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Any of a breed of swift, intelligent, graceful horses native to Arabia.
Arabian horse, breed of light horse developed in Mesopotamia and N Africa, and probably the first true domesticated breed. Prized since earliest times for its superior beauty, spirit, speed, grace of movement, stamina, and intelligence, the Arabian has served as parental stock for such light-weight horses as the American saddle horse, quarter horse, Standardbred horse, and the Thoroughbred. Intercrossings of these and other light and draft horse breeds with Arabians is still common. The Arabian's most characteristic color is bay with white markings; grays, chestnuts, and browns are also common. It averages 14 to 15 hands (56–60 in./140–150 cm) high and weighs about 1,000 lb (450 kg).
The Arabian horse first appeared in the Arabian Peninsula at least 2,500 years B.C.E. They were carefully bred to maintain desirable features (e.g. stamina, soundness, strength, and beauty), and are therefore one of the oldest, if not the oldest breeds in the world (this has been contested with the Akhal-Teke).
According to the Bedouins, God created the Arabian horse from the South Wind, saying "I call you Horse; I make you Arabian and I give you the chestnut color of the ant; I have hung happiness from the forelock which hangs between your eyes; you shall be the Lord of the other animals. Men shall follow you wherever you go; you shall be as good for flight as for pursuit; riches shall be on your back and fortune shall come through your meditation".
The nomadic Bedouins are the first known to have tamed these fiery horses. The tribes were extremely protective of the purity of their stock, and many sheikhs could recite the ancestry of their animals from memory. These forerunners of today's Arabian were bred for stamina and survival in the desert conditions, as well as the speed, courage, and loyalty needed for the constant battles between tribes. The Bedouin gained the reputation for breeding the finest horses, and many horses were traded. The Arabian horse was so prized that in battle, when horses were captured, the parties would come together and share the bloodlines of the horses taken.
The Continuing Influence
Around 630 AD, Islamic warriors began to fight their north and west. By 711, they had taken Spain. Most of their mounts were Turkish or Barb, but a few were Arabian. From the invader's horses developed the Andalusian (which were taken to the new world and helped develop many of the breeds in the Americas today). Meanwhile, European horses were infused with Arabian blood when the knights came down to Palestine for the crusades and later returned home with the horses.
In the 15th century, firearms were developed. The slow-moving war horses of Europe were obsolete, and the faster Arabian horses were used to develop the quick, agile cavalry horses which would be on the European battlefields into the 20th century.
Arabians had also been brought to the Ottoman empire, where the studs used the horses for racing. They were then introduced into European racing. The Darley Arabian, one of three foundation stallions of the modern Thoroughbred breed was brought to England in 1703 (the other two being the Byerley Turk and the Godolphin).
The royalty of Europe took an interest in the Arabian, and established royal studs. One such stud, probably the most famous, was the Crabbet Stud in Crabbet Park, England. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and his wife, Lady Anne Blunt, began importing the breed in 1878. For nearly a century, the family bred the Arabian and conserved the breed's purity, later exporting the horses for use as foundation stock in Poland, Russia, Australia, and North and South America. The stud was closed in 1971.
In 1893, the World Fair in Chicago exhibited 45 Arabians. The breed's interest in the United States grew, and the United States stud book was established in 1908, with a total of 71 animals. By 1994, the number had reached half a million. There are now more Arabians registered in North America than in the rest of the world put together.
In the 1980s, the Arabian's popularity soared. Many people inexperienced with horses were captivated by the beautiful breed. Celeberties bought the horses. Prices soared, especially in the United States, with some horses going for $150,000 to $1 million each. This created new breeders, and eventually to the overbreeding of the Arabian, especially the ultra-fine, fiery horses. To exaggerate type, inbreeding was common. When tax laws for horses were changed, the market collapsed, and the overload of horses were worth much less. However, many horses were bred for racing and endurance, which were growing in popularity, and allowed for an outlet for the overpopulation.
Today, there are many different types of Arabian. The Persian and Egyptian types are though to be the oldest of the types, and have the most refined conformation. Polish Arabians, produced from horses when the breed was introduced in 1570, are not as beautiful, but are generally very athletic. Hungary's strain, the Shagya Arabian, are generally larger and more substantial.
Whatever the type, the breed is currently being bred away from the ultra-fine, wide-eyed halter horses of the 1980s towards a quiter, more athletic horse. At breed shows, the Arabian constantly displays its versatility. They are also growing in demand for dressage, where their natural self-carriage and movement is attractive. However, they truly excell in endurance and long-distance riding, where the horse would complete up to 100 miles in a day. They hold the world records for the sport, and are not only usually the first to finish, but also win the "best conditioned" award as well.
The Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable breeds in the world. They have short, fine heads, with large eyes, small muzzles and their famous "dished" profile (the nose is concave). Arabians also tend to have very high tail carriage. They have large nostrils and strong lungs, which contributes to their powers of endurance, and have thin skin. They have an arched neck with a fine, clean throat, delicate and clean legs, and a fine, silky coat. The coat color of Arabians is diverse, with chestnut and grey as the dominant color, followed by bay and black. Black Arabians are rare, mainly because they were bred in the desert, where a black or dark coat would absorb heat and therefore be detrimental to the horse. However, many breeders are breeding specifically for black Arabians, so the color is not as uncommon as it used to be. Purebred Arabians cannot be pinto, nor do they come in palomino, although many half-Arabians are bred for these colors. The Arabian has a compact body with a short back, partly due to the 5 lumbar vertebrae instead of the normal horses' 6, and usually stands between 14.0 and 15.0 hands. Arabians are always referred to as horses, not ponies, whatever their height. The breed is also known for its intelligence, versatility, and very affectionate nature.
The Arabian Today
Because of the genetic purity of the Arabian horse, it is often used as a refining influence on other breeds, and has played a significant part in the evolution of almost every recognized breed, including Percherons, Thoroughbreds, Haflingers, American Quarter Horses, and all of the warmblood breeds. The Arabian has influenced more breeds than any other horse.
The UC Davis Book of Horses, p. 20, compares Arabians with various other breeds and lists this breed's temperament as "highly strung." It lists the breed's categories as "speed, endurance, intelligence, courage, and gentleness." Over the course of the breed's history they have for centuries lived in close association with human families. They are emotionally very much atuned to both their herd members and their human families. For that reason they tend to be protective of humans and suitable as companions for children. At the same time, they were in the beginning joined symbiotically with humans in a hostile environment that occasionally included armed combat and other sudden dangers. They are therefore adept at making sudden course corrections at high speed, which can pose a challenge even to fairly accomplished riders. Their athleticism also makes them a very versatile breed, and they are capable of competing in many fields, including Dressage, English Pleasure, Western Pleasure, Cutting, Reining, Endurance riding, and many others. They dominate the endurance world because of their incredible stamina, which far exceeds that of many other breeds. There is also Arabian racing, which is separate from the more popular Thoroughbred racing.
The breed's sensitivity to the environment and general temperament can be seen in the two photographs illustrating this article. This mare has been attracted from a distance by a new noise at the edge of her pasture. She trots past an obstruction, gallops closer, and wheels when she gets close enough to take a closer look. Another horse might have reacted more sedately.
Despite their fame for versatility, Arabian are generally known for their lack of jumping ability, as the breed has the habit of jumping "flat" and with a "splinter belly". Therefore, their use in jumping sports like show jumping and eventing is generally not very common. However, a few Arabians make good jumpers, and many Arabian crosses, most notably the Anglo-Arabian, are excellent.
This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)
Dictionary definition of Arabian horse
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2004, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. More from Dictionary
Encyclopedia information about Arabian horse
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition Copyright © 2003, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/ More from Encyclopedia
Wikipedia information about Arabian horse
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Arabian horse". More from Wikipedia
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