For centuries, Arabian horses lived in the desert in close association with humans. On the other hand, the Arabian is also classified as a "hot-blooded" breed, a category that includes other refined, spirited horses bred for speed, such as the Akhal-Teke , the Barb , and the Thoroughbred. Like other hot-bloods, Arabians' sensitivity and intelligence enable quick learning and greater communication with their riders; however, their intelligence also allows them to learn bad habits as quickly as good ones,  and they do not tolerate inept or abusive training practices.
The Arabian Horse Association registers purebred horses with the coat colors bay , gray , chestnut , black , and roan. Black skin provided protection from the intense desert sun. Although many Arabians appear to have a "white" hair coat, they are not genetically "white". This color is usually created by the natural action of the gray gene , and virtually all white-looking Arabians are actually grays. There are a very few Arabians registered as "white" having a white coat, pink skin and dark eyes from birth.
These animals are believed to manifest a new form of dominant white , a result of a nonsense mutation in DNA tracing to a single stallion foaled in One spotting pattern, sabino , does exist in purebred Arabians. Sabino coloring is characterized by white markings such as "high white" above the knees and hocks , irregular spotting on the legs, belly and face, white markings that extend beyond the eyes or under the chin and jaw, and sometimes lacy or roaned edges.
The genetic mechanism that produces sabino patterning in Arabians is undetermined, and more than one gene may be involved. The inheritance patterns observed in sabino-like Arabians also do not follow the same mode of inheritance as sabino 1. There are very few Arabians registered as roan , and according to researcher D. Phillip Sponenberg, roaning in purebred Arabians is actually the action of rabicano genetics. However, a roan does not consistently lighten with age, while a gray does. Purebred Arabians never carry dilution genes.
Spotting or excess white was believed by many breeders to be a mark of impurity until DNA testing for verification of parentage became standard. For a time, horses with belly spots and other white markings deemed excessive were discouraged from registration and excess white was sometimes penalized in the show ring. To produce horses with some Arabian characteristics but coat colors not found in purebreds, they have to be crossbred with other breeds.
Because purebred Arabians cannot produce LWS foals , Arabian mares were used as a non-affected population in some of the studies seeking the gene that caused the condition in other breeds. There are six known genetic disorders in Arabian horses. Two are inevitably fatal, two are not inherently fatal but are disabling and usually result in euthanasia of the affected animal; the remaining conditions can usually be treated. Three are thought to be autosomal recessive conditions, which means that the flawed gene is not sex-linked and has to come from both parents for an affected foal to be born; the others currently lack sufficient research data to determine the precise mode of inheritance.
Genetic diseases that can occur in purebred Arabians, or in partbreds with Arabian ancestry in both parents, are the following:. The Arabian Horse Association in the United States has created a foundation that supports research efforts to uncover the roots of genetic diseases. Fight Off Arabian Lethals is a clearinghouse for information on these conditions. Recent trends in halter breeding have given rise to Arabian horses with extremely concave features, raising concerns that the trait is detrimental to the animal's welfare.
Some veterinarians speculate that an extremely concave face is detrimental to a horse's breathing, but the issue has not been formally studied. Arabian horses are the topic of many myths and legends. One origin story tells how Muhammad chose his foundation mares by a test of their courage and loyalty.
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While there are several variants on the tale, a common version states 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, Muhammad called for the horses to return to him. Only five mares responded. Because they faithfully returned to their master, though desperate with thirst, these mares became his favorites and were called Al Khamsa , meaning, the five.
These mares became the legendary founders of the five "strains" of the Arabian horse.
Another origin tale claims that King Solomon was given a pure Arabian-type mare named Safanad "the pure" by the Queen of Sheba. This legendary stallion was said to be faster than the zebra and the gazelle, and every hunt with him was successful, thus when he was put to stud, he became a founding sire of legend. Yet another creation myth puts the origin of the Arabian in the time of Ishmael , the son of Abraham. The Angel then commanded the thundercloud to stop scattering dust and rain, and so it gathered itself into a prancing, handsome creature - a horse - that seemed to swallow up the ground.
Hence, the Bedouins bestowed the title "Drinker of the Wind" to the first Arabian horse.
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Finally, a Bedouin story states that Allah created the Arabian horse from the south wind and 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. Men shall follow you wherever you go; you shall be as good for flight as for pursuit; you shall fly without wings; riches shall be on your back and fortune shall come through your meditation. Arabians are one of the oldest human-developed horse breeds in the world.
Horses with these features appeared in rock paintings and inscriptions in the Arabian Peninsula dating back years. Some scholars of the Arabian horse once theorized that the Arabian came from a separate subspecies of horse,  known as equus caballus pumpelli. The modern concept of breed purity in the modern population cannot be traced beyond years. There are different theories about where the ancestors of the Arabian originally lived.
Most evidence suggests the proto-Arabian came from the area along the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent.
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Regardless of origin, climate and culture ultimately created the Arabian. Where there was no pasture or water, the Bedouin fed their horses dates and camel's milk. Weak individuals were weeded out of the breeding pool, and the animals that remained were also honed by centuries of human warfare. The Bedouin way of life depended on camels and horses: Arabians were bred to be war horses with speed, endurance, soundness, and intelligence.
For centuries, the Bedouin tracked the ancestry of each horse through an oral tradition. 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.
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The Bedouin did not believe in gelding male horses, and considered stallions too intractable to be good war horses, thus they kept very few 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,  and traced through the maternal line only.
Raswan felt that these strains represented body "types" of the breed, with the Kehilan being "masculine", the Seglawi being "feminine" and the Muniqi being "speedy". 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; they not only knew the pedigrees and history of their best war mares in detail, but also carefully tracked the breeding of their camels, Saluki dogs, and their own family or tribal history. Fiery war horses with dished faces and high-carried tails were popular artistic subjects in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia , often depicted pulling chariots in war or for hunting.
Horses with oriental characteristics appear in later artwork as far north as that of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. While this type of horse was not called an "Arabian" in the Ancient Near East until later, the word "Arabia" or "Arabaya" first appeared in writing in Ancient Persia , c. For example, a horse skeleton unearthed in the Sinai peninsula, dated to BC and probably brought by the Hyksos invaders, is considered the earliest physical evidence of the horse in Ancient Egypt. This horse had a wedge-shaped head, large eye sockets and small muzzle, all characteristics of the Arabian horse.
Following the Hijra in AD also sometimes spelled Hegira , the Arabian horse spread across the known world of the time, and became recognized as a distinct, named breed. By , Muslim influence expanded across the Middle East and North Africa, by Muslim warriors had reached Spain, and they controlled most of the Iberian Peninsula by Their war horses were of various oriental types, including both Arabians and the Barb horse of North Africa.
Arabian horses also spread to the rest of the world via the Ottoman Empire , which rose in Though it never fully dominated the heart of the Arabian Peninsula , this Turkish empire obtained many Arabian horses through trade, diplomacy and war. A stud farm record was made of his purchases describing many of the horses as well as their abilities, and was deposited in his library, becoming a source for later study.
Historically, Egyptian breeders imported horses bred in the deserts of Palestine and the Arabian peninsula as the source of their foundation bloodstock. One of the most famous was Muhammad Ali of Egypt , also known as Muhammad Ali Pasha, who established an extensive stud farm in the 19th century. However, after Abbas Pasha was assassinated in , his heir, El Hami Pasha, sold most of his horses, often for crossbreeding, and gave away many others as diplomatic gifts.
At its peak, the stud of Ali Pasha Sherif had over purebred Arabians. After his death, Lady Anne was also able to gather many remaining horses at her Sheykh Obeyd stud. Meanwhile, the passion brought by the Blunts to saving the pure horse of the desert helped Egyptian horse breeders to convince their government of the need to preserve the best of their own remaining pure Arabian bloodstock that descended from the horses collected over the previous century by Muhammad Ali Pasha, Abbas Pasha and Ali Pasha Sherif.
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Probably the earliest horses with Arabian bloodlines to enter Europe came indirectly, through Spain and France. Others would have arrived with returning Crusaders  —beginning in , European armies invaded Palestine and many knights returned home with Arabian horses as spoils of war. Later, as knights and the heavy, armored war horses who carried them became obsolete, Arabian horses and their descendants were used to develop faster, agile light cavalry horses that were used in warfare into the 20th century. Another major infusion of Arabian horses into Europe occurred when the Ottoman Turks sent , horsemen into Hungary in , many of whom were mounted on pure-blooded Arabians, captured during raids into Arabia.
By , the Ottomans reached Vienna , where they were stopped by the Polish and Hungarian armies, who captured these horses from the defeated Ottoman cavalry. Some of these animals provided foundation bloodstock for the major studs of eastern Europe. With the rise of light cavalry, the stamina and agility of horses with Arabian blood gave an enormous military advantage to any army who possessed them.
As a result, many European monarchs began to support large breeding establishments that crossed Arabians on local stock, one example being Knyszyna , the royal stud of Polish king Zygmunt II August , and another the Imperial Russian Stud of Peter the Great. European horse breeders also obtained Arabian stock directly from the desert or via trade with the Ottomans. In Poland, notable imports from Arabia included those of Prince Hieronymous Sanguszko — , who founded the Slawuta stud. The 18th century marked the establishment of most of the great Arabian studs of Europe, dedicated to preserving "pure" Arabian bloodstock.
The Prussians set up a royal stud in , originally intended to provide horses for the royal stables, and other studs were established to breed animals for other uses, including mounts for the Prussian army.
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