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November 22, 2017     
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Arabian Horses in the United States and Their Origin

by General J.M. Dickinson

Reprinted by permission of his daughter Margaret D. Fleming

Part 2 - Influence

The true Arab has a strongly fixed type and his blood is prepotent to a marked degree; characterized by Pietro Santini as "that mysteriously courageous, hardy and vital blood that has gone in all times and in all countries to the making of the highest quality of galloping horseflesh." It has been crossed on the so-called cold blooded horses of Northern Europe with the result of founding some of the oldest and most distinct breeds known to us today. Undoubtedly the outstanding example of this cross is that of the English Thoroughbred. Bruce Lowe, author of "Breeding Race-Horses in the Figure System," wrote:

"The Arab and Barb breeds are undoubtedly the purest known form of what are called thoroughbred horses. All other varieties have been formed from these. . . . It is true that a first class English racehorse would distance the best of the desert breeds in a race of one or ten miles, but, all the same, he owes that very superiority to the infusions of Eastern blood which were crossed upon the 'royal' and native bred horses of England."

Henry W. Herbert wrote in "The Horse of America, by Frank Forester":

"And, first, I shall lay down two axioms which I consider to be as self-evident as it is that the nearest line between two points is a straight line; and those who cannot adopt them with me, will, I fear, find nothing that they will admire, or that will be of use to them in what follows. They are these— "First. That the excellence of any and every breed of horse, and of every individual horse, consists in his possession of the greatest attainable degree of pure, thorough blood, directly traceable to Barb, Arab, or Turk, that is compatible with the weight, bulk, and strength, " * * * * *," required for the purpose for which the horse is intended.

"Second. That to be of advantage, the pure blood must come chiefly from the sire's, not from the dam's, side."

In connection with Herbert's first "axiom," it should be pointed out that it is now recognized that there is no true "Turk" horse, and that the so-called "Turks" that figure largely in English Thoroughbred breeding are believed to have been Arabs, pure or grade. Furthermore, the Barbary horse has been greatly mixed with the Arab in North Africa and in many cases should be considered a grade Arab.

In 1942, John L. Hervey (Pen name Salvator), a world famous writer, acknowledged to be the greatest living historian on race horses, said:

"For the dominant quality of Arab blood is its eternal, its immortal persistence. Wherever, as the horseman of today looks about him and among horses, observes beauty, speed, grace, fire, activity, docility and fineness yet toughness of fibre; he sees that eternity, that immortality, incarnated. It has triumphed over everything mundane—thousands of years, hap and circumstance, time and tide, incredible hardships and im memorial adversities, misuse, and abuse, the exigencies of man kind's daily life and the flame and blood of the battle-field— unconquerable, indestructible and victorious. Everything worth while in the shape of a horse in the world today partakes of it. The Greeks believed it godlike—and, verily, they made no mistake."

In 1946 Dr. John MacLeod of Cornell University took blood samples from Azual, Lianga, Panaon and Urdaneta, in connection with his researches. Subsequently he wrote, "in so far as the red blood cell counts and hemoglobin contents are concerned, the Arabians are the same as thoroughbreds. In other words they test much higher than 'cold bloods'."

Either as a result of direct crossing, or indirectly through strains of predominently Oriental blood such as the English Thoroughbred and the Spanish horse, the Arab has contributed to a great degree to the principal recognized light horse breeds, including the English Hackney, American Saddle horse, Morgan, Standard-bred, light or diligence Percheron, Russian Orloff, Austrian Lippizan, Hungarian Shagya, German Hanoverian, and even the Criollo horse of South America and our own western mustang.

Spanish horses from Mexico spread northward over the Great Plains in vast numbers and there is no question that they were the principal ancestors of the mustang. Adair and others noted beautiful horses in early days in territories now comprised in southeastern states, strains of which later became celebrated as "Chickasaw" horses. Various writers have attributed these early horses to escapes from the first Spanish settlements in Florida and Spanish expeditions, including DeSoto's. However, this theory was exploded by Thornton Chard in an article in the American Anthropologist, January-March, 1940. He showed that there was no tenable argument for connecting such horses with any of the Spanish settlements or expeditions into the region. His conclusion was that early horses in the territories later constituting the southeastern states were probably descended from Spanish horses imported from the West Indies by English Colonists.

Although it is incorrect to consider the Spanish horse as an Arabian, for no effort was made to breed pure Arabs in Spain until very recent years, Arab blood surely had a strong influence. Much was brought to North Africa and thence to Spain by the first Mohammedan conquerors. The second Mohammedan Conquest of Spain was accomplished by Arabian and Syrian horsemen, who overran that country and even advanced into the south of France where they remained for over forty years. The natural conclusion is that Spain and southern France received a strong infusion of Arab blood during the eighth century. A hundred years before the discovery of America, Ibn Hodeil, Arab author at the Court of Grenada, introduced his elaborate work on chivalry with reference to a passage in the Koran glorifying the Arab blood horse: "Loué soit Dieu. . . qui a créé le cheval arabe de race, pour mettre a mal les adorateurs d'idoles !" It is evident throughout his long work dealing primarily with the horse, that Ibn Hodeil and his associates considered the pure Arab to be the only breed worthy of consideration. His expressed views confirm the tradition of preponderant Arab blood in the fine horses of Spain which were in demand throughout Europe, and which undoubtedly figured among the horses brought to America by the Spanish conquerors.

 
 

 

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