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Arabian Horse | The Arabian Horse – From The Desert To Now

Posted By: JR

The Arabian horse is the ultimate riding horse, evolving through antiquity to become the most popular breed in America, and one of the top breeds worldwide. War and trade spread the influence of the Arabian horse, and its bloodlines are to be found in virtually every modernhorse breed today.


Beginning thousands of years ago, Bedouin nomads bred Arabian horses as war mounts, using them for quick raids on enemy camps. The Bedouins had a close relationship with their horses, keeping prized war mares inside the family tent for shelter from the elements and protection from theft. In addition, the horse relied on his human caretaker for food and water in a harsh desert climate. This unique relationship resulted in a breed that combines the alertness and high spirits necessary in a warhorse with the docility of a companion animal.

Through centuries of selective breeding and insistence on purity and pedigree, the Bedouins created a horse that is not only functional, but is also a great beauty with instantly recognizable type: the enormous, wide-set eyes, the large nostrils set on a small muzzle, the alert ears and the dished profile.

The influence of the Arabian horse also spread through the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. In the seventh century A.D., he bade his disciples to care for Arabian horses and treat them kindly, with the added admonition that extra special care should be given to the mares, to ensure propagation of the breed. Allah created the Arabian horse, said Muhammad, and those who treat it well will have a reward in the afterlife.


Muslim warriors conquered the Iberian Peninsula by the year 720 on horses of mixed Arabian ancestry. During the Crusades, many knights returned from Palestine with Arabian horses captured as spoils of war, spreading the bloodlines throughout Europe from the year 1095. The Spanish Conquistadors brought horses of mixed Arabian blood to the Americas in the 1500’s. Many escaped into the wilderness to become the American Mustang.


The purebred Arabian horse appealed to royalty and nobility, who were obsessed with pedigrees. One of the earliest breeders of purebred Arabians was an Egyptian Sultan, Al-Nasir Muhammad, who established a stud farm in El Naseri in the early 1300’s. In Poland, King Sisismund II established a royal stud in 1560, perhaps the earliest European breeding program. King James I imported the first Arabian stallion to England in 1616. In Russia, Arabians were imported and bred by Peter the Great in the early 1700’s, Catherine the Great in the late 1700’s, as well as Count Orlov, Count Stroganov and Prince Shcherbatov a century later. In Spain, Queen Isabella II and her son, King Alfonso XII, bred purebred Arabians for pleasure and war in the mid 1800’s. At roughly the same time, Wilhelm the Great was forming the Weil stud in Germany. In the early 1800’s in Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha began a legendary stud that would be passed on from Pasha to Pasha. Those horses eventually were the foundation of the Crabbet Park Stud in England that was begun by Lady Anne Blunt, a granddaughter of Lord Byron.

In the United States, Arabians appealed to the meritocracy, people who had made their fortunes elsewhere and then indulged a lifelong dream of breeding Arabian horses. Two luminaries were W.K. Kellogg, who built his fortune in cereal, and William Randolph Hearst, the legendary newspaper magnate. Presidents Martin Van Buren, in 1840, and Ulysses S. Grant, in 1877, received Arabian horses as gifts from Sultans.


Famous men-of-war, including Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, rode Arabian horses. George Washington rode a grey Arabian named Blueskin during the Revolutionary War. Napoleon Bonaparte rode a grey Arabian stallion named Marengo through many battles. The stallion was wounded eight times, and was captured in the Battle of Waterloo. He was taken to England and ended up under the care of a General in the British Army’s Grenadier Guards. Marengo died at the ripe old age of 38. His skeleton is displayed in London at the National Army Museum.


From their history as war mount through their evolution as a pleasure ride, Arabian horses now dominate many disciplines in the show horse world as well. Their strong constitution makes for tough competitors in endurance riding. They are excellent trail horses. Due to their intelligence, train ability and natural athleticism, they excel in most categories of equine sport. But it is perhaps the animal’s gentle disposition that makes it a pleasure and a privilege to ride and to own an Arabian horse.

About the Author:

Randy Meyer, along with his family, are well-respected breeders of high-quality, beautiful purebred Arabian horses on their farm, Red Oak Arabians. They usually have fine quality Arabian horses for sale at all times.

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