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THERE ARE definite and noticeable variations in the conformation of Arabian horses. Most of these can be traced to the influence of the three main family strains. The Muniqui strain seems to be responsible for the tendency of many modern individuals to fall short of the standard of perfection we like to see in the Arab. This strain has been mixed for the last half century to such an extent that the true classic Arab is difficult to find in any large number today.
Today there is more concern about families than any other phase of Arab ownership. Slowly and surely, there is a concentrated movement to save the remaining classic Arabian horses and, from this priceless nucleus, to reproduce enough of the right kind to save the type for posterity. There is a world-wide return to classic strain breeding. Methods which were practiced for centuries by the purists among the desert tribes and by the master breeders of Arabia and Egypt are again being followed with most gratifying results. Classic stallions are being leased in new territory, and mares are being taken long distances to others. Arabs which are bred within either the Kehilan or the Seglawi, the two distinctive classic strains, or a combination of the two, are being produce. In these are found a well balanced blending of strength and beauty, proving beyond any doubt that this method of Arab breeding is more than just a theory.
Attempts are made to justify mixing the families and to disprove pure-in-the-strain breeding by reference to the unbelievable and amusing tale about the families being founded with the Prophet's five thirst mares, which stopped their mad dash for water when Mohammed's bugler sounded the call to halt. Also, they call attention to the fact that an Arab takes its family name from that of the lower line of the dam only. This was done by the Bedouins in recognition of the most important line. However, these critics fail to go on to explain that it is customary to place the family strain under the name of each Arab on a pedigree for generations back, especially through the great grandparents, and usually six or more generations. When this is done, a clear pattern of the conformation and breeding of the individual under study unfolds.
Advanced pedigree students and serious breeders make out pedigrees on unborn foals when studying sire selection, all complete with families, as an important phase of Arab production. Knowing the characteristics of the various families, they are able, with surprising accuracy, to predict the conformation of the future foal. A basic knowledge of the science of genetics is most helpful. It is customary to study any faults in the mare and aim to correct them in the foal through the sire. Here again, definite knowledge of the family influence is of first concern. Knowing that the genes do not always take the same pattern (except in identical offspring such as some twins, triplets, etc.), any horse being a product of his ancestors and the gamble involved in genetics, the wise breeder looks to the purity of bloodlines for greater surety of success, this cutting down the percentage of chance.
The most important book in the library of the classic breeder is a copy of the early Arabian stud book, which lists the descriptions and family strain of each Arab, the latter in accordance with the practice which was followed by the Bedouins for centuries. The Arabian Horse Club of America discontinued the strain name in the last two editions, Volumes V and VI. As a result, the early copies are in great demand and priced many times their original cost. Many feel that the families should be in the stud book for those who desire this information. The rest could ignore them.
Breeders and buyers are securing copies of the reprints of the books of Brown, Davenport and Borden in their search for information. Some are fortunate enough to have a copy of Lady Anne Blunt's book, Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates, which was published in 1879 and gives much information on families, including a large chart of the family strains. Still others have copies of the Selby brochure (published 1937), the Dickinson catalogs, the 1908 catalog of Davenport, and the 1925 catalog of the Maynesboro Arabian stud, all of which give detailed information on families. Some seekers of knowledge have borrowed copies of the original stud books and have written the stains in the last two volumes. Issues of THE WESTERN HORSEMAN which contain articles and pictures by Carl Raswan are highly valued and used as constant reference. Only Raswan himself knows how many marked pedigrees he has filled out in answer to requests, but they must number many hundreds. Others beat a path to his door where he cheerfully gives more information, taking precious time from his writing.
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His head was slightly longer and not as broad, but it had more bulge and dish, although, like the Kehilan, he had a clean, chiseled face with prominent tear bones and much detail about the lips and nostrils. He became the showy picture horse which the Bedouins admired as they gathered before their tents in the desert. He was often represented on canvas as the ideal beauty type. The present day Arab, which is bred chiefly within the classic Seglawi strains of several generations, is also a picture in duplicate of his original Seglawi ancestors.
Breeding back to the classic type is one of the features of breeding the Arabian horse which makes it so rewarding and so fascinating. The breeder has a sacred responsibility to preserve this species of horsedom and to mold this plastic clay in the image of his beautiful classic ancestors. To do otherwise, thus destroying the reputation of the Arab for endurance, beauty and purity of bloodlines, is a sin against his trust.
An outstanding example of the ideal Seglawi type is young Ibn Hanad, said by many to be the most beautiful Arabian horse which they have ever seen and acclaimed by that noted authority, Carl Raswan, to be "the most beautiful Arabian stallion which has been produced in the past 40 years." His parents, Hanad and Gamil, are Seglawi; also his four grandparents and all but two of his great grandparents, which were Kehilan. Stallions such as Ibn Hanad add grace and beauty to foals whose dams are heavy boned or on the plain side. They give finer, slightly longer, rounded lines. They beautify the head and animate the action. Their gaily arched tails wave like a royal banner. Truly they are the peacocks of the Arabian horse world. They are the showy, parade type. To have one of these proud, lovely creatures as a riding companion is to enjoy one of life's most enjoyable experiences. More Seglawi type foals, which are bred almost wholly Seglawi for four or more generations, are arriving each season as this breeding program gains momentum.
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According to historical accounts, in the first half of the 6th century, during the reign of Mohammed, some of the Prophet's warriors returned from war riding foreign stallions in place of their Arab mares which they had lost in battle. Some of the Bedouins crossed these stallions with Arab mares to produce a larger, racy Arab which would be most useful in warfare because of its additional size and speed. Here again, through selection, inbreeding and line breeding, a definite type was produced which was larger, more angular, but plain. They sacrificed beauty for speed in this Arab, which became known as the Muniqui Hedruj. The early purists, then as now, did not believe in mixing this blood with the Kehilan and the Seglawi. It's as simple as that.
Today, there is not one pure Muniqui Hedruj in the United States. However, being intensely inbred in passing, he has stamped his characteristics in many of the present day Arabs, thus causing their conformation to fall short of the standard of perfection set up for the breed. In fairness, most of the novice breeders did not realize what the effects of the Muniqui blood would be. They did not know how to produce the classic Arab, but they are learning.
Produced by a Muniqui Hedruj sire and dam, the bay stallion, Muniq, is a striking example of this type, his breeding being planned with that object and to prove that the Arab can be bred back to type, in this instance the Muniqui such as the Bedouins originally produced. Muniq is strong in type because he traces on both sides through his sire, Nasin, and his dam, Matih, both registered Muniqui Hedruj, to many of the same Muniqui Hedruj Arabs. Both great grand dams are Nazlet. Both grandsires trace to Kismet and Nazli, Nazli also being the dam of Nazlet. Out of 16 great grandparents, seven are Muniqui Hedruj, the seven being *Nimr, *Namoi (Naomi), Khaled, *Nazli, *Nimr, Khaled, *Nazli; six others out of the 16 are Kehilan, which should give Muniq great endurance. He attracted much attention at the 1948 Pomona all Arab show, since he was the most extreme Muniqui Hedruj type present. [Image of Khaled by George Ford Morris]
The true Muniqui Hedruj is a splendid type. This type should also be bred pure, since it is especially useful in crossing with the Thoroughbred to produce the Anglo-Arab, which meets with much favor among riders who like the higher, thinner withers and the larger size.
Two other principal strains among the Muniqui are the Jilfan and the Sbaili. The Jilfan are tall and leggy, having a long back and a croup which is often higher than the withers. The Sbaili (being a Seglawi cross) are handsome and are often mistaken for the Seglawi, but they have smaller eyes and are narrow between the jowls, sometimes only one finger wide. Their hock action and tail carriage are exaggerated, leading some to consider addition of this blood to correct a sloping croup and a low tail set. But, unfortunately, the narrow throat, small eyes, longer loin and smaller middle are oft times a costly accompaniment.
The eyes of the Muniqui, which sometimes do not match, are smaller and set higher. The bulge may be too low and the face too smooth, lacking distinct tear bones and other detail. The Bedouins always look to the head for signs of good breeding. In judging a good Arab, they measure the throat and space the head, check the chest and place three fingers between the ribs and the point of hip, the length of the loin governing this space.
The aforementioned Muniqui characteristics, and others which produce some Arabs which are not put together right, will be found in varying degrees in the Arabs of mixed families, depending on the number of generations they are removed from Muniqui. Alert observers are able to spot Muniqui blood, especially in the first three generations. Then they check the pedigree for verification.
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The Hamdani, which is a Kehilan strain, have a wide throat and large, intelligent eyes, but their profile is somewhat straight and their muzzle slightly heavier. Although a splendid type, known for strength and endurance, those interested in finer heads and smaller muzzles do not breed this line. Also, the Hamdani do not generally cross well with the Hedruj since they have a larger, longer, plainer head. From characteristics such as these a breeder should know how to avoid disappointment in foals, some of which are pretty as youngsters but get progressively plainer with maturity.
There are some Arabian mares and stallions in the United States which have been bred wrong during most of their careers. It is these Arabs of pure strains which the purists are happy to secure (even in their old age) to prove their ability to produce beautiful classic Arabs when bred right.
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Many Arabian horses of mixed families approach the classic type, as a large per cent of them are only 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32 Muniqui. It is among these that we find good sized Arabs which please the rider who likes a large Arab of the Thoroughbred and Morgan types. Many of these mares are capable of producing a classic type foal through proper sire selection, recognizing that we make improvement through the sire. Mistakes in sire selection may result in a foal which will be plainer than either the sire or the dam. A mare which is 1/8 Muniqui can produce a foal four generations from Muniqui. This filly ( 1/16) can produce a foal of classic type. When all of the blood is good with the exception of 1/16 or 1/32 or less, then the influence of the unwelcome strain is tapering off. However, classically bred stallions are priceless in this program. The fact that more breeders understand this feature of breeding makes the future of the Arabian horse most encouraging. Now many are aware that the present day Arab can be used in a program to breed back to the beauty of the original classic Arab. It is here that the early stud book with the families is of such great value.
Due to lack of knowledge, many buyers shy away from the mere mention of Muniqui. It is here that an educational program would be of definite value to the breeders who are mixing the families. As it is, visitors measure throats, study heads and check conformation in general. The novice buyer is more selective and more educated than formerly. He has studied differences and judged conformation wherever the Arab appears. Some breeders are producing Arabs which meet the standards of the ideal Arab. The observer is quick to notice these horses. There is no weight in any statements to the contrary once he has seen them for himself. A study of pedigrees later merely verifies his find. Buyers are indicating a preference for Arabs with pretty heads and well balanced bodies. More breeders will swing to meet this challenge. In the long run, it will be the best thing that ever happened for the good of the Arabian horse. And whatever benefits the breed will eventually benefit the breeder.