than other
Hamdani horses were considered plain with athletic, almost
masculine, large boning. The heads were straight in profile,
lacking an extreme Jibbah. It was one of the largest, standing
as much as 15.2 hands and commonly gray or bay in color.
The Hadban strain was a smaller version of the Hamdani but
sharing big bones and muscular build. They also possessed
an extremely gentle nature. The average height of a Hadban
was 14.3 hands and the primary color was brown or bay with
few, if any, white markings.
In the 17th century, the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire
began to send gifts of Arabian horses to European heads of
state. Such was the nature of the Godolphin Arabian (sometimes
called "Barb") who was imported to England in 1730 as well
as the Byerley Turk (1683) and the Darley Arabian (1703).
These three "Eastern" stallions formed the foundation upon
which a new breed, the Thoroughbred, was to be built and now
93% of all modern Thoroughbreds can be traced to these three
For centuries, Arabians have been used to improve and refine
many different breeds of horses either by direct infusion
or through the blood of the Thoroughbred. In other words,
the Arabian has contributed to some degree, either directly
or indirectly, to the formation of virtually all the modern
breeds of horses. In fact, the Arabian, as the original racehorse,
is becoming more and more popular competing at racetracks
throughout the United States. They race distances similar
to Thoroughbreds and there are more than 700 all-Arabian races
every year. As an endurance horse, the Arabian has no equal.
In 1908, the Arabian Horse Club of America was formed and
the first stud book was published. Recognition of the Arabian
stud book by the U.S. Department of Agriculture established
it as a national registry and the only one for the purebred
Arabian breed. At that time, 71 purebred Arabians were registered
in what is currently known as the Arabian Horse Association.
Now there are more living Arabian horses in the United States
than in all the other countries in the world combined and
many breeders strongly support naming Arabian horses with
traditional Arabian names, which to them, is as important
as maintaining breed purity.
In terms of temperament, The Arabian is one of the 5 "hot-blooded"
horses, which means they have more sensitivity and energy.
This sensitivity has manifested itself in an interesting way.
You see, the severe climate required the nomads to share food
and water and they sometimes even shared their tents with
their horses. As a result of being such a close companion,
Arabians developed a gentle, pleasant personality and a close
affinity to man with a unique ability to bond with their owners.
An Arabian will take care of its owner as no other horse will.
It has a loyal and willing nature that is unparalleled by
any other breed. Foals, for example, have no fear of man,
and are usually indifferent to sudden noises. The Arabian
gentleness and tractability, while originally the effect of
education, is now inherited, and is observed in foals bred
in a foreign environment.
Today 's Arabian will never be mistaken for another breed
of horse because of their distinctive dished profile on a
wide forehead and large, wide-set eyes, small muzzle, small,
curved ears and large, efficient nostrils. They have a graceful,
arched neck, and a broad chest with a strong short back and
are fine to medium boned. Arabians have a high, proud tail
carriage. These horses weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds,
stand 14.1 to 15.2 hands high, and are usually grey, bay,
chestnut, black or roan in color. They are an extremely sound
Arabians have several unique genetic characteristics. They
have 17 ribs, unlike other breeds which usually have 18. They
also have one less lumbar vertebra and one less tail bone
than other equines, and their skin is always black no matter
what their coat color is.
Unfortunately they also have many disturbing genetic Diseases
and Disorders such as Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA) where balance
and coordination are affected; Guttural Pouch Tympany (GPT),
a defect that can be corrected by surgery; Juvenile Epilepsy
Syndrome (JES) that is treatable by medication; Lavender Foal
Syndrome (LFS)/ Coat Color Dilution Lethal (CCDL) rare, but
results in euthanasia of the foal; Occipitoatlantoaxial Malformation
(OAAM) where the cervical vertebrae fuse together in the neck
and skull causing injury to the spinal cord; and Severe Combined
Immunodeficiency (SCID) which is the only genetic condition
that can be tested for.
The traits that were bred into the Arabian since ancient
times has created a versatile horse that is not only a beautiful,
loyal breed, but one that excels at being an all-around family
horse, show horse, competitive sport horse, race horse, and
About the Author
Crystal Eikanger writes for www.HorseClicks.com