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Article and Photographs by 
Barbara S.Lewis .,
Baraka Farm & Studio 

Copyright by
Barbara S. Lewis.

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The Arabian. Never mistaken for another breed, yet is the root from which all light breeds sprang. It captures the soul as no other can, and is favored by artist, photographers, historians and poets over all others. What is the magnetism this breed holds?   An early student of the Arabian will find a maze of puzzling terms and subtle type differences.  What do they all mean?  Constant reference to the Egyptian Arabian horse may make one wonder if it is a separate breed. What is a Straight Egyptian Arabian horse? What does the term Egyptian Related mean? Is there more than one kind of Arabian? 

Terms like Strains, Al Khamsa, Blue List, and Sheykh Obeyd often refer to these horses.  What is their meaning? While it lends its fine qualities to others, the Egyptian Arabian remains virtually unaltered since the beginning of history.  The oldest documentation of the Arabian horse was a fine carving uncovered in a cave in Turkey.  It depicts a leaping, fine-headed horse of pure Arabian type, its mane flowing and tail carried high.  Scientific data places this at 8000 BC.

Evidence of the domestication of horses emerged in Syria, dating 2000 BC. In an excavation, halters adorned the bones of horses and horses in artistic drawings.  In 1330 AD, the first pedigrees recorded, referred to the Arabian by name, although there was no mention of strains or types.  As time went on, early travelers questioned the crossing of apparently different “breeds” by the people of the Desert.These were not, in fact, different breeds but strains, or families, of the same breed.These strains gather their names from the important  tribes who bred them.

Basic among many variations are the Maneghi, Seglawi, Obeyan and Kuheilan, all descending from the Keheilan, which means “purebred.”  Each strain showed distinctive characteristics, no doubt as the result of the individual needs or type preference of the tribe members.  A study of the pharaonic horses of the  tombs and temples of Egypt places the horse in use in Egypt as early as 1580 BC and show these strain characteristics. These relief paintings appear to be actual portraits of horses that must have existed.   Today’s Arabian is a product of constant crossing of these strains, as no individual carries the blood of a single, undiluted strain.  This is not to say that an Arabian of pure, undiluted, Desert blood does not exist.  Therein lies one of the major differences in the Straight Egyptian Arabian and those of other bloodlines. The Straight Egyptian is the blending of strains of pure, undisputed, Desert heritage.  We might compare that to the marriage of a man from one ancient desert tribe wedding a daughter of another tribe.  They are pure in race (breed), but from different families or tribes (strains).  Their children would then be a blending of the two.   Though of great significance, the purity of the Egyptian Arabian is not the only reason for their preservation. To delve deeper, we must understand the history of the Egyptian Arabian. The Pharaoh Thotmose III (1504-1450 BC) and his son Amenophis, “could not be overtaken in races,” in large scale military use of the horses of Egypt.  Ramses II credits his horses for saving his life in battle against the Hittites.  His own words reflect his devotion and appreciation for their valor as he proclaimed, “Henceforth their food shall be given them before me each day when I am in my palace ....”    The Pharaoh Piankhi (751 BC) grieved when learning that a rebellious Egyptian King had left his stable in total chaos and cried, “I swear, as Ra loves me..... it is more grievous in my heart that my horses have suffered hunger, than any evil deed that thou hast done, in prosecution of thy desire.”  We can easily see from our first documentation of the horse in Egypt, how they had already established themselves as an animal of the greatest importance.  They were loved, admired, and cherished by the noblest of men and the desert nomad.  As history progresses and the Prophet Mohamed established his teaching out of the desert,  he taught that “every man shall love his horse.”  Bedouin warriors when mounted on their finest Arabian steed, proved to be invincible as Islam's power spread throughout the civilized world.   Egypt was submerged in this Arab tide.  Come now, the extraordinary horsemen, the Mamelukes, who swept over Egypt.  Their ruler, Ahmad Ibn Tuleu, (1193-1250) built palatial gardens and a magnificent hippodrome to house his collection of the choicest Arabian horses.  Saladin¹s horses, who prevented Richard the Lion Hearted from conquering Egypt, were hailed by Sir Walter Scott.  He writes in “The Talisman”:  “They spurned the sand from behind them -- they seemed to devour the desert before them -- miles flew away with minutes, yet their strength seemed unabated . . . “   In 1279-1382, Sultan Nacer Mohamed Ibn Kalaoun, was obsessed with obtaining the choicest Arabian horses and built an equally impressive Hippodrome for their comfort.    Price was no object.  For a single mare, he paid the equivalent of $5,599,999.,  plus land.  These horses were indisputably the most beautiful, courageous and exquisite horses in the world.  Solomon, King of Isreal, built 40,000 stalls for his Arabian horses.

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