The Arabian horse is a magnificent, elegant beast. One of the most intelligent horse breeds, it’s distinctive features mean that it is also one of the most easily identifiable horses. With their famous ‘floating trot’ and striking features, the Arabians are the epitome of equine beauty. They are known for their intelligence, endurance, affection, and bravery. Other qualities of the Arabian horses include trainability and a gentle disposition.
Appearance and Characteristics
The Arabian horses have lithe bodies that translate to speed, strength, and energy. And of course, their noteworthy features make them look elegant and classy. Most Arabian horses are between 56 to 62 inches in height and weigh between 800 to 1000 lbs. Their distinguishing features are as below:
- Head – The head is smaller, refined, and wedge-shaped. The forehead is broad and bulging.
- Eyes – The eyes are large, watery, dark and expressive. They are set wide apart on the horse’s face.
- Muzzle – The muzzle is small and the nostrils are large.
- Neck – The neck is long and arched which provides flexibility to the bridle.
- Back – The back is short and the shoulders are well-sloped.
- Croup – The croup is relatively long and horizontal.
- Tail – The tail is carried naturally high. When looked at from behind, the tail is carried straight.
The following characteristics of the Arabians make them one of the most sought-after breeds:
- Gentle disposition and affection
- Trainability (even with kids)
Arabian Horse Origin and Brief History
The Arabian horses’ history is unclear due to myth and legend surrounding the enigmatic breed. However, it is largely believed that the breed came into existence around 4500 years ago in the Arabian Peninsula. Even after all these years, it is one of the most popular breeds.
It is speculated that the Arabians were domesticated in 2500BC by the nomadic inhabitants of the Middle East desert regions called the Bedouins. In Islam, it is believed that the Arabian horses were a sacred gift from Allah and hence the breed was revered and cherished by the Bedouins. This belief also influenced the selective breeding practices of the time. The Arabian has over the years, proved to be able to transfer its desirable traits over the generations. It is noteworthy how the original distinguishing features are still retained in the modern-day Arabian horses. The breed has directly or indirectly helped arrive at almost all horse breeds that we see today.
Types of Arabian Horses
Arabians are now bred all over the world with major centers in the USA, Poland, Germany, England, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Many different strains of the original Arabians now seen, but the horses can be broadly classified into six types.
The Straight Arabian is the breed derived from the strains of pure, unquestionable lineage. Though this is of some significance, it is not the only reason why they are still around. Today, less than 6000 Egyptian Arabians are left and they constitute just 3% OF THE TOTAL Arabian population.
Few facts about Egyptian Arabians:
- They were cherished was horses.
- They were responsible for siring the other Arabian breeds.
- Even though they are a small percentage of the total Arabians, they hold 30% of the national titles in America
- The beauty of the Egyptian Arabians is unmatched.
- The neck is not too long.
- They are known for their superior stamina and versatility.
Russian Arabians were known to have been bred by the nobility in Russia during the 17th century. However, some believe that the Russians came to possess Arabian horses long before that, in the 12th century. Systematic breeding, however, did not begin until the late 1800’s. One of the first to organize purebred breeding was Count Orlov, after whom the Orlov Trotter was named. The Russian Arabians were all, in effect, killed after the Russian Revolution (1971-1921) since they were viewed as a sign of luxury. After World War I, it was decided to resume the Russian state stud farms. Horses were selected from the Middle East, Poland, England, Spain, and Egypt. The horses were chosen not just for their congenital traits, but also for their physical beauty.
Few facts about the Russian Arabians:
- They are more muscular than other Arabians.
- Their unique free movement comes from their shoulders.
- They have a flatter face than the other Arabians.
- They are sporty and excel at racing.
The history of the Polish Arabians has been inseparably linked with war. Poland was ravaged by war for years and they came to cherish the prizes of war from their adversaries in the form of the Arabian horses. There are historical writings which prove that the Polish-bred Arabians as early as in the sixteenth century. World War I saw the destruction of many Arabians in Poland so that by the end of it only 25 mares and 7 fillies were left. The Arabian Horse Breeding Society was formed in 1926 and the Arabian population was boosted.
Few facts about the Polish Arabians:
- They are very muscular.
- They are exceptional performers, mainly due to their highly animated movements.
- They have small hooves.
- They were greatly appreciated warhorses.
Originally, all Arabian breeding was carried out by the Royal families. After the formation of the State government, military officers were given horses and the breeding came under the Department of Defense. In 1847, due to the efforts of Queen Isabel II, the First Spanish Registry and Stud-Book were started. It remains the oldest documentation on the Arabian lineage.
Few facts about the Spanish Arabians:
- They constitute less than 0.1% of total Arabians.
- They are slick horses and have curved faces.
- They have shorter necks.
- They have long, thick manes and curved tails and hence are flashy in their movements.
- They are known for their good temperament.
- They are known for their prepotency as breeding animals.
Crabbet/Old English Arabians
Early in the 19th century, Lady Ann Blunt brought in several Arabians from the Middle East to England with the aim to breed them at a farm, the Crabbet Park. She was quite taken by the selective breeding practices of the Bedouins and stuck to them.
Few facts about the Crabbet Arabians:
- The beauty is not apparent, and some are quite plain looking. They look more like a Welsh pony with the head of an Arabian.
- They are built sturdily ensuring lesser breakdowns.
The American Arabian is more commonly known as the Domestic Arabian. Colonists from England brought the Arabian to America in the mid-1700’s. In 1893 at the Chicago World’s fair, a sizeable number of Arabians were brought into the United States. Thus began the purebred breeding in America. Even though initially the breeding was majorly carried out in the East and Midwest, soon California became the hub for Arabian breeding. The horses came largely from Egypt, the deserts, and England.
Few facts about the Domestic Arabians:
- It was originally bred with the intention of creating a cavalry mount.
- Today, most of these horses are bred for recreational riding purposes.
It is remarkable how a horse breed so old has withstood the test of the time and emerged as one of the most coveted breeds. With more awareness and interest of serious horse breeders in this distinguished breed, it can be safely said that the Arabians are here to stay!