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Choosing an Arabian

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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The Arabian horse is a distinctive and exquisite breed. With origins shrouded in mystery and conjecture, the one thing everyone agrees on is that the Arabian is the oldest and purest horse breed in the world.

History and Origin

The true origins of the Arabian are controversial and this often results in some heated debates. Some feel that the Arabian originated separately from all other horses in the southern Arabian Peninsula. Others claim that the breed is from the desert and developed naturally without selective breeding. Although the origin of the breed and the ancient breeds that may have contributed to the Arabian are not agreed upon, the long-standing purity of the breed is not disputed. The origins are still being investigated and research has resulted in the accumulation of lots of information, some not agreed upon.

Recent evidence indicates that the Arabian descended from wild horses of northern Syria, southern Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Centuries ago, these areas were referred to as Arab nations.

Despite all the controversy, few will argue that the Arabian is the horse most often used to enhance the appearance, personality and abilities of other breeds of horses in the world today.

Appearance

The Arabian is one of the purest breeds on the planet and his appearance has not changed much over time. For this reason, the Arabian is often used to improve other horse breeds.

Standing 14 - 15 hands, the Arabian is a small horse with a delicate head. The profile of the horse has a straight or characteristically slightly dished appearance. The forehead is wide with a small muzzle and large eyes. The ears are small, the nostrils are flared and the tail is set high.

The Arabian's hair color is grey, bay, chestnut, black and, rarely, roan. Many have white on the face and legs. Despite the hair color, the skin underneath is black. The mane and tail of the Arabian are full.

There are a few skeletal differences between the Arabian and other horses. This may have been the impetus for the theory that the Arabian is separate from all other horses but research has shown that other horses have these abnormalities as well. Most horses have 18 ribs, six vertebral bones in the lower back (lumbar) and 19 vertebrae in the tail. Arabians have 17 ribs, five lumbar vertebrae and 16 tail vertebrae.

Today, there are three recognized strains of the Arabian:

  • Kuhaylan or Koheilan is stocky and thickset
  • Saglawi is a more refined strain
  • Muniqi is the strain most often used in racing

    Personality

    The Arabian has a reputation for being difficult, nervous, flighty and high strung. This is usually the result of poor handling and training. The Arabian is an intelligent and sensitive breed that does not respond to harsh training, abuse or mistreatment. If treated with the respect he deserves, the Arabian is a calm and gentle horse.

    The Arabian is adapted to life in harsh environments. The breed is powerful and can thrive even in meager times. The stamina of the Arabian is legendary.

    Abilities and Aptitudes

    The Arabian is frequently seen in the show ring. Recent interest in racing has lead to a resurgence of the Arabian's used in horse races. He is considered the leading horse in endurance rides and is rarely equaled in power and stamina.

    The beautiful and elegant Arabian is the most widespread breed on Earth, with breed societies in nearly every country. Today, there are more Arabians in the United States than anywhere else in the world.

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