A precise date pinned down for Shahwan founder of the Dahman Shahwan strain

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on December 13th, 2014 in General

I mentioned earlier that Shahwan of Dahman Shahwan fame was an historical character. I am now happy to report that I found a solid, dated historical reference to this Shahwan in a book by Mamluk-era chronicler Abu al-Mahasin Taj al-Din Abd al-Baqi ibn Abd al-Majid al-Yamani (born in Mecca in 1281 AD — died in Damascus in 1343 AD). The book is called “Bajhat al-Zaman fi Tarikh al-Yaman“, in short, “History of Yemen”. It is a chronicle of historical events in Yemen before and during the time of the author, who appears to have lived at the same time as Shahwan.

The mention of Shahwan of ‘Abidah (of Qahtan) occurs in page 95 of the book, under the events of the year 678 Hijri (1279 AD), under the title of “Account of Muzaffar’s takeover of Dhofar, Hadramaut and the city of Shibam“.
This Muzaffar is King al-Muzaffar Abu al-Mansur Shams al-Din Yusuf, second king of the Rasulid dynasty of Yemen. Muzaffar ruled Yemen and its dependencies from 1249 to 1295 AD. The account is as follows (my translation from Arabic):
Account of Muzaffar’s takeover of Dhofar, Hadramaut and the city of Shibam: the cause for this was that the warships of Salem son of Idris al-Habudhi raided the port of Aden, and al-Muzaffar took offense to this, so he went upon the port of Aden, and readied armies on both land and sea, and three army sections marched: a section at sea, and in it were most of the footsoldiers, and with them were al-Azwaad; a section with four hundred horsemen under Shams al-Din Azdamur al-Muzaffari [a formal title follows for this military commander], which followed the coastline alongside their ships; and the third section had the two Sheykhs, Abdallah ibn ‘Amru, and Shahwan ibn Mansur al-‘Abidi, and these were two hundred horsemen from the horsemen of the Arab nomads, and they followed the Hadramaut route; and the three armies met near Dhofar, and went after Salem, so when they drew near the city, Salem went out to face them, and lined up [his troops], and they met, and the battled resulted in his killing and that of a large number of his army; and this was on Saturday the 27th of the month of Rajab of the year six hundred and seventy eight“. 
From this we can conclude that Shahwan ibn Mansur al-‘Abidi (i.e., of the ‘Abidah tribe of Qahtan) was alive and young enough to lead his Bedouins in battle in the year 1279 AD in support of the king of Yemen. This makes the strain of Dahman Shahwan that is known after Shahwan, the oldest attested Arabian horse strain by far.
 A modern view of the historic city of Shibam in the Yemen Province Hadramaut, which conquered by king Muzaffar aided by Shahwan in 1279 AD.

24 Responses to “A precise date pinned down for Shahwan founder of the Dahman Shahwan strain”

  1. How exciting! This has such far-reaching ramifications for all of Arabian horse research. IMO, this is a Big Deal.

  2. other people you know think so too

  3. Wow Indeed! So this authenticates in an unarguable fashion Paraskevass’ discussion of the Eygyptian breeders community belief that the more esteemed strains of the eao otriginally came from southern Arabia.. Lots of folks have bandied about the notion that Arabian horses only existed around the northern fringes of Arabia Syria, Turkey Lebanon etc.
    So, one could picture the Dahman Shawan being bred originally in Yemen, than moving north after they were acquired by the Bedouin and being brought to areas where the Aeneza(sp) hung out in the 18 and 1900s.. Food for thought..
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  4. Bruce, is the tail-female line behind Moniet el Nefous one of the esteemed EAO strains thought to have originally come from southern Arabia?

  5. South or North does not matter in my opinion, it was all the same border-less Arabian desert, prior to the colonial straight-line-traced-in-sands divisions of the 1920s.

  6. By the way, the date of 1279 squares perfectly with the Abbas Pasha Manuscript (ca. 1840) quoting Mohammad ibn Qarmalah, then Sheykh of the Qahtan, saying that “from Shahwan onwards there are 17 generations until the present time”.

    If you take the standard definition of a generation (i.e., 30 years), you reach 30*17 = 510; and 1840- 510 = 1330 AD. Quite close to the actual date of 1279 AD. See here, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/generation

    If you take a generation to be 33 years on average, just for the sake of it, you get the exact date of 1279, date of that war in Yemen, in which Shahwan participated.

  7. RJ jeez I’m not sure.. If I recall correctly Paraskevas talks about his fellow breeders holding the notion that most things authentic and asil were thought to have come from the southern portion of Arabia, whereas cultural norms developed in northern Arabia stood more of a chance of having been influenced by the flow of ideas, armies, population movements, migrations, refugee displacements etc. than did those of the south.. Maybe such a belief is akin to the Republican ideas of geography and place in the U.S… Something like the nativist belief that the hip,slick cool and trendy west coast- home of Hollywood liberals, does not truly reflect American ideals like the true amaricana reflected by the right thinking down to earth trustworthy folks in the good old Midwest..
    In the u.s. at least such ideas are incorrect and unrealistic. However in Arabia such ideas may have been bolstered by the fact that the Aeneza and Shammar both migrated to northern Arabian from the central portions of the peninsula..
    Suspect that what this means is that there is documentation for the idea that asil breeding and domestication of horses in general in Arabia has been proven to go back much farther than scholars have so far been able to prove.. The idea that asil breeding didn’t really get organized until the early 1700s because that’s when the French and british kept track of for example, the strain of the Darley Arabian is surely wrong..
    more will be revealed
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  8. I specifically agree with Bruce last’s sentence. While Westerners ought to be given credit for writign things down and taking snapshots of history during their visits, the notion that things started existing only when Westerners documented their existence is misleading, and Western-centered. That said, non-Western sources on the issue of strain are not plenty.

  9. Edouard: Wasn’t there a thread at one time on here about that French guy, Baron Chavelle(sp) I think, who wrote about the strain of Tuwayson(sp) in about 1635- 1650ish…Strain is of course tremendously important of course because it proves that the Bedouin were specifically line breeding to tail females at a time when there is no evidence anywhere else in the world of anybody else having figured out that linebreeding to superior individuals was thee way to improve livestock..
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  10. Yes, I had written before about Chevalier d’Arvieux, who had mentioned Tuwayssan around 1670 AD.

  11. Does a record of strain names actually “prove” that “the Bedouin were specifically linebreeding to tail females”? It shows that pedigrees were traced by keeping track of dam lines, but I’m not sure it goes beyond that.

  12. Hi Michael, you will need to compare this information with the statement of Muhammad ibn Qarmalah Sheykh of Qahtan in the Dahman Shahwan section of the Abbas Pasha Manuscript to see the full picture. In his testimony, Ibn Qarmalah says the current Dahman horses are descendants of Shahwan’s mare, and that the strain is the oldest (specifically traced) Arabian horse strains. We just did not know how old that was. Now we do.

  13. If we see the other information in the Abbas Pasha Manuscript on the Dahman Shahwan horses, we find also king Solomon of Israel.
    Oral tradition of the Bedouins is recording history in a way unknown to our western societies, except for the genealogies in the Old Testament of the Bible. There is an interesting book by Madawi al Rasheed, titled POLITICS IN AN ARAB OASIS. She is from the Rashidi dynasty and this book is based on her Ph.D. thesis in social anthropology. She has one chapter with the title MAKING HISTORY: THE POWER OF POETRY, in which she deals with the difference of Arabian and western history.This book is worth reading and one can apply her thesis on the tradition on horses.
    Coming back to Shahwan, this man must have had a very high reputation, as poet and leader of his clan. The power of poetry is a remarkable phrase to show the essence of Bedouin tradition.
    When I first tried to read in the Abbas Pasha Manuscript years ago I was totally disappointed, but since I have tried to understand it, all changed. Every tradition has a purpose and this is what we have to find out.

  14. If you liked Madawi’s book, you should then also read: Michael Meeker’s “Poetry and Violence in North Arabia”.

  15. I was directing my comment toward Bruce’s assumptions, above mine.

  16. How do u find any existing horses like these spoken about which I have been searching for and only found this site at 4 amthis morning.thanku to all who have made this reafing possible

  17. Yes, there is evidence that Dahman Shahwan is a very old strain. But there is no evidence that this strain was linebred by the Bedouin, is there? I think that’s the point Michael is making.

  18. Dear Edouard,

    I am really fascinated by your blog especially about your stories of the Arabian tribes and their horses.
    One of my grandfathers (ant sisters), he owned a strain called AL HAMRA.
    My dream is to find the breadline of that mare or just the main strains that belongs to it.
    By the way Al HAMRA strain is an old strain that is been inherited in the family and he (this grandfather) was the last one who has a mare of AL HAMRA.
    I will give you the pedigree of our family starting by my first grandfather who died 1976.
    ???? ?? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?? ???? (?? ?????) (?? ??????) (?? ??? ?? ??????) (???????) ????? ?????

    I spouse you can read Arabic.
    In the pedigree of the family, the green is a clan from sub tribe to another sub and so on to Abidah the main tribe. I can provide you with very detailed family pedigree.
    So, Medawai (in red) he is the last one who had a mare of Al Hamra strain.
    This mare is so fast that four horsemen from a clan of Yam tribe had entered the territory of Al Salman and Medawai stood for them by himself and his mare. He was a great fighter and a hunter that he traced them. And one of those horsemen was saying:
    ????? ?? ????? ????? ***** ????? ????? ?????
    ????? ???? ?????????? ***** ??????? ???? ???????
    ?? ?? ????? ???????? **** ??? ?? ??? ???????
    He is saying that they are thanking god that they were nearby their village because they refuge to the palaces. Otherwise they will be killed by Medawai because his mare is fast that she can catch them and they cannot catch her and because he is a great hunter that he will kill them by his rifle.

    My dream is to revival that strain and I am hoping it will come true.
    I am asking you to just give me hints or books to research about the horse type (is it dahman? Or …..???)

    I can also provide you with the geographic place of the clan territory.

    ?? ????? ?? ??? ?????? ????????? ???? ????? ???? ??????
    ???? ???? ??????? ?????? ??????????? ????? ?????? ???? ????????
    ??? ?????? ??? ????? ?? ????? ??? ??? ??????? ?????? ???????
    ???? ??? ??? ??? ?? ??????? ????? ?????? ???????? ??? ????????

    Thank you
    Yousef Al Qahtani

  19. Sorry it seems the blog cannot understand Arabic.
    So here is the pedigree of the family
    Mohammed bin Jarallah bin Gomsha’a bin Medawai bin Hadi bin Muhammed bin masoad bin Muqbil (AL HADBA’A) (AL SALMAN) (AL HAREQ BIN HARETH) (AL DAYAGHEM) ABIDAH QAHTAN

  20. Huh? No evidence that this strain was linebred by the Bedouin?- So horses being bred back to those of the strain doesn’t constitute linbreading.. Food for thought.
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  21. just to make sure: by line breeding, you mean breeding related horses from the same tail female to each other? if that’s the case, there is evidence of bedouins doing so with dahman shahwan horses, in the Abbas Pasha mss.

  22. Yes, Edouard crossing back the same tail female horses to each other. For purposes of discussion lets say that when linebreeding is done with horses that are as close or more closely related to each other than great grandparents then we can label it as inbreeding, just to be clear.
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  23. Then there is indeed evidence of in-breeding of the Dahman Shahwan strain in the Abbas Pasha mss, among the Ajman Bedouins I think.

  24. Well you know Paraskevas(sp) the New Eygyptian breeder advances the theory that the Dahmans were deliberately and strongly inbred early in the strains history. Although he doesn’t explicitly use such practices as thee example of formation of new characteristics, he does differentiate between formation of characteristics and preserving characteristics. For me this helps to get a handle on breeding patterns, and helps explain why for example back breeding to Saklawy 1 and Zobeyni and other early Abbas Pasha Seglawys showed up in the banana headed Morafic when Nazeer was crossed back into the predominately Seglawy gene pool of Mabrouka(sp), even though Mabrouka was a Sid Abouham daugheter and Sid Abouham was predominately a tough minded performance hose. Such breeding, taken on down the line turned out to be very adaptable, and well able to go from the refined pretty Morafic type, in just a few generations albeit with an outcross to French anglo arabs to result in Take a break, the Tevis winner of two years ago. If that’s not breeding at its finest I don’t know what is.
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek

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