im Wald Farm Geauga County, Northeast
Ohio since 1995
Articles of History:
from The Arabian Horse News Sept. 1975
Editor's Note: The following material was taken from
The Horse by William Youatt, published in
1888. Often times today our perspective gets a bit distorted as to what
the Arabian was like 100 years ago and as to what was known of its history
at that time.
Although modern Europe owes so much to Arabia for
the improvement in her breed of horses, it may be doubted whether these
animals were found in that country as a matter of merchandise, or indeed
existed there at all in large numbers in very early times. The author of
the book of Job, in describing the wealth of that patriarch, who was a native
of Arabia, and the richest man of his time, makes no mention of horses,
although the writer shows himself very conversant with that animal. Five
hundred years after that, Soloman imported spices, gold, and silver, from
Arabia; but we are told in Chronicles, all the horses for his own cavalry
and chariots, and those with which he supplied the Phoenician monarchs,
he procured form Egypt.
There is a curious record of the commerce of different
countries at the close of the second century. Among the articles exported
from Egypt to Arabia, and particularly as presents to reigning monarchs,
In the fourth century, two hundred Cappadocian horses
were sent by the Roman emperor as the most acceptable present he could offer
a powerful prince of Arabia.
So late as the seventh century the Arabs had few
horses, and those of little value; for when Mahomet attacked the Koreish
near Mecca, he had but two horses in his whole army; and at the close of
his murderous campaign, although he drove off twenty-four thousand camels
and forty thousand sheep, and carried away twenty-four thousand ounces of
silver, not one horse appears in the list of plunder.
These circumstances sufficiently prove that, however
superior may be the present breed, it is comparatively lately that the horse
was naturalized in Arabia. Indeed the Arabs do not deny this; for until
within the last century, when their horses began to be so deservedly valued,
they were content to limit their pedigree to one of the five on which Mahomet
and his four immediate successors fled from Mecca to Medina on the night
of the Hegira.
Although in the seventh century the Arabs had
no horses of value, yet those which they had derived from their neighbors
began then to be preserved with so much care, and propagated so uniformly
and strictly from the finest of the breed, that in the thirteenth century
the Arabian horse began to assume a just and unrivalled celebrity.
There are now said to be three breeds or varieties
of Arabian horses: the Attechi, or inferior breed, on which the
natives set little value, and which are found wild on some parts of
the deserts; the Kadischi, literally horses of an unknown race,
answering to our half-bred horses - a mixed breed; and the Kochlani,
horses whose genealogy, according to the modern exaggerated accounts,
has been cultivated during two thousand years. Many written and attested
pedigrees extend, with true Eastern exaggeration, to the stud of Solomon.
The Kochlani are principally reared by the Bedouin Arabs in the remote
deserts. A stallion may be procured without much difficulty, although
at a great price. The Arabs imagine that the female is more concerned
than the male in the excellence and value of the produce, and the genealogies
of their horses are always traced through the dam.
The Arab horse would not be acknowledged by every
judge to possess a perfect form. The head, however (like that which
is delineated in the title-page), is inimitable. The broadness and squareness
of the forehead; the smallness of the ears; the prominence and brilliancy
of the eye; the shortness and fineness of the muzzle; the width of the
nostril; the thinness of the lower jaw, and the beautifully developed
course of the veins, - will always characterize the head of the Arabian
horse. The cut in the title-page is the portrait of the head of a black
Arabian presented to William IV. by the Imaum of Muscat. It is a close
and honest likeness. The muzzle, the nostrils, and the eye, are inimitable.
In the sale of the Hampton Court stud, in 1837, this animal realized
580 guineas; it was bought for the King of Wurtemburg, and was highly
prized in Germany.
The body of the Arab may, perhaps, be considered
as too light, and his chest too narrow; but behind the arms the barrel
generally swells out, and leaves sufficient room for the play of the
lungs. This is well exhibited in the cut of the grey Arabian mare, whose
portrait is here given. she is far inferior to the black one in the
peculiar development of the head and neck, but in other respects affords
a more faithful specimen of the true form of the Arabian horse. She
is of the purest caste, and was a present from the same potentate by
whom the black Arabian was given. The foal at her foot was by Acteon.
She was sold for 100 guineas only. Perhaps her color was against her.
Her flea-bitten appearance would not please every one. The foal, which
had more than the usual clumsiness, belonging to the youngster, sold
for 58 guineas.
The neck of the Arabian is long and arched, and
beautifully joined to the chest. The black horse in the frontispiece
afforded a perfect specimen of this. In the formation of the shoulder,
next to that of the head, the Arab is superior to any other breed. The
withers are high, and the shoulder-blade has its proper inclination
backwards. It is also thickly clothed with muscle, but without the slightest
appearance of heaviness.
The fineness of his legs and the oblique position
of the pasterns might be supposed by the uninitiated to lessen his apparent
strength, but the leg, although small is deep, and composed of bone
of the densest character. The tendons are sufficiently distinct from
the bone, and the starting muscles of the fore-arm and the thigh indicate
that he is fully capable of accomplishing many of the feats that are
recorded of him.
As a faithful specimen of the general form of
these horses, with perhaps a little deficiency in the head and neck,
we refer once more to the following portrait of a bay Arabian - an animal
of the purest cast, presented also by the Imaum of Muscat. It was sold
for 410 guineas. The higher price that was given for the black Arabian
proves that he was the general favorite; but the bay one, although not
so striking in his figure was a stronger, a speedier, and a better horse.
The Barb alone excels the Arabian in noble and
spirited action; but if there is a defect about the latter, he is perfect
for that which he was designed. He presents the true combination of
speed and bottom: strength enough to carry more than a light weight,
and courage that would cause him to die rather than yield.
Mr. Burckhardt, in a letter to Professor Sewell,
'the tribes richest in horses are those who dwell during
the spring of the year at least, in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia;
for, notwithstanding all that is said of the desert horse, plenty
of nutritious food is absolutely requisite for its reaching its
full vigor and growth. The numerous tribes on the Red Sea, between
Akaba and Mecca, and especially those to the south of Mecca, and
as far as Yemen, have very few horses; but the Curdes and Bedouins
in the east, and especially in Mesopotamia, possess more horses,
and more valuable ones, than all of the Arabian Bedouins, for the
richness of their pastures easily nourishes the colts, and fills
These observations are very important, and are
evidently founded on truth. He adds, that
'the number of horses in Arabia is not more than 50,000;
a number far inferior to that found in any part of Europe, or Asia,
on an equal extant of ground.'
'During the Wahabee government,
horses became scarcer every year among the Arabs. They were sold
by their masters to foreign purchasers, who carried them to Yemen,
Syria, and Bassora; which latter place supplies India with Arabian
horses, because they were afraid of having them seized upon by the
chiefs -- having become the custom, upon every slight pretext of
disobedience or crime, to declare the most valuable Bedouin mare
forfeit to the public treasury.'
Syria is the best place to purchase true Arabian
blood horses; and no district is superior to the Naurau, where the horse
may be purchased from the first hand, and chosen in the very encampments
of the Arabs themselves, who fill these plains in the spring. The horses
bought at Bassora for the Indian markets are purchased, second-hand
from Bedouin dealers. These procure them from the Montifell Arabs, who
are not careful in maintaining a pure breed. Damascus would be the best
residence for a person constantly employed in this trade.
While the number of horses generally is much
smaller than had been supposed, there are comparatively fewer of those
of perfect quality and beauty, -- perhaps not more than five or six
in a whole tribe; probably not two hundred in the whole desert. Each
of these in the desert itself may be worth from one hundred and fifty
to two hundred pounds; but very few, if any, of these have ever found
their way to Europe.
There has, however, been much exaggeration with
regard to these pedigrees. Burckhardt says, that in the interior of
the desert, the Bedouins never make use of any, because, among themselves,
they know the genealogy of their horse almost as well as that of their
own families; but if they carry their horses to any distance, as to
Bassora, Baghdad, or Damascus, they take care to have a written pedigree
made out, in order to present it to the purchaser. In that case only
would a Bedouin be found possessed of his horse's pedigree. He would
laugh at it in the desert.
The Kochlani are principally reared by the Bedouin
Arabs in the remoter deserts. One of them was sold at Acre for the sum
of fifteen thousand piastres.
It is an error into which almost every writer
on the history of the horse has fallen, that the Arabian is bred in
the arid deserts, and owes the power of endurance which he possesses
in his adult state to the hardships which he endured while he was a
colt. The real fact is, that the Arabs select for their breeding-places
some of those delightful spots, known only in countries like these,
where, though all may be dry and barren around, there is pasture unrivalled
for its succulence and its nutritious or aromatic properties. The powers
of the young animal are afterwards developed, as they alone could be,
by the mingled influence of plentiful and healthy food, and sufficient,
but not, except in one day of trial, cruel exercise.
The most extraordinary care is taken to preserve
the purity of the breed. Burckhardt states that the favorite mare of
Savud the Wahabee, which he constantly rode in all his expeditions,
and was known in every part of Arabia, produced a colt of very superior
beauty and promise, and it grew to be the finest stallion of his day.
Savud, however, would never permit him to be used for the purposes of
breeding, because his mother was not of pure blood; and not knowing
what to do with him, as the Bedouins never ride stallions, he sent him
as a present to the scheriff.
The parentage and birth of the foal are carefully
recorded by competent witnesses, whose certificate includes the marks
of the colt, and the names of the sire and dam.
The colt is never allowed to fall on the ground
at the period of birth, but is caught in the arms of those who stand
by, and washed and caressed as though it was an infant. The mare and
her foal inhabit the same tent with the Bedouin and his children. The
neck of the mare is often the pillow of the rider, and more frequently,
of the children, who are rolling about upon her and the foal. No accident
ever occurs, and the animal acquires that friendship and love for man
which occasional ill-treatment will not cause her a moment to forget.
At the end of a month the foal is weaned, and
is fed on camel's milk for one hundred days. At the expiration of that
period, a little wheat is allowed; and by degrees that quantity is increased,
the milk continuing to be the principal food. This mode of feeding continues
another hundred days, when the foal is permitted to graze in the neighborhood
of the tent. Barley is also given; and to this some camel's milk is
added in the evening, if the Arab can afford it. By these means the
Arab horse becomes as decidedly characterized for his docility and good
temper, as for his speed and courage. The kindness with which he is
treated from the time of his being foaled, gives him an affection for
his master, a wish to please, a pride in exerting every energy in obedience
to his commands, and, consequently, an apparent sagacity which is seldom
found in other breeds. In that delightful book, Bishop Heber's 'Narrative
of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India,' the following
interesting character is given of him: --
'My morning rides are very pleasant.
My horse is a nice, quiet, good-tempered little Arab, who is so
fearless, that he goes without starting close to an elephant, and
so gentle and docile that he eats bread out of my hand, and has
almost as much attachment and coaxing ways as a dog. This seems
the general character of the Arab horses, to judge from what I have
seen in this country. It is not the fiery dashing animal I had supposed,
but with more rationality about him, and more apparent confidence
in his rider than the majority of English horses.'
When the Arab falls from his mare, and is unable
to rise, she will immediately stand still, and neigh until assistance
arrives. If he lies down to sleep, as fatigue sometimes compels him
in the midst of the desert, she stands watchful over him, and neighs
and arouses him if either man or beast approaches. The Arab horses are
taught to rest occasionally in a standing position; and a great many
of them never lie down.
The Arab loves his horse as truly and as much
as the horse loves him; and no little portion of his time is often spent
in talking to him and caressing him.
An old Arab had a valuable mare that had carried
him for fifteen years in many a rapid weary march, and many a hard-fought
battle; at length, eighty years old, and unable longer to ride her,
he gave her, and a scimitar that had been his father's, to his eldest
son, and told him to appreciate their value, and never lie down to rest
until he had rubbed them both as bright as a mirror. In the first skirmish
in which the young man was engaged, he was killed, and the mare fell
into the hands of the enemy. When the news reached the old man, he exclaimed
that 'life was no longer worth preserving, for he had lost both his
son and his mare, and he grieved for one as much as the other.'
He immediately sickened and soon afterwards died.\
The following anecdote of the attachment of an
Arab to his mare has often been told: --
'The whole stock of an Arab of the
desert consisted of a mare. The French consul offered to purchase
her in order to send her to his sovereign, Louis XIV. The Arab would
have rejected the proposal, but he was miserably poor; he had scarcely
a rag to cover him, and his wife and children were starving. the
sum offered was great, -- it would provide him and his family with
food for life. at length, and reluctantly, he yielded. He brought
the mare to the dwelling of the consul, dismounted and stood leaning
upon her; he looked now at the gold, and then at his favorite.
"To whom is it, " said
he, "I am going to yield thee up?
To Europeans, who will tie thee close,
-- who will beat thee, -- who will render thee miserable.
Return with me, my beauty, my jewel,
and rejoice the hearts of my children."
As he pronounced the last words, he sprung upon her back,
and was presently out of sight.'
One of our own countrymen, the enterprising traveler,
Major Denham, affords us a pleasing instance of the attachment with
which the docility and sagacity of this animal may inspire the owner.
He thus relates the death of his favorite Arabian, in one of the most
desert spots of Central Africa. His feelings needed no apology; we naturally
honor the man in whom true sensibility and undaunted courage, exerted
for useful purposes, were thus united: -
'There are a few situations in a
man's life in which losses of this nature are felt most keenly;
and this was one of them. It was not grief, but it was something
very nearly approaching to it; and though I felt ashamed of the
degrees of derangement I suffered from it, yet it was several days
before I could get over the loss. Let it, however, be remembered,
that the poor animal had been my support and comfort, -- nay, I
may say, companion, through many a dreary day and night; -- had
endured both hunger and thirst in my service; and was so docile,
that he would stand still for hours in the desert while I slept
between his legs, his body affording the only shelter that could
be obtained from the powerful influence of the noonday sun; he was
yet the fleetest of the fleet, and ever foremost in the chase.'
Man, however, is an inconsistent being. The Arab
who thus lives with and loves his horses, regarding them as his most
valuable treasure, sometimes treats them with a cruelty scarcely to
be credited. The severest treatment which the English race-horse endures
is gentleness compared with the trial of the young Arabian. Probably
the filly has never before been mounted. Her owner springs on her back,
and goads her over the sands and rocks of the desert for fifty or sixty
miles without one moment's respite. She is then forced, steaming and
panting, into water deep enough for her to swim. If, immediately after
this, she will eat as if nothing had occurred, her character is established,
and she is acknowledged to be a genuine descendent of the Kochlani
breed. The Arab does not think of the cruelty which he thus inflicts;
he only follows an invariable custom.
We may not perhaps believe all that is told us
of the speed and endurance of the Arabian. It has been remarked, that
there are on the deserts which this horse traverses no mile-stones to
mark the distance, or watches to calculate the time; and that the Bedouin
is naturally given to exaggeration, and most of all, when relating the
prowess of the animal that he loves as dearly as his children: yet it
cannot be denied that, at the introduction of the Arabian into the European
stables, there was no horse comparable to him. The mare in her native
deserts, will travel fifty miles without stopping; she has been urged
to the almost incredible distance of one hundred and twenty miles, and
occasionally, neither she nor her rider has tasted food for three whole
Our horses would fare badly on the scanty nourishment
afforded the Arabians. The mare usually has but two meals in twenty-four
hours. During the day she is tied to the door of the tent, ready for
the Bedouin to spring, at a moment's warning, into the saddle; or she
is turned out before the tent ready saddled, the bridle being merely
taken off, and she is so trained that she immediately gallops up at
her master's call. At night she receives a little water; and with her
scanty provender of five or six pounds of barley or beans, and sometimes
a little straw, she lies down content, if she is accustomed to lie down
at all, in the midst of her master's family.
Burckhardt relates a story of the speed and endurance
of one of them, and shows with what feelings an Arab regards his quadruped
A troop of Druses on horseback attacked,
in the summer of 1815, a party of Bedouins, and pursued them to
their encampment; the Bedouins were then assisted by a superior
force, and becoming the assailants in their turn, killed all the
Druses excepting one who fled. He was pursued by some of the best
mounted Bedouins, but his mare, although fatigued, could not be
overtaken. Before his pursuers gave up the chase, they called to
him, and begged to be permitted to kiss his excellent mare, promising
him safe conduct for her sake. He might have taken them at their
word, for the pledge of an Arab, is such circumstances, might have
been relied on: he however refused. They immediately left the pursuit,
and blessing the noble beast, cried out to the fugitive. "Go
and wash the feet of your mare and drink off the water." This
expression is often used by the Bedouins to show the regard they
have for their mares."
A periodical writer in the 'Sportsman,'
on what authority is not stated, but he is right in most of the particulars
if not in all of them, says, that making the comparative excellence
of the different races, Nejed, between the desert of Syria and
Yemen, and now in the possession of the Wahabis, is generally reckoned
to produce the grandest, noblest horses. Hejaz (extending along
the Red Sea, from Mount Sinai to Yemen, and including in it Medina and
Mecca) the handsomest; Yeman (on the coast of the Red Sea and the Indian
Ocean, and the most fertile part of Arabia) the most durable; Syria
the richest in color; Mesopotamia the most quiet; Egypt the swiftest;
Barbary the most prolific; and Persia in Koordistan the most warlike.