Are all strains created equal? (continued)

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on February 12th, 2008 in Uncategorized

The longer – and more oblique – answer is that it depends.  On what? On personal preference, taste, sentimental attachement, etc.  Some Bedouins fancy a particular strain because it was owned by their father or their grandfather; others because horses from this strain ahve achieved fame in combat, and made the name of the tribe rise above its neighbors’; others might favor one strain over another because it is rare..

Personally, I confess having a soft spot for two strains: Kuhaylan al-Wati and Kuhaylan al-Sharif, none of which are represented in Western Asil Arabian breeding.  I like them because of their glorious histories and because their origins go a long, long way back.

19 Responses to “Are all strains created equal? (continued)”

  1. Edouard,

    A while back, you, Jenny and I had a conversation about the state of different strains, both here and overseas. I remember you saying that the Ma’aneghi strain was in no better shape abroad than it is here in the US. Has this changed over the last few years since we had that conversation? Is it still a favored strain with the Bedouins?

  2. Terri, it’s been some time since I have kept updated records of the strain-by-strain evolution of the numbers of Arabian horses left with the Bedouins. Still, I can tell you that there are only a handful Bedouins families still breeding Asil Arabians of the Ma’anaghi strain in the desert.

    Faddan Ibn Ufaytan, a Shammar Bedouin who breeds Ma’naghi Hudruji is one, and ‘Affat al-Dbayss of the Fad’aan, who breeds Ma’anaghi Sbayli Abu Sayfayn is another. And ‘Abdallah Abu Sayfayn of the Fad’aan tribe, who still breeds Ma’anaghi Sbayli is another. See my account of a conversation with the latter in this blog’s “My Desert Notebook” section. There are others too.

    The horses bred by these three people are highly valued, and are considered some of the best blood in the desert. The photo of Sayfia, which was bred by Abdallah Abu Sayfayn, speaks for itself.

  3. Edouard,

    Thanks for the reply. I’m curious about something. I frequently see articles or websites that mention this horse or that one have been exported from the US to someplace like Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Has there been cases where a horse has been exported to be brought into one of the tribes’ herd rather than, say, a king’s stables? Or is that just not financially feasible? Do the Bedu even consider horses here in the US to still be Asil? (please forgive my ignorance, but my curiosity just had to ask. 😉

  4. Tribes in the way you talk about them do not exist anymore. Today, tribesmen live in towns or urban settlements, in Saudi, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, etc. Tribesmen have jobs as engineers, police officers, or entrepreneurs. Some settled tribal families such as those I mention above still breed the descendants of the horses their ancestors used to breed in tents, but the concept of the “tribe’s herd” is long gone.

    The answer to the question of whether “the Bedu consider horses here in the US to still be Asil” is no. It used to be impossible, and it remains difficult for Bedouins to follow the whereabouts of Asil horses that left the desert. By leaving the desert, horses also left behind the standards of purity by which dedicated Bedouins bred them, and the Bedouins were no longer able to vouch for their purity and Asil status.

    The Bedouins made some exceptions though, such as for the studs of Abbas Pasha and Ali Pasha Sharif in Egypt in the latter part of the nineteenth century, because that stud used to maintain regular contacts with the Bedouins. Another exception is for the Asil horse Ghuzayyil which was sold by the Shammar Bedouins to the Beirut racetrack in the 1950s, and reclaimed by them as a herd sire a few years later.

    Things are starting to change slowly however, as many Bedouins are being influenced by the fact that the royal families of Saudi and other Gulf countries have acquired Egyptian and other Arabian horses and disseminated them among their followers, many of whom are of Bedouin origin.

  5. 03/12/08

    Edouard, I like to ask some questions.

    Did the Bedu Call it Asil Horses Just Asil Arabians? or did they call them, Syrian Arabians, or Saudi Arabians, like here in the America we call theses horses by the importers names or by a country origin. Also some horses have a Rasan name but no sub strain name attach to it like Al Hamdaniyah a mare that was bred in Saudi Royal Stable. Can a Asil Arabian still be consider Asil with out a Sub Strain name? The word Jowad which mean Purity is this word a word that can be use’s for Asil Also? or does this word have a deeper meaning?. please explain.

    I call my Asil Horses just that Asil bred and I record each breeding and have it witness by truly honest people. I also have each person write his signature to each breeding and write out a Hujja as did the bedu is along with the registry papers please correct me and advise me in this manner if this is correct or not.

    Abu Uwais Al Mahgribi

  6. Abu Uwais,

    Your message contains the answers to the questions you ask, and these are all good questions. Bedouins just call their horses Asil horses “al-khuyul al-asilah”. Non-Bedouin Arabs call them Arabian horses, or Asil Arabian horses, but it’s a redundancy.

    They never called them Syrian Arabians or Saudi Arabians, or by any name of countries as we do today. As you know, Arabian horses have existed long before the Arab countries in which they are bred. Saudi became a state in 1932, Syria in 1920, Iraq in 1930 and so on. Before that time, there were no boundaries between these countries, only large stretches of desert, across which tribes migrated in search of pasture.

    A desert-bred horse may have been born in the deserts of Syria, migrated to Saudi with its tribe as a youngster, then sold to another tribe in Iraq as an adult horse. Does this make him a Syrian, a Saudi or an Iraqi Arabian? Certainly not. Does that horse turn into a Iraqi horse once he crosses the Saudi-Iraq border, then back to a Saudi horse when he crosses that border back? Of course not.

    Most Bedouins will not consider a horse Asil if a horse doesn’t have a substrain. Then again, it might have a substrain, and we (non-Bedouins) just don’t know it, because we do not have all the information in the hujjah. This means that access to information is critical in helping establish the Asil status of an horse. *Al-Hamdaniah may thus have a substrain, but we just don’t know it.

    Jawad is an Arabic term, but not one used in Bedouins parlance. It comes from ‘jud’, which in Arabic means “of good quality”, “reliable”.

    Each breeder is free to keep records of breeding as he/she pleases. There is no “correct” manner as long as one acts with integrity. Your way of doing this is reminiscent of the Beoduin ways, but recall that Bedouins did not keep written records, they only had a learned man of their kin produce a written hujja (authentication certificate) upon selling their horse.

    There is an article on this blog about the concept of Asil. In this article I talk about what makes a horse Asil in the eyes of the Bedouins: asalah, rasan and marbat.

  7. Hello Edouard,

    Shukran for your responds! I truly understand what you explain. I would like to ask you about stain breeding. is there any information that the Bedouin bred it Asil Horses this way? or was it the best quality mare to the best quality stallion regardless of it strain? As we know the mare carry the strain name, or was it that the best stallion just happen to be of the same strain as the mare and they were bred for a foal? I hear this talk of same strain breeding but it is something Inever heard before. Please explain.

    Abu Uwais Al-Mahgribi

  8. Edouard

    Then if we don’t Know the Sub Strain name of the Mare Al-Hamdaniyah and we have mares with this Tail female Line to this mare, “Then How can we go About to find out this sub-strain name? if we can at all.I myself come from Bedouin family from the south of the Mahgrib we still race horses in the desert. Al-Hamdaniyah is consider Desert Bred Asil By the Arab family that bred her and by Al-Khamsa,is her Sub Strain Statics being research? can a Arab Bedouin tribe give her tail female line a Sub strain Name? please let me know of this matter.

    Abu Uwais Al-Mahgribi

  9. Well, we know *Al Hamdaniah came from the Al-Saoud family, so chances are that she was Hamdaniyah Simriyah, which the Saoud family used to bred in large numbers (e.g., the Blunt mare Sherifa).

  10. #
    Abu Uwais Ibn Mansuur Said:
    March 13th, 2008 6:29 pm

    Hello Edouard,

    Shukran for your responds! I truly understand what you explain. I would like to ask you about stain breeding. is there any information that the Bedouin bred it Asil Horses this way? or was it the best quality mare to the best quality stallion regardless of it strain? As we know the mare carry the strain name, or was it that the best stallion just happen to be of the same strain as the mare and they were bred for a foal? I hear this talk of same strain breeding but it is something I never heard before. Please explain.

    Abu Uwais Al-Mahgribi

  11. I am, to say the least, a bit late in discussing this topic. However, this seems topic and blog seem like a natural place to post.

    For those who do not know me, I am the principle researcher for the rare AK strains website ( From working on the rare strains website, I can say that I don’t think that one strain is better than another. Some are more rare (in North America) and should be preserved – once lost, most strains/dam lines can not be replaced. Other than that, I think that people who are looking for horses to place in a riding/breeding program should look at the horses that they like first and the ‘rarity’ later.

    The strain that a person likes/loves is the ‘best’. There are considerations of strain breeding and breeding within a dam line, but these should be secondary to chosing horses that the buyer/breeder/rider loves.

    On a related topic, the rare AK strains site is very nearly completed. There is one mare remaining to be researched and another whose research needs to be formatted and posted. Then, of course, there will be the necessary updates and cosmetic corrections. Anyone who has time to review and comment would be much appreciated. The site is about education, learning, and research so I tend to be resistant to any suggestions about increasing the emphasis on horses for sale, etc

    Now off to do some updates 😉

  12. “The strain that a person likes/loves is the ‘best’.” I could not agree more, and by the way congratulations on your excellent website.

  13. Thank you, Edouard. I actually have fewer updates than I thought, but have had trouble motivating (even inside, mud is depressong). The site should still be finished by the end of the year.

    And then on to other projects 😉 (rare AK sires and rare AK elements)

  14. Anne, you ought to start those before they become rarer, the clock is ticking on some sire lines and some ancestral elements..

  15. I know, Edouard, I know. Unfortunately although there are a host of people who ‘want’ the sites and think they are a ‘great idea’, as soon as I ask for research/evidence rather than opinions…. You can hear the doors slamming as people flee.

    Nonetheless, I will start the sites, hopefully, after the first of the year. You can feel free to chime in on the definition of ‘rare’. 😉 Somehow I think ‘rare’ should be much different for a sire line than it is for a dam line!

  16. How many strains are there exactly…

  17. Around 200..

  18. Do you have a list on your blog? I am curious about the strains, and their spellings…I know that some are spelled differently depending on who is writing the information or what region it is from. Would really like to know more about each strain.

  19. i have a list written down and compiled from different sources but not online. the large majority of strains have died out and only a few survive today..

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