Arabian horse and its importance (1900)

By Prince A.G. Shcherbatov

Part II, Chapter 1, The Book of the Arabian horse,[1] Saint Petersburg, 1900, by Prince A.G. Shcherbatov and Count S.A. Stroganov.

Edited by Lyman Doyle. Translated from Russian by Ekaterina Vsemirnova.

Editor’s Note

This document was originally sent to Russian Arabian horse breeders sometime in the 2nd half of 1899 in with an invitation to comment and provide information that would later be included in the Russian Arabian stud book that would be published in 1903. Russian horse breeders replied to this article and their replies along with the original document were published in August 1900 as part of The Book of the Arabian horse by Princes Shcherbatov and Stroganov.

Shcherbatov’s work is valuable because it lays out the potential organization to the Russian Arabian Stud Book of 1903. From the structure and the words used to describe the organization of the proposed stud book, it seems that the organization was not clear. Most likely the Russian Stud book authorities mean to elicit responses from their community and based on what was said would finalize their plan for the stud book and how it would be organized.

The translation follows:

The pure blood[2] of a certain breed of horses in the strict sense of the word is based on its origin from the prehistoric horse and the absence of any impurities from other breeds in it from the very beginning to the present day. An absolutely necessary condition for pure blood that one must accept is the continuous existence of a given breed under the same natural conditions in which it appeared first. This is a necessary guarantee of the robustness of the breed, when it comes to passing its most treasured qualities to offspring.

In this sense, the only horse breed in the world that can be recognized as a pureblood is the Arabian[3]. Horses of all other breeds should be considered purebred[4], not pureblood. The modern Arabian horse is exactly the same horse which was around at the time of Mahomet, i.e., 1300 years ago. There is no valid reason to believe that before that she was moved to Arabia from another country and that she changed under the influence of another breed. Confidence in the pure blood of the Arabian horse is based primarily on the importance of the horse breeding in the eyes of Arabs. The Bedouins religiously believe in the significance of the breed and, have a very strong passion for horses.

These views existed at the time of Mahomet and have survived to this day. But, apart from the guarantee of almost religious belief of the Arabs in pure blood, the latter is confirmed by those qualities that are inherent in the Arabian horse and which are so sustainably transferred by [the Arabian producers] to offspring. These qualities — the nobility of forms, endurance, and the sustainable transfer of these qualities to the offspring — created excellent reputation of the Arabian horse and developed in it, thanks to the centuries-old custom to bring up a pure breed and to protect it from any impurities. These qualities are also formed under the influence of the natural conditions of the Arabian desert and the traditions of rearing horses among the Arabian nations.

The only reproach addressed to an Arabian horse is its small stature. This, however, is not deserved, since, on the one hand, quite large horses can be found in Arabia, and on the other hand, small stature is a pre-requisite of its main advantage — concentration of all the best horse qualities in it. A drop of rose oil, squeezed out of a thousand roses, generously and beyond any expectations gives its fragrance to the masses of substances and stays with them for a long time. So does the Arabian horse, a result of careful protection of its authenticity by the entire nation, fanatically devoted to it. People worshipped it for several thousand years, and it is capable of transferring its qualities from a single producer to several generations of offspring. Transferred to new countries, changing according to their conditions and requirements, or in admixture with other breeds, the Arabian horse preserves in its offspring its characteristic beauty of form, energy, endurance and speed of movement.

The question is: is there a breed of horses in the world that is distinguished either by the beauty of the forms or by agility, at a gallop or at a trot that would not have Arabian blood in it? Besides that, is not it surprising that after a singular addition of Arabian blood to the Russian trotting breed, a hundred years after that and two hundred years after the emergence of the English race breed, there are clear signs of Arabian blood delivered by the Arabian producers in both these breeds. From time to time a foal appears, resembling in their main features their Arabian ancestors. In the history of horse breeding in the most important European countries, the Arabian breed was recognized as a necessary ground for improvement of the riding and draught type of horses. The Arabian blood would give these breeds beauty, agility, endurance and nobility.

In the recent years, the fascination with the English racehorse has partially eclipsed the importance of the Arabian breed. However, it must be remembered that the English racehorse takes its origin from the same Arabian breed, and that its independent existence began a little more than two hundred years ago compared with the millennia of existence of the Arabian breed. The English racing horse cannot be recognized as pureblood, since it is only from the sire’s line that it comes from the pureblood Arabian breed, and from the dam’s line, it is of the most uncertain origins. It is highly unlikely that the English racehorse, with the same level of care and upbringing, would satisfy its purpose [as a racing horse] if there were no Arabian blood in its very core.

The main qualities which make the Arabian horse to stand out from the row of all other horse breeds are as follows:

  1. Nobility of forms. No other horse breed has such an elegant neck, such a wonderful tail section, such an expressive and beautiful head, such a brilliant and large eye, as the Arabian horse does. There is no other horse except the Arabian breed which demonstrates such a striking transformation when moving from a dormant state to movement. Even the most ordinary looking horse appears as a picture of nobility, with its nostrils breathing fire spreading throughout its veins. It becomes a true representative of the Arabian breed.
  2. Strength and endurance, which are quite surprising considering her built. She possesses those even with the most minimalistic and unsatisfactory food supply. The reputation of the Arabian horse for its ability to endure the most difficult situations has long been established. Only an Arabian horse, making one hundred and twenty versts[5] a day for five days, will stand the rider and after a three-day rest will make the same distance. In particular, the Arabian blood proved the advantage of its endurance in the Crimean campaign. During that campaign the French rangers, who were riding horses of Eastern blood[6], prevailed over the English cavalry. In the last cavalry race held between Vienna and Berlin in 1892, the horses of Galicia and Hungary, which had an Arabian blood, performed better than any other horses. In 1898 in Egypt, the British recognized the superiority of the Arabian horse compared to the English horse by changing the English horses of the 21st Uhlan[7] regiment to the Arabians before the regiment embarking on a campaign[8] to Khartoum[9]. Finally, in this century, in the Austro-Hungarian army, the offspring of the imported Arabian stallion Shagya[10] had a well-deserved reputation of absolutely outstanding in its endurance compare to any other horses.
  3. The remarkable ability of Arabian producers to transfer their forms and inner qualities to their offspring. Examples are known when the Arabian heredity was still apparent for a century even though there was no refreshment of blood made. In a view of all the said qualities, the Arabian horse will always maintain its significance for improving horse breeding in various countries in all those cases where it will be necessary to refine the exterior, improve the bone structure, give strength and endurance, and clear a certain breed from hereditary defects, such as, for example, rickets disease of bones, weakness and various defects of the respiratory system, hoof wall defects, etc. After a pulling-away period, in the recent years a keen interest in the Arabian horses was re-ignited due to the apparent defects and shortcomings experienced in the cultural breeds of horses created under artificial conditions of rearing. At present, the Arabian trend in horse breeding has been preserved in some form in Russia, France, Austria, and Württemberg. Besides that, rumors say that the German emperor[11] also understands the importance of Arabian blood for the state horse breeding. The main difficulty in meeting the rising demands for the Arabian producers is that nowhere, except for Arabia itself, can one with full confidence get the pureblood Arabians in the sense in which the Bedouins understand this.

Only [the Arabians of Bedouin origin] alone can ensure the effective transfer to offspring all the qualities inherent in pureblood Arabians in their entirety. The Bedouins recognize as a pureblood Arabian horse only a horse which descends from either the five main or sixteen minor tribes of the Arab breed, without any extraneous impurities. The slightest doubt about the unconditional purity of such an origin imposes an indelible mark on its offspring and permanently removes it from the pool of pureblood horse breeding. All the travelers familiar with the Bedouins’ life style, confirm the importance that they assign to the purity of the origin of their horses. In all other life situations, a Bedouin does not consider it a sin to tell a lie or even take a false oath, but in aspects related to the breed of a horse he always tells the truth. This belief in the significance of the breed, this integrity in the testimony about the horse’s origin is the only, but unconditional basis for confidence in the pure blood of the Arabian horses. Therefore, only the horses bought directly from the Bedouins who raised them, or those originated from imported horses bought with all the necessary warranties, can be considered pureblood [Arabians].

At present, most of the pureblood horses are held by the Bedouins who moved from the Arabian peninsula to the banks of the Euphrates and the Syrian desert. The Shammar tribe is located on the left bank of the Euphrates, on the right bank, in a vast space stretching from the Euphrates to Damascus — the Anaze tribe, divided into the following main divisions: Fedhaan, Sebaa, Roala, Welled Ali, Ibn Hadal, Hesenney, Sirhan, Yerfudi and Touf. Besides Shammar and Anaze, there are some other minor, independent tribes. The relocation of these tribes from Nejd began two hundred years ago and ended in the end of the last century. At present, only Roala has some communications with Nejd.

By the unanimous assurance from all Bedouins, the same pureblood Arabian horse is present in both, Nejd and the Northern Arabia, but it happens that in this or that tribe temporarily concentrates or disappears one or another strain of the Arabian breed. In the same way, all Bedouins admit that the best horses are among the northern tribes – Anaze or Shammar, but not in Nejd.

Bedouin myths say the following about the Arabian horse: the founder of the Arabian horse should be considered a mare caught by Ishmael[12], the son of Abraham. It gave birth to the mare, which got a curved back due to the fact that immediately after the birth she was sewn up in a bag (“ghurdzh”) and put on a camel’s back. It was this mare who started the special strain of Banat-el-Akhuadj (“daughter of the curved”). Since then, the offspring of Banat el-Akhuadj, or in abbreviation Akhuadj, is considered the root of the Arabian breed.

Emir Abd-el-Kader[13], known for his resistance to the French in Algeria and who retired and lived alone in Damascus in the sixties, assures that this name still exists in the Sahara desert. It disappeared in Arabia itself, although the entire breed of the modern Arabians originates from it. However, in northern Africa, five main divisions of the Arabian breed (el-Ghamsa) are not heard of, and hence it should be assumed that the Akhuadj breed was divided into five strains after the Arabs conquered northern Africa, i.e., not earlier than in VII or VIII century. Emir Abd-el-Kader recognizes unconditionally the antiquity of the five strains and that fact that the name of one of them, Kehaylan, was around from the time of Mahomet. This is confirmed by the name Kokhlani, known in Persia. It was assigned, however, to not a pureblood horse breed.

It should be assumed that the Kekhaylan strain descended from the original Akhuadj breed. It received its name for the distinctive jet black color of the skin around the eyes and nostrils. Another suggestion is that the name Kehaylan means the entire Arabian breed of horses and is only a renaming of the original name Akhuadj. The well-known traveler Niebuhr[14] says the following: “Although the Bedouins do not have written genealogical tables of horse breeds, Kehaylan’s pure blood (in the sense of the entire breed of Arabian horse) is undoubted, since no pureblood mare is covered by a stallion except in the presence of witnesses, and those must be from the Bedouins. The Bedouins “are far from being true, but in all that relates to the breed of their horses, they can certainly be trusted,” since they “believe that a false oath in such an important matter will ruin them and their entire family.”

Then, it should be assumed that the remaining four main strains of the El-Ghamsa descended from the Kehaylan strain. It is impossible to determine exactly when, one hundred or one hundred and fifty years ago, this separation occurred, but the legend told by some other tribes (not Bedouins), about this taking place at the time of King Solomon, certainly is not true.

El-Ghamsa consists of the following five strains:

  1. Kehaylan, the most numerous and most valued strain of all. It is dominated by horses with bay coats. A distinctive feature of the horses of this strain is their agility, but they have less stamina than the horses of other strains. Darley Arabian, one of the three pioneers of the English racehorse, is believed to have come from this strain. Horses of the Kehaylan strain are less decorative than others. Kehaylan strain has up to 54 divisions; The most valued substrains are Kehaylan Ajuz, Kehaylan Noah, Kehaylan Abu Argub, Kehaylan Abu Janub and Kehaylan Ras-el-Fedawi.
  2. Seglawi. The best substrains of this strain, and the Arabian horse in general, is Seglawi Jedran, but the horses of this type are very rare and are preserved only at some Anaze families. Shammar doesn’t have them at all. The four main substrains of the Seglawi strain are: Seglawi Jedran, Seglawi Obeirun, Seglawi Arjebi and Seglawi-el-Abd. These descended from four sisters, but only Seglawi Jedran remained without admixture. Seglawi-Jedran horses were kept by Sheikh Ibn-ed-Derri and Ibn Sbeni. Seglawi Obeirun were crossed with Kehaylan and other strains. The substrain of Seglawi-el-Abd, although preserved in a fairly pure state at Sheikh Ibn Shaalan’s court, still had some admixture of other strains. The Seglawi Jedran horses owned by the sheikh Ibn ed Derri are powerful and agile, but not decorative. At Sheikh Ibn Sbeni’s court, where this strain was preserved in all its purity, the horses are more elegant.
  3. Abeyan, is the most elegant Arabian horses from this strain, but they are small and not built for racing. The best representatives of this strain are Abeian Sherrak horses. Seen by Lady Anne Blunt in the Gomussa tribe, Abeyan Sherrak didn’t leave anything else to be desired for, and had a wonderful racehorse built. Sheikh Beteyen Ibn – Mershid had a wonderful mare, descending from Abeyan Sherrak on the dam’s side, and from Kehaylan Ajuz on the sire’s side. Horses descending from Abbeyan Sherrak from both, dam and sire, are available only in one family of the Gelaas tribe and in the family of Abu Jereis of Mesekh.
  4. Hamdani. There are almost no horses left of this strain. The only remaining sub-strain is Hamdani Simri; most representatives of this sub division have grey coat. The Gomusss tribe had a brown stallion from Hamdani Simri strain, also Lord and Lady Blunt had white mare called Sherifa. She was born in Nejd at the stables of Ibn Saud, the ruler of Riad. She was of 2 arshins 1/2 inches tall, without marks, with black coloring of skin around eyes and nostrils; her ears were large, like those of a deer, wide open and almost ready to roll out, with a gentle expression. She was admired by Bedouins across the desert. In general, she looked more like a fox hunter horse rather than a race horse.
  5. Hadban. Representatives of this strain are very rare at Anaze tribe; the best horses are found with Roala tribe. Hadban Enzekhi is the best subdivision of this strtain. Mohammed Djiro from the city of Deir[15] had a mare of this substrain. Her height was 2 arshins 1/2 inches, with bay coat with black markings, she had a magnificent tail section. The horse was full of fire. It was a true race horse, so good that she looked almost out of his world. The other two substrains of this strains, Hadban Mshkhetib and Hadban el-Frurd, are not very popular among the Bedouins.

In addition to the five strains listed above, there are other pureblood horses. There are sixteen documented strains of pure blood, but these are not occurring from the five most famous mares, as the main five< which make the Ghamsa. These sixteen are:

  1. Manegi (which means “long neck”). It is widely believed that Manegi originated from the horses of Kehaylan Adjus. The horses of this strain are not particularly decorative or elegant; they have rather coarse heads, long thin necks, mighty shoulders, generally a long built, a strong coarse rear side and good bone structure. They have a good reputation for their endurance and agility at long distances. Description given by Niebuhr to horses of Kekhaylan strain suits them quite well. The best substrains are: a) Maneghi Hedrudj, whose representatives are kept by the Sheikh of Gomussa tribe, Ibn-Sbeyel. Because of this, horses born at his stables are often referred to not as Manegi Hedrudj, but as Manegi Ibn Sbeyel and b) Manegi Sladji (“Sladji” means “greyhound”), which is the main substrain of this strain.
  2. Saadan. The best known substrain of this strain is Saadan Togan. The most beautiful and powerful mare from Mr. Blunt’s farm was of this origin. That horse was 2 arshins ½ inches tall, of remarkable beauty and power, she, however, was not as decorative as the horses of the Kekhaylan strain. In appearance, she looked she looked a spitting image of “Eclipse’s” portrait in “Book of the Horse”. Born with the Touf tribe, she was known across the desert as the “famous Saadey.”
  3. Daghman – only one substrain is known, which is Daghman Umm-Amr. Its representatives are mostly bay or dark brown horses. The Gomussa tribe had an excellent mare of this origin.
  4. Shueiman — Shuiman Sebaa substrain. A mare of this origin was owned by Sheikh Faris, from the tribe of Euphrates’ Shammar. She was rough in appearance, but remarkably strong, bold and very elegant in movements.
  5. Gilfan, substrain Stam-el-Bulad (which means “steel tendons”). Midzhel’s tribe Misrab had a foal of this breed.
  6. Toessan, with Toessan Aljami substrain. Mr. Blunt saw a stallion of this origin, which was very elegant, but of small stature.
  7. Samkhan, and its substrain Samhan el-Gomeaa. In the Gomussa tribe, the largest and most powerful of all foals seen by Mr. Blunt was of this origin.
  8. Uhadnan —Uhadnan Hyrsan strain.
  9. Rishan —Rishan Sherabi strain.
  10. Kebeishan — Kebeishan el-Umayr substrain.
  11. Meleghan.
  12. Djeraiban.
  13. Djeitani.
  14. Fereydjan.
  15. Treyfi.
  16. Rabdan.

Of all the listed twenty-one strains of the Arabian pureblood breed, except for the last six, each has, beside the original name, the second one, which was given to it when further division of the breed occurred. This is done to reflect on a certain feature or origins of one or another female ancestor. Sometimes it provides an information on the family which owned horses. Only those stallions or mares recognized as pureblood stallions or pureblood brood mares, suitable for breeding (“hadud”), which origins are known in detail. I.e., it is not enough to say only that they are pureblood Arabians. Full account of what strain and what substrain they are from is also required.

If it is impossible to determine whether a horse belongs to one or another further subdivisions of the breed, it is considered as a proof that the horse is not pureblood. Such a horse is classified by Bedouins as unfit for the breeding. Although the Bedouins have no division into classes, and since if the horse is pureblood, it is considered as suitable for the breeding [and equal to any other purebloods]; there are certain ramifications, which are more valuable in the desert than others. This is due to the qualities that their ancestors proved in action. For example, Kehaylan Adjus or Seglawi Jedran are valued far higher than Rishan Sherabi or Samkhan el-Gomeaa. It should be kept in mind that the origin of the horse is reported only on dam’s side; the origin of the sire is silent [yet he is pureblood by default].

Having completed the brief account of the traditions and the Bedouins’ views of the pureblood Arabian horse and the breed, it is necessary to highlight the practical significance of assessing their own horses by Bedouins, as verified by Mr. Blunt and Lady Anne Blunt, as well as ourselves during our trip to Syria. Since the division of the breed of the Arabian horse into twenty one strain and their sub-strains, so much time has passed since then, that taking into account the general rule of the Bedouins not to pay attention to the breed of the stallion, as far as he was pureblood, all the strains are mixed up with each other by now. This means that the given above characteristic for each separate strain has no practical significance. In reality, there is one general (averaged) breed of Arabian horse, which may have some distinctive features in some families, which performed a more rigorous selection of producers for some time and where was an intention to stick to a certain type/strain of horse.Then, when establishing the horse’s origin, in our days it is not enough to receive the assurance that it is pureblood (“asil[16]”). It is necessary to demand proven information on what strain it belongs to (for example, Seglawi Jedran), it is necessary to ask if it is fit for the breeding (“hadud”) and, finally, collect as much information as possible about the horses from which it descends, about their belonging to one or another tribe and to one or another family. Much more confidence will be in the horse’s qualities when it is acquired from a tribe and family, especially known in the desert for their strict approach to the breed of their horses, as well as famous for their approach to horse breeding. For example the family of Ibn-Sbeyel of the Gomussa tribe is so famous for its horse breed of Manegi Hedrudj strain that these horses are often called not Manegi Hedrudj, but Manegi Ibn-Sbeyel.

The Significance of the Arabian horse for Russian horse breeding

From the Russian horse breeding point of view, it will be unforgivable not to recognize the significance of the Arabian blood for the improvement of our local breeds. Who, if not the Arabian horse, created the Russian trotter[17] and a related Bityug[18] work horse? Again, who if not the Arabian horse, gave Russia the Orlov-Rostopchin[19] horse breed and, finally, who, if not the producers of Arabian origin, improved the steppe’s and mountain’s — Don[20] and Kabardian[21] – horse breeds?

It is enough to look at the trotting horses of the Orlov type, on riding horses of the Orlov-Rostopchin breed, so that in a proud neck position, in their shining rolling out eyes, in thin skin, in silky mane, in the tail section and in the general noble exterior, recognize the Arabian blood mixed in these breeds once a hundred years ago. During our trip in Syria, when we first saw a pureblood Arabian stallion in Damascus, we were struck by how similar was his exterior to the external forms of some of the best representatives of our Trotter breed.

The Arabian horse is particularly important for Russia thanks to its ability to transfer to offspring its brilliant inner qualities: low demands regarding care and feed, remarkable endurance and a surprising strength incomparable to its modest height — these qualities are especially precious considering difficult climatic conditions, poorly maintained roads and vast distances of Russia. Adepts of the English racehorse are mesmerized by its virtues and trying to overshadow the qualities of the Arabian horse. But, one wonders where, if they haven’t been to Arabia, could they see a pureblood Arabian horse? Can one really judge the Arabian horse based on sightings of those miserable representatives of unknown origin that exist in Europe and from whom every Bedouin and a real expert on the Arabian horse will turn away with disdain?

In the end, the question is, from whom, if not from the Arabian horse, did the English racehorse take all its basic qualities, and should it not be assumed that if the creation of the English race horse did not skip on the condition of pureblood origin from the Arabian parents, then all the effort made for refining of the breed, would give much better results? It would have turned out not purebred only, but a pureblood racehorse, with the same powerful built under the influence of enhanced feed and a more damp climate, with no less agility, but with greater nobility in appearance, without any vices, which it acquired via admixture of mongrel[22] blood. And most importantly, it would have a greater endurance.

If we compares the English racehorse breed foals and the Arabian foals with the same conditions of rearing and upbringing, then the first set without attentive care, warm stables and reinforced food supply will turn out crippled, but the second one being kept outdoors and in cold rooms, fed with hay only during cold seasons and on natural grass supply in summer will develop normally, although, perhaps, they will be small in stature. English racehorse is a horse of luxury. It requires special, very expensive care which means high costs. Therefore, when there is a question about horse breeding of the whole country, when good cavalry, carriage and working horses are required, the main quality of which for all three functions is to adapt to the natural conditions of the country and the requirements of the population. With this in mind, to improve the state horse breeding you should definitely give preference to the Arabian horse. The closest acquaintance with the Arabian horse will indicate that in its various representatives it can satisfy the most diverse requirements. During our trip to Arabia, at the sight of horses, which were undoubtedly pureblood Arabians, we often didn’t believe our eyes, seeing before us horses like Orlov trotters or the English racehorse.

Further along, upon our close acquaintance with the Arabian horse in her homeland, we were convinced of the reality of all the exceptional qualities attributed to her, and, moreover, we were convinced of the predominant significance of purebredness. Thanks to Bedouins’ beliefs in the importance of pure blood, they were able to preserve for several thousand years, their breed of horses in all its untouched purity, while their neighbors in Europe, despite careful selection of producers judging by their exteriors, despite careful rearing of the offspring, let the same Arabian horse to lose its irreplaceable quality. And this is due to the lack of attention to the pure breed.

Looking at the history of the Arabian horse breeding in the main countries of Europe – Russia, Austria, Hungary, Württemberg, Italy, France and England – one can see that the true value of the Arabian horse was discredited. It happened due to the lack of familiarity of the horse breeding business’ leaders with the basic provisions of the Arabian horse breeding and the wrong conduct of the process.

Along with one or two horses, of truly pure blood, acquired in Europe from Arabia, there were dozens of horses purchased that were Arabians only by name. But the influence on the horse breeding of individual countries, made by those few exceptional and truly pureblood Arabian producers, remarkable. It has been marked with a golden thread through the entire history of horse breeding and reflected on the offspring as a whole new era. Such was the influence of Smetanka on horse breeding in Russia, such was the influence of two Arabian stallions – Darley Arabian and Godolphin – in England, the same was made by the imported from desert stallion Shagya[23] in Austria-Hungarian Empire.

But then, there is no signs seen that a serious attempt was made in Europe to put pureblood Arabian horse breeding on the right foot. Neither in the Streletsky plant, nor in Babolna, nor in the Württemberg, nor in Pompadour — nowhere do they pay sufficient attention to the pureblood origin of the producers and, in particular, to the brood mare pool content. Then, in a view of the desire to increase height, there is a constant skewing towards half-blood[24] horse breeding. However, the characteristics of offspring decline with insufficient movement and small feeding portions, which leads to a degeneration of the Arabian horse. [If these issues are resolved, the larger stature will be achieved without addition of extraneous blood.]

The question now is: is it possible for Russia and other cultural countries, once the need to improve local horse breeding is admitted, to do so by acquiring the Arabian producers, i.e. to buy them in sufficient quantities in Arabia, or will it be necessary to arrange their own pureblood Arabians’ farms to supply the country with producers? All available data indicate that in Arabia itself horse breeding tends to decline in terms of numbers of pureblood horses. There are whole strains of the Arabian horse that are already extinct; for example, Seglawi Jedran is almost impossible to find.

The decline of horse breeding in Arabia is partly due to the replacement of javelins with firearms, resulting in raids of one tribe on another not on horses, but on camels, with two riders on each. Another reason is that, with increased Turkish influence in the desert by building outposts in the oases, Bedouin raids are made impossible. Both circumstances destroy the combat value of the horse – the basis of its value in the eyes of the Bedouins. In addition to these two reasons, horse breeding in Arabia is influenced by the prohibition by the Turkish government of exporting horses abroad, as a result of which the market value of horses is lowered and horse breeding is superseded by more profitable occupations, such as sheep and camel breeding.

Finally, another harmful condition is the neglect with which the Bedouins treat stallions. As a result, all young stallions at the first opportunity go on sale, mainly in the cities – Aleppo, Homsa, Hama, Deir and Damascus – and there is such shortage of producers among the Bedouins that they have to bring the brood mares to cities to the previously sold stallions for mating. For example, we bought a stallion in Damascus, which stood in the city and served as a producer for the mares of the Roala tribe.

The greatest danger lies in the introduction of the European culture in the desert through building railways; with the new life order, the simple Bedouin beliefs will disappear, or they will turn into fellah farmers or become extinct. With them gone, the pureblood Arabian horse will disappear and will be replaced by horse breeding adapted to the requirements of the market. It is already taking place now, when a variety of horses called Gulf Arabians or Bagdadi is being produced for India. Horses of this type, are completely different from the Arabian horse, due to their massive build and height, and cannot compete with pureblood Arabians in their main qualities.

I hope that I brought up enough arguments to prove my point. The horse breeding industry needs an arrangement a stud of pureblood Arabian horses. The breeding there should be handled in line with the Bedouins’ traditions. It would encourage the Arabian trend in horse breeding in general.

To embark in this new direction, first we should compile the stud book of the Arabian horse breeding[25]. The stud book of the Arabian horse breeding should be divided into three sections:

  1. Section of pureblood[26] Arabian horses, imported from Arabia or born from imported parents of the pureblood Arabian breed. Only those horses should be recognized as pureblood Arabian, which were imported from the Syrian or Arabian desert, the origin of which from pureblood parents without any extraneous blood can be certified by the testimony of Bedouins of the Anaze, Shammar or other tribes, which are known for handling the horse breeding according to the Arabic legends.
  2. Section of pureblood[27] Arabians. Whether horse is purebred[28] in this section should be determined by the horse’s exterior and the certificate of origin from a farm or a person which/who is involved in upbringing the Arabian breed of horses without impurities[29]. In this section, recognition of a horse as pureblood horse should be based on verification of the certificate of purity of origin by external signs, i.e. matching the features of the appearance to that of pureblood Arabians. Over time, it is desirable that the required condition for the horse to be considered purebred was the origin from the sire’s side from the pureblood Arabians, listed as in section 1.
  3. Section of half-blooded Arabians, which should include horses born from pureblood or purebred Arabian stallions and from brood mares of various breeds.

This proposal is based on the fact that only truly pureblood Arabian producers can have a strong influence on the horse breeding industry of individual countries. Therefore, for the continuous improvement of local breeds, it is necessary to organize farms of pureblood Arabian producers. Then, [with all possible accuracy we conducted our research], and all facts indicate that in not so distant future, the Arabian pureblood horse breeding at the Bedouins sites in the Arabian deserts will perish. The question remains: how to maintain the pure breed of the Arabian horse? Which country is most interested in this? And which country is most convenient to organize it in?

In this case, one cannot count on the initiative and assistance of the Turkish government, in a view of the hostility of the Bedouins towards it and the fact that this is a destructive rather than a constructive government. Therefore, the fulfillment of this task should be entrusted to another country, which is, due to the natural and cultural conditions, most capable of doing this. In this regard, one can decisively say that there is no country in the world that, by virtue of its interests, and because of the commitment of its own people to horse breeding and because of its natural conditions, was more designed to preserve the Arabian pureblood breed than Russia.

Let’s ask ourselves, whether there is another country in the World, possessing a 30-million horse population, with such vast and sparsely populated spaces, as a result of which horse breeding is an urgent need for using natural resources, as a means of moving people, carrying weights and tilling the soil? Increasing the value of each single representative of the horse population in this country will make a huge increase in national capital on a national scale. To confirm this calculation one can calculate by how much the value of ordinary Russian horses would have been increased, if they were transformed into trotter, Bityug and Orlov-Rostopchin breeds of horses, by addition of the Arabian blood. Only via refining can a profitable export material be created that would be able to compete thanks to its best qualities with cheap horses imported into Europe from Australia, America and Canada. Regarding the natural conditions — soil and climate — certain areas of Russia should be considered more suitable compare to others for breeding the Arabian horse.

So, for example, Belovodsk Farms, located near the northern border of the river Don’s Cossack region, with their still untouched feather grass steppes, have the most suitable pastures and forage quality for the development of dryness and endurance in horse breed. The chalky soils of the area contribute to the development of the bone structure and the correct formation of the hoof. Even quite severe frosts in the winter do not have a significant adverse effect on the rearing of an Arabian horse, which is used to spending days and nights outdoors at home, sometimes under the scorching summer sun, sometimes under the winter rain in cold winter weather.

When setting up a pureblood Arabian stud, it is advisable to bring up two different types of Arabian horse in it: one of small stature, but rounded and more decorative, and the other one – more powerful, of more extended shape, and at the same time not at all coarse. It is desirable that the government’s special orders issued in relation to the pureblood direction in the stud once and for all had it protected from any impurity or change.

Due to an obvious fact that it is impossible to raise the Arabian horse with farm maintenance in the same conditions of constant work as that in the Bedouins tradition, it is necessary, in order to preserve its qualities, endurance and strength, to subject it to tests on agility. Though it is likely that the instructions of the racecourses will be used for that, one need to respect and stay in compliance with agility, endurance and correctness of form, [which is in Bedouins tradition].

The method of improving the local breeds by outcrossing with the Arabians is the most difficult. It can only be properly resolved by experience and by comparing the results obtained with different horse breeders. An example of Count Orlov-Chesmensky[30], who had at his disposal enormous funds and an outstanding horse breeder, confirms how much work and attention he needed to bring out his famous, trotting and riding horse breeds. Further, the example of individual countries in Europe gives an indication of the special suitability for the transfer of their qualities to the offspring of Anglo-Arabian producers. Thus, to create a useful horse, would it be riding, draft or working horse, while recognizing the need for the Arabian blood, it is also important to figure out how the outcrossing should be performed. In this respect, annual exhibitions, racing competitions and horse breeder meetings are vital to track the changes.

  1. This book was also published under the English name “The Arabian Horse: A Survey,” in 1989 by J.A. Allen.
  2. “Chistokrovnost” where “chisto” means pure and “krovnost” means blood, translated as pure blood or pureblood throughout this document.
  3. Arabic words in this document are transliterated into English from the original Russian “as is” with no attempt to correct any spelling errors. Readers may draw their own conclusions as to the intended meaning of the words.
  4. “Chistoporodnye” where “chisto” means pure and “porodnye” means breed, translated as pure breed or purebred throughout this document.
  5. “Versta” equals 1.0668 km. The daily distance above is 128 km
  6. “Vostochnyh krovey” where “vostochnyh” means Eastern and “krovey” means blood, translated as Eastern blood throughout this document.
  13. .
  14. Presumably,
  16. It is interesting for modern readers to note Scherbatov’s association of the Arabian term “asil” with his notion of “pureblood” in Russian.
  22. “Besporodnaya” where “bes” means without and “porodnaya” means breed or bred. The meaning is more like “without blood” and it is translated a mongrel blood in this case.
  24. “Polukrovnogo” where “polu” means half and “krovnyogo” means blood, translated as half blood.
  25. “Kniga arabskogo konevodstva” where “kniga” means book, “arabskogo” means Arabian, and “konevodstva” means horse breeding.
  26. “Chistokrovnye” where “chisto” means pure and “krovnye” means blood, translated as pureblood.
  27. It is not entirely clear if the reference to “pureblood” in this paragraph are correct or typos. Later on in this paragraph and in the next paragraph the term “purebred” is used to describe the horses in section 2 of the proposed stud book. There is no errata found at the end of this document.
  28. “Chistoporodnost” where “chisto” means pure and “porodnost” means breed or bred, translated as purebred.
  29. It is not clear exactly what “without impurities” means in this case. It seems that the organization of the proposed Russian stud book was not well defined and still an idea that was a work in progress.
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