Horse lovers know that the Arabian horse is the best of all light horse breeds for general saddle use or riding. At present, there are probably not more than 70,000 purebred Arabian horses in the world, and probably 55,000 of them are owned in the United States. At the end of 1944 there were 2,900 horses registered in the Arabian Stud Book, and for the year 1967, a total of 46,686 Arabian horses had been registered.
Until recently not more than a few individuals could ever hope to have as a private mount a purebred Arabian horse. There are now thousands who are able to enjoy the part-bred Arab which will be at least half purebred. Arab stallions are now being used in all sections of the United States for crossing on other types of mares for the production of saddle or pleasure mounts. The riding public, as well as the producers of commercial horses, are rapidly recognizing the added quality in the horses they produce through the use of a purebred Arab stallion.
Practically every individual who has had much experience with the purebred Arabian horse recognizes from the beginning that this breed of horse is exceptionally companionable. A visit to practically any of the stud farms where Arabian horses are produced impresses the visitor immediately with the fact that these Arabian horses are quiet, gentle and docile and welcome attention just the same as dogs and house pets.
It is nothing at all unusual to go into a pasture of broodmares with their colts and to handle these mares and colts just as though they had been in your possession for many months if not several years. In the pasture paddocks, stallions can be handled just the same as mares and geldings. In our own Arabian stud we have yet to see the first Arabian lack at any attendant or any of us either in the stable or in the pasture.
Many writers have credited the Arabs with having first domesticated the horse, but this is not the case. The preponderance of evidence favors the belief that the foundation stock of the Arabian horse was obtained many centuries following their domestication from either the Egyptians or the Libyan tribes of northern Africa.
Origin and Native Home
The Arabian, oldest breed of horses and the fountainhead of all the other light horse breeds, was developed in the desert country of Arabia, from which it derives its name. Regardless of the clouded obscurity that surrounds the early origin of the breed, it is generally recognized that, through long and careful mating, the Arabs produced a superior type of horse which would carry them swiftly and safely over long stretches of sandy soil and at the same time withstand deprivations in feed and water to a remarkable degree.
As the Bedouins of the desert were a warring, pilfering tribe, the very safety of their lives often depended upon a swift escape. Such was the need, and out of this need was developed the Arabian horse. Legend has it that the Arabs at night would often steal semen from a highly prized stallion owned by an enemy tribe and inseminate their mares therefrom. This was the first artificial insemination of farm animals.
It is easy to understand how the environmental conditions surrounding the development of the Arabian breed could and did give rise to myth and exaggerated statements as to the speed, endurance, docility, and beauty of the breed. At one moment, the Arab was cruel to his mount; then again he would shower him with kindness. During the latter moments, he was wont to remark, ”Go and wash the feet of your mare and drink the water thereof.”
The distinctive characteristics of the Arabian breed are medium to small in size, a beautiful head, short coupling, docility, and great endurance. The usual height is from 14 to 15-1 hands and the weight from 850 to 1,100 pounds. A typical Arabian has a beautiful head, broad at the forehead and tapering toward the nose; a dished face; short alert ears; large clear eyes that are set wide apart; large nostrils; and deep, wide jaws.
The Arabian also possesses an anatomical difference in comparison with other breeds, having one less lumbar (back) vertebra and one or two fewer vertebrae in the tail. In conformation, the Arabian breed is further noted for proud carriage of the head on a long and graceful neck; well-sloped shoulders and pasterns; a short back and loin; well-sprung ribs, a high, well-set tail; deep quarters; and superior quality of underpinning without any tendency to appear leggy.
The predominating colors are bay, gray, and chestnut, with an occasional white or black. According to an old Arab proverb, “The fleetest of horses is the chestnut; the most enduring the bay, the most spirited the black, and most blessed the white.” White marks on the head and legs are common, but purebred Arabians are never piebald, skewbald, or spotted—circus and movie information to the contrary.
The skin is always black, no matter what the coat color. The better horses in Arabia, consisting of a relatively small number of animals owned by the tribes in the interior desert, have always been bred and raised in close contact with the families of their masters and are renowned for affection, gentleness, and tractability.
Adaptation and Use
The Arabian horse was primarily developed as a saddle horse, a use which still predominates among the breed today. Generally animals of this breed are trained and used at the three gaits—the walk, trot, and canter. Occasionally, however, purebred Arabians are trained to execute five gaits to perfection. Animals of this breed are easily broken to make a safe, although not a fast, driver in light harness. The Arabian has made an invaluable contribution in the development of most all breeds; adding to their courage, endurance, quality, intelligence, docility, and beauty. It is no exaggeration to say that the prepotent blood of the Arabian has refined and improved all those breeds with which it has been infused.