Arabians are among the oldest horse breeds in the world.
The origins of the Arabian horse breed are ancient, and thus unclear. Some historians trace their roots back 4,500 years when they were bred by the Bedouins as war mounts for the desert tribes of the southwestern Arabian Peninsula. Existing and being ridden in harsh desert conditions was probably why the Arabians came to have enormous lung capacity, tough feet and incredible endurance. Over the centuries, the Bedouin tribes zealously maintained the purity of the breed. Because of their limited resources, breeding practices were extremely selective. Such practices, which eventually helped the Arabian become a prized possession throughout the world and have evolved the beautiful athletic breed we know today.
Historical figures like Alexander The Great, Genghis Khan, and George Washington all rode and seem to have preferred Arabian horses. Marengo, Napolean’s horse was a white Arabian stallion. But the first of the breed memorialized in motion pictures was Jaadan, the little white Arabian that Rudolf Valentino rode in his 1926 movie Son of a Sheik. This exotic animal increased the demand for Arabians across North America, but Jaadan himself was an inconspicuous sire in terms of producing any quality offspring.
The Arabian Breed Has an Epic Foundation Story
The origins of the Arabian horse breed may be locked in religious myth. There’s a 7th century A.D. story relating to the prophet Muhammad who seems to have gathered the best breeding stock in the desert and possibly even formalized the breed when he instructing his followers to treat his horses with kindness, especially the mares, to help ensure the continuity of their positive traits. He also proclaimed that Allah had created the Arabian, and that those who treated the horse well would be rewarded in the afterlife. According to the legend, “Al Khamsa” refers to the prophet’s five favourite horses (AD 570-632) which through interbreeding then became the foundation bloodline of the Arabian breed.
When the Christian Crusaders returned from the East between 1099-1249 A.D. with stories of these beautiful, handy, light and speedy horses, interest in the Arabian horses grew and people of the Western world began to seek Arabian bloodstock. Three history-changing Arabian stallions were imported to England between 1683-1730 ‒ the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian. The trio became the foundation for the Thoroughbred breed.
Arabian Horse Breed Characteristics
Arabian horses feature refined, chiseled heads with a dished profile, large nostrils, wide-spaced and large eyes, long arching neck, a short, straight back (with one less vertebra than other breeds), a deep chest, high tail carriage, strong legs and tough, hard hooves. Agile and graceful, Arabians move with a signature “floating” trot.
Arabians typically stand between 14.1-15.2 hands. They are highly intelligent, responsive, affectionate, courageous and spirited. Colours include bay, gray, chestnut, black, and roan.
Arabians perform well in different events such as English and western pleasure, dressage, lower-level jumping and in-hand showing. They also do well in both racing and recreational riding. However, their superior endurance and stamina make them exceptional competitive trail and endurance ride mounts.
For more information:
arabianhorses.org (Arabian Horse Association)
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