This is my favorite horse breed.
The Arab is the oldest and purest of horse breeds, and also one of the most beautiful and distinctive. Believed by many to be a gift from God, “fashioned from the desert wind”, a horse that “could fly without wings”, the Arab is also the forefather of the Thoroughbred.
ORIGIN: Middle East
ENVIRONMENT: Desert and semidesert
USES: Riding, sports, and racing
HEIGHT: 14.2 to 15 hh (58-60)
COLORS: Black, brown, chesnut, dun, gray, and bay
The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but the Bedouin tribe who religiously guarded the breeding of their “desert horse” trace him back to as far as 3000 BC to a mare called Baz, said to have been captured in Yemen by Bax, “the great-great grandson of Noah.” The Bedouin people put great value on their Arab mares, breeding only from the very best and passing down from generation to generation the pedigrees and dam lines that they prized the most. The Arab Horse was introduced to other parts of the world – the rest of the Middle East, North Africa, China, and Europe – as a result of the Muslim conquests, started in 600 AD. By the 1700s, the Arab Horse had found his way into Asia and North America. Everywhere he went, his blood was used to refine and improve that of the native breeds.
A gray Arab called Marengo was the favorite charger of Napoleon Bonaparte. Marengo was captured by the British after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. When he died, his skeleton was displayed in the National Army Museum.
Arabs are generally around 15 hh (60 in) and well proportioned, elegant, and athletic. Stamina and soundness were attributes valued by the nomads who nurtured this breed, and this has given them a natural edge, allowing them to excel in endurance riding. A unique skeleton defines the distinctive shape: it has 17 ribs, 5 lumbar, and 16 tail vertebrae. Other breeds have an 18–6–18 bone arrangement. The neck is arched and the head is set at an angle that allows great mobility. A unique feature of the head is the jibbah, a shield-shaped bulge between the eyes.
If I had a horse like this I would name her Snowmane.
The Arab’s head is very distinctive. It has a broad forehead and a slightly dished profile. The nostrils are large and the eyes are set low and wide. The ears are small and may curve inward.
The Arab’s back is short and concave, the loins are strong, and the croup long and level. The tail is high set and carried high and arched.
There is a series of books about a boy and his Arabian horse. The series is called The Black Stallion, written by Walter Farley.
Debby Sly: Encyclopedia of Horses. Bath, UK 2008, p. 184.