Arabian Horse

The Arabian horse is a breed of horse with a reputation for intelligence, high spirit, and outstanding stamina. With a distinctively chiseled head and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world.

Arabians are one of the oldest horse breeds. There is archaeological evidence of horses that resemble modern Arabians dating back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses from the Middle East spread around the world by both war and trade, used to improve other breeds by adding speed, refinement, endurance, and good bone. Today, Arabian bloodlines are found in almost every modern breed of riding horse.

The Arabian developed in a desert climate and was prized by the nomadic Bedouin people, often being brought inside the family tent for shelter and protection. This close relationship with humans has created a horse breed that is good-natured, quick to learn, and willing to please. But the Arabian also developed the high spirit and alertness needed in a horse used for raiding and war. This combination of willingness and sensitivity requires modern Arabian horse owners to handle their horses with competence and respect.

"The Versatile Arabian" is a slogan of the breed. Arabians compete today in many fields of equestrian activity, making the breed one of the top ten most popular in the world. Arabian horses are now found worldwide, including the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, continental Europe, South America (especially Brazil), and its land of origin, the Middle East.

Image from Wikipedia

Breed Characteristics

Height: 14.1-15.1 hands high, may be over or under

Temper: Intelligent, spirited, sensitive

Colors: Bay, grey, chestnut, black, and roan; all have black skin except under white markings

Other distinguishing features: finely chisled bone structure, concave profile, arched neck, comparatively level croup, high-carried tail

Origin: Middle East

Arabian horses have refined, wedge-shaped heads, a broad forehead, large eyes, large nostrils, and small muzzles. Most display a distinctive concave or "dished" profile. Many Arabians also have a slight forehead bulge between their eyes, called the "jibbah" by the Bedouin, that adds additional sinus capacity, believed to have helped the Arabian horse in its native dry desert climate. Another breed characteristic is an arched neck with a large, well-set windpipe set on a fine, clean throatlatch. This structure of the poll and throatlatch was called the mitbah or mitbeh by the Bedouin, and in the best Arabians is long and somewhat straight, allowing flexibility in the bridle and room for the windpipe.

Other distinctive features are a relatively long, level croup and naturally high tail carriage. Well-bred Arabians have a deep, well-angled hip and well laid-back shoulder. Most have a compact body with a short back. Some, though not all, have 5 lumbar vertebrae instead of the usual 6, and 17 rather than 18 pairs of ribs. Thus, even a small Arabian can carry a heavy rider with ease.

Arabians usually possess dense, strong bone, sound feet, and good hoof walls. They are especially noted for endurance. Arabians have natural balance, nimbleness and impulsion, qualities originally essential in a desert warhorse, and today seen in various competitive disciplines.


Influence on other horse breeds

Because of the genetic strength of the desert-bred Arabian horse, Arabian bloodlines have played a part in the development of nearly every modern light horse breed, including the Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse, Morgan, American Saddlebred, Appaloosa and Warmblood breeds such as the Oldenburg and the Trakehner. Arabian bloodlines have also influenced the development of the Welsh Pony, the Marwari and the Percheron draft horse.

Today, people cross Arabians on other breeds to add refinement, endurance and soundness. In the USA, Half-Arabians have their own registry within the Arabian Horse Association, which includes a special section for Anglo-Arabians, an Arabian-Thoroughbred cross. Some crosses originally registered only as Half-Arabians became popular enough to have their own breed registry, including the National Show Horse, an Arabian-Saddlebred cross; the Quarab (Arabian-Quarter Horse); the Welara (Arabian-Welsh Pony); and the Morab (Arabian-Morgan). In addition, some Arabians and Half Arabians have been approved for registration by some Warmblood registries, particularly the Trakehner registry.



Arabian horses are the topic of many romantic legends. The most popular are those told about their origins.

One creation myth tells how the Islamic prophet Muhammad chose his foundation mares by a test of their courage and loyalty. It is said that after a long journey through the desert, Muhammad turned his herd of horses loose to race to an oasis for a desperately-needed drink of water. Before the herd reached the water, he blew his war horn, summoning the animals to return to him. Only five mares responded. Because they faithfully returned to their master, even though desperate with thirst, these mares became his favorites and were called Al Khamsa, meaning, the five. These mares thus became the legendary founders of the five choice "strains" of the Arabian horse. Although the Al Khamsa are probably fictional horses of legend, some breeders today claim the modern Bedouin Arabian actually descended from these mares.

Another tale claims that King Solomon of Ancient Israel was said to have been given a pure Arabian-type mare named Safanad ("the pure") by the Queen of Sheba.[5] Another version says that Solomon gave his renowned stallion, Zad el-Raheb or Zad-el-Rakib ("Gift to the Rider") to the Banu Azd people when they came to pay tribute to the king. This legendary stallion was said to be faster than the zebra and the gazelle, and every hunt with him was successful, thus the Arabs put him to stud and he became a founding sire of legend.[5][16]

Yet another creation myth puts the origin of the Arabian in the time of Ishmael, the son of Abraham. In this story, the Angel Jibril (also known as Gabriel) descended from Heaven and awakened Ishmael with a "wind-spout" that whirled toward him. The Angel then commanded the thundercloud to stop scattering dust and rain, and so it gathered itself into a prancing, handsome creaturea horsethat seemed to swallow up the ground. Hence, the Bedouins bestowed the title "Drinker of the Wind" to the first Arabian horse, a stallion named Kuhaylah.

Another Bedouin story states that Allah created the Arabian horse from the four winds; spirit from the North, strength from the South, speed from the East, and intelligence from the West. (Other versions of this myth claim Allah used only the south wind) While doing so, he exclaimed, "I create thee, Oh Arabian. To thy forelock, I bind Victory in battle. On thy back, I set a rich spoil and a Treasure in thy loins. I establish thee as one of the Glories of the Earth… I give thee flight without wings." Other versions of the story claim Allah said: "I call you Horse; I make you Arabian and I give you the chestnut color of the ant; I have hung happiness from the forelock which hangs between your eyes; you shall be the Lord of the other animals. Men shall follow you wherever you go; you shall be as good for flight as for pursuit; riches shall be on your back and fortune shall come through your meditation." This section has been directly copied from Wikipedia, and needs to be revised to avoid plagiarism


Arabians are one of the oldest human-developed breeds in the world. The original wild progenitors, "Proto-Arabian" horses with oriental characteristics similar to the modern Arabian, appeared in rock paintings and inscriptions in the Arabian Peninsula as far back as 2,500 B.C. In ancient history, throughout the Ancient Near East, horses with refined heads and high-carried tails were depicted in artwork, particularly that of Ancient Egypt. Proto-Arabians may have been brought to Egypt by the Hyksos invaders.

There are different theories about where the wild ancestor of the Arabian originally lived. Most evidence suggests the "proto Arabian" or "Oriental" horse came from the area along the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent. Others argue for the southwestern corner of the Arabian peninsula, in modern-day Yemen, where three now-dry riverbeds suggest good natural pastures existed long ago, though perhaps as far back as the Ice Age.

Some scholars of the Arabian horse theorized that the Arabian came from a separate subspecies of horse, called Equus agilus. However, Gladys Brown Edwards, a noted Arabian researcher, as well as other scholars, believe that the "dry" oriental horse of the desert, from which the modern Arabian developed, was more likely one of the four foundation subtypes of Equus caballus that had specific characteristics based on the environments in which they lived, rather than being a separate subspecies. Horses with similar, though not identical, physical characteristics include the now-extinct Turkoman Horse, the Barb of North Africa and the Akhal-Teke of western Asia.

The Arabian horse prototype may have been domesticated by the people of the Arabian peninsula known today as the Bedouin, sometime after they learned to use the camel, approximately 4,000-5,000 years ago. However, other scholars, noting that horses were common in the Fertile Crescent but rare in the Arabian peninsula prior to the rise of Islam, theorize that the breed as it is known today only developed in large numbers when the conversion of the Persians to Islam in the 6th century A.D. brought knowledge of horse breeding and horsemanship to the Bedouin.

Regardless of origins, climate and culture ultimately created the Arabian. The desert environment required a domesticated horse to cooperate with humans to survive. Humans were the only providers of food and water in certain areas, and even hardy Arabian horses needed far more water than camels in order to survive (most horses can only live about 72 hours without water). Where there was no pasture or water, the Bedouin fed their horses dates and camel's milk. The desert horse needed to thrive on very little food, and possess anatomical traits to compensate for life in a dry climate with wide temperature extremes from day to night. Weak individuals were weeded out of the breeding pool, and the animals that remained were honed by centuries of human warfare.

In return, the Bedouin way of life depended on camels and horses: Arabians were bred to be war horses with speed, endurance, soundness, and intelligence. Because many raids required stealth, mares were preferred over stallions because they were quieter and would not give away the position of the fighters. A good disposition was critical; prized war mares were often brought inside family tents to prevent theft and for protection from weather and predators. Though appearance was not necessarily a survival factor, the Bedouin bred for refinement and beauty in their horses as well as for more practical features.

For centuries, the Bedouin tracked the ancestry of each horse through an oral tradition. The first written pedigrees in the middle east that specifically used the term "Arabian" date to 1330 A.D. Horses of the purest blood were known as Asil and crossbreeding with non-Asil horses was forbidden. Mares were the most valued, both for riding and breeding, and pedigree families were traced through the female line. The Bedouin did not believe in gelding male horses, and considered stallions too intractable to be good war horses, thus they kept very few male foals (colts), selling most, and culling those of poor quality.

Over time, the Bedouin developed several sub-types or strains of Arabian horse, each with unique characteristics. According to the Arabian Horse Association, the five primary strains were known as the Keheilan, Seglawi, Abeyan, Hamdani and Hadban. There were also lesser strains, sub-strains, and regional variations in strain names. Thus, many Arabian horses were not only Asil, of pure blood, but also bred to be pure in strain as well, with crossbreeding between strains discouraged, though not forbidden, by some tribes. Purity of bloodline was very important to the Bedouin, and they also believed in telegony, believing if a mare was ever bred to a stallion of "impure" blood, the mare herself and all future offspring would be "contaminated" by the stallion and hence no longer Asil.

This complex web of bloodline and strain was an integral part of Bedouin culture. The Bedouin knew the pedigrees and history of their best war mares in detail, via an oral tradition that also tracked the breeding of their camels, Saluki dogs, and their own family or tribal history. Eventually, written records began to be kept; the first written pedigrees in the middle east that specifically used the term "Arabian" date to 1330 A.D.

Important as strain was to the Bedouin, studies of mitochondrial DNA suggest that modern Arabian horses recorded to be of a given strain may not necessarily share a common maternal ancestry. This section has been directly copied from Wikipedia, and needs to be revised to avoid plagiarism

Sorry, no match for the embedded content.
Sorry, no match for the embedded content.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.