El Emir photo

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on July 22nd, 2011 in General

Jenny Krieg, referring to a discussion on straightegyptians.com in 2007, tells me that it seemed that the late Lady Anne Lytton apparently told Carol Mulder, who told someone else (who was writing on se.com under the username “BasilisBelka”) that the famously ugly photo of Mrs. Dillon’s imported Arabian stallion El Emir (below) was not of him, nor of an other Arabian horse but rather that of an English Lord’s carriage horse. Can this be confirmed?



21 Responses to “El Emir photo”

  1. The anecdote is true (I was there), but Lady Anne was mistaken: she believed her mother had used a picture of a “vanner” (a light draft horse) to discredit El Emir. It turns out the image was originally published in Cassell’s Book of the Horse in 1893–when El Emir was still being used at stud by Miss Dillon, and Judith Blunt was 20 years old.

  2. so Michael, you are saying that this was indeed El Emir’s picture, right?

  3. Here’s the quote from SE.com:

    Nov 29 2007, 12:57 PM
    [QUOTE (LMG @ Nov 28 2007, 05:01 PM)
    I suspect that before genetic blood typing, there were/ are quite a few horses whose ancestory traces back to the other side of the blanket. And, early in the history of importations to the US, horses were imported by some of our early breeders which trace to Ms. Dillon’s breeding, which had the questionable origin of her beloved stallion.LMG]

    Regarding El Emir, I am in a position to prove he is not quite as bad as he has been made out to be!

    The photo which is usually claimed to be El Emir is no such thing: it is actually a Cleveland Bay or Yorkshire Coach Horse. The error stems from an early photo-illustrated book: the revised edition of Sidney’s Book of the Horse (a reprint of this revised edition was issued c.1983). This was published in the late 19thc when photogravure was a fairly new and very expensive process, and only a few photogravure plates were included. One of these shows a pair of Yorkshire Coach Horses: another is captioned ‘El Emir’.

    HOWEVER, if one looks at the alleged photo of El Emir, the background is *identical* to that of the Yorkshire Coach horses – as indeed is the horse itself!

    It is clear what happened – someone boobed. Either the WRONG IMAGE was sent to the platemaker, OR the wrong caption was added when the print was set. Either the error was not noticed OR, because of the huge expense of correcting this prestigious publication, it was quietly left to stand in the hopes no-one would notice!

    I have one final bit of evidence which locks the whole thing into place. Some years back, I was lucky enough to be able to discuss various foundation horses with Carol Mulder, and El Emir came up. Carol said, “Of course, that photo is not of El Emir at all. Lady Anne Lytton told me it was Lord Somebody’s carriage horse.”

    This meant nothing to me until I came across Sydney’s Book of the Horse – on seeing the photos, everything fell into place.

    I submitted an article – with reproductions of the photos – to a major Arab horse publication, but it never appeared. Could that have had something to do with the fact that the editor at the time was a well-known proponent of Crabbet lines? I wonder… 😉


  4. I also found a copy of the Sidney book online, unfortunately not the 1985 reprint: http://books.google.com/books/download/The_book_of_the_horse.pdf?id=xAjOAAAAMAAJ&hl=en&capid=AFLRE73ori4tRf__fOwwNnkYHdBwiHkmTqY7mpKX8dALqyhmkEZYLh3yDhsbkbmcZr54xebfmKAhHabsP_hIyTpVo9O56anuPQ&continue=http://books.google.com/books/download/The_book_of_the_horse.pdf%3Fid%3DxAjOAAAAMAAJ%26output%3Dpdf%26hl%3Den

    The plate identified as El Emir is there in all its homely detail. However, the only plate picturing a pair of two carriage horses in that book is not identified as Cleveland Bays/Yorkshire Coach Horses (rather, it gives each horse an individual name), the background is not identical with El Emir’s, and neither horse could be the same one identified as El Emir.

    If anyone has a hard copy of the 1985 reprint, does it picture the Cleveland Bay/Yorkshire Coach Horse team with an El Emir-identical horse?

  5. I see nothing that would indicate otherwise: if a picture of the wrong horse had been printed in place of one Miss Dillon had provided of El Emir, we would still be hearing the echoes of her complaints to the British press.

    This book is still being reprinted; I just found a 2010 edition offered through ABE. All the editions appear to be described facsimiles; I can’t picture any way the plates could be wrongly duplicated (in preparing a facsimile edition) but their captions be changed.

    (The phrase Lady Anne used was “a vanner.” I can’t see what the 1985 edition can have to do with anything–that was ten years after the conversation in question and 40 years after the publication of The Authentic Arabian. Sidney’s original book–the one we’re looking at was revised and published after his death–was published in 1875, before El Emir–or any other Arabian which would influence modern pedigrees–came to England, so there’s no way a picture captioned Arab Stallion El Emir could have been in that edition.)

  6. The picture of the “Yorkshire Coach Horse” (facing page 108) looks a lot more like an Arabian (and less like a harness horse) than the picture of “El Emir” (facing page 7.) Jibbah, small muzzle, cleaner throatlatch, more elegant neck, lighter and smoother body (still long in the back), smaller hooves. Not to disagree with you, Michael, but could these pictures have been switched?

  7. There is a photo of at least one other of Miss Dillon’s Arabs posed in front of this same seemingly white-painted barn door. It is Hagar. One place this Hagar photo appears is page 350 of Carol Mulder’s Imported Foundation Stock Volume II (revised edition). So whether the horse above is El Emir or not, he certainly frequented the same barn where Miss Dillon had Hagar.

  8. I was sure there was at least one other Dillon horse pictured against that background, but I couldn’t find it yesterday. That seems fairly compelling, although it’s also significant that El Emir seems to be a photogravure (an early process based on a photographic negative; you can see suggestions that a handler standing behind him has been retouched out) while the other images look to be engraved from drawings or paintings. Admittedly it’s confusing that only some of them are credited to original art works, but their idealization of the subjects (compared to El Emir) is evident.

  9. “now that’s an ugly horse”

    OK, who wants this horse on the Al Khamsa Rooster? I will ask the question, why? El Emir?

    I once asked, why keep any horse on the rooster of Al Khamsa that is questionable? Now, why would any one propose one who is of question? I wonder, now, where is the research by Al Khamsa? Can any one just attend a meeting and propose a horse? Seems that it,the motion,would first go to research. Just as DNA is now use to find answers, so should information of reliable sources be used. Photo’s often distort, just as the written word, and or motive.

    Edouard, I am not to sure at this point what is going on?
    I have had nothing to do with Al Khamsa since 1977 as to voting or attendance. Seems any questionable horse should be voted out not in. Maybe the Bedouin policy of swearing to God as to asil should be reinstated by Al Khamsa researchers.

    This does concern all, as the future could bring someone who would breed such a horse to truly asil horses. Scary!
    I will recall George Searle saying this about a questionable horse who could not breed, ” that’s what I call saving the breed!” Same goes here, your question demanded, “Lets save the breed!”

    Michael’s comments relay reasonable thinking, and sound thinking.

    jmh/bedouin arabians

  10. A couple more thoughts.

    First, judging by the equine magazines of the time, an English lord’s carriage horse usually had a docked tail and was a good bit more stylish than this animal.

    Second, couldn’t it be that Lady Anne was right when she wrote about El Emir, “certainly trots well, but I am more struck than ever with surprise at his being considered good for a stud horse (by Miss Dillon) — his want of quality is so apparent. Moreover he is very narrow in the quarter, does not hold his tail, and has an extremely plain head…. If Miss Dillon were to stick to breeding from [Maidan] she might do some good. But she has a ridiculous theory that Emir is a better stud horse!” J&C p. 412.

  11. The point I am personally trying to make, and which has already been made in the past by several other people, is that if horses were being evaluated on the basis of their pedigrees rather than their looks, then El Emir would be in the AK Roster, and horses like Mameluke, Maidan, and probably even Kismet, Dwarka and Nedjran would be out. There is far more information about him than all the others put together, and the information actually makes sense. Whether the information should be believed is another issue.

    Also, does the horse in the picture look like he is narrow in the quarter?

  12. I think a painful reality here is that throughout the history of Arabian breeding there would be “asil” horses who are of inferior quality, character and type that may have been sold off because of this but picked up by someone to whom the horse seems wonderful. Then this horse gets used and becomes a part of the amalgam of pedigrees. I believe that Edouard and I have spoken about El Emir before and it is possible to link him to the Shammar tribe. However, he may have fallen short of their admiration and sold off quickly. From this one controversial photo I would not have bred from him, if that were my selection criteria, however I am struck by the quality of some of his close relations such as his grandson *Imamzada, imported by Spencer Borden. He appears to be a horse far better than El Emir and shows nothing of the look or character in his photos. *Imamzada’s influence was spread throughout Arabian pedigrees in America via the quality of his get and grandget. Whether El Emir is asil or not in current evaluation, he is not alone in being one of those ancestors one hopes not to see emerge again in type. I think Edouard’s point is a very important one, even if difficult for us to apply, and that is: if a horse’s pedigree gives all indications of being reliable but the horse itself is not up to that, the horse and pedigree need separate evaluation for separate reasons.

  13. Greetings! I have been lurking a loooong time here…Trying to learn about the foundation Arabians. I have a straight Saudi Arabian mare.
    Nevertheless, In defense of the above horse I think that his conformation would have GREATLY improved the Asil bloodstock. Specifically the SHORT back, LAID back shoulder, DEEP hip with tremendous bone and BIG hooves. I know these traits are not easily found in today’s Arabians REGARDLESS of the Bloodgroup. Too bad… Also, regardless of this horses Breed – he is still an excellant example of FORM TO FUNCTION sound conformation.

  14. That’s a very interesting perspective. Maybe we all need to take a second look at this horse and stop seeing him through the eyes of Lady Anne Blunt. He is together with Nureddin II, one of the sticky points of the discussion on preservation breeding in the USA.

  15. Regardless of trying to have an open mind, this particular photo says Questions. I doubt that anyone today would want to breed that horse of that photo to any Asil mare!

    Yet, I know someone or one’s would. This why we have the Registries/ Arabians, and then Al Khamsa Arabians. The above by any standard is not an Asil. Papers or not, he would never pass as the horse matching Asil Papers.

    I disagree as to improve, change, yes! There are enough
    improve/changed horses in the general Arabian! Why waste one breeding of an Asil to a questionable?

    jmh/bedouin arabians

  16. I’m with Yvonne on this one. The pictured horse has got a hip thats longer than his shoulder. By which I mean that his hindend is unusually good- but his back is low possibly from strain. The strain likely arises from being ridden inverted or used to pull a carriage while an overcheck is used. His neck posture is nearly vertical- likely from habitual,” stargazing,” resulting from the overcheck
    or inverted riding. The vertebral line inside the neck is nicely highlited and thus you can see that his neck is indeed more than halfway up the vertical distance of the shoulder. So at one time this horse had some very nice undersaddle potential. But the underslung neck muscle developed from bad riding or again the overcheck. Still his good points- mainly in skeletal structure far outweigh the low back and underslung neck.So Jackson and others not to worry about any adverse genetic effects this horse might have passed down to us nowadays. His structure and frame are what is missing in many general list horses today. And finally he is not even a teeny tiny bit narrow in the hindquarters. Actually his stifles are broad and set widely apart to enable him to easily bring his hindlimb underneath himself. The tied in spot in his flank looks to be the result again of improper usage- or may be the result of dehydration.
    Best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  17. Who do you believe? The question is always the answer.

    Bruce Peek all that I can do is what is. Changing is permanent! I think Al Khansa started something that is bigger then any one person! Thank goodness!

    Change is not saving, only forgetting what was.
    The best I can do, is hope it is us who change and not the original Bedouin’s, Arabian Horse.

    jmh/bedouin arabians

  18. Since I know only a little about El Emir, let me ask those who have more knowledge: How sure are we that the pedigree & horse indeed go together?

  19. As far as I’m aware the only thing known against El Emir is that Lady Anne Blunt didn’t like him. No one in the world has greater respect for Lady Anne than I do, but the fact remains, she did not accept any horses to be authentic except Ali Pasha Sherif’s and her own.

    El Emir is repeated over and over again in the pedigrees of the Maynesboro and Kellogg horses that contributed–and still contribute–to much of the breed’s performance reputation in North America.

  20. As a reminder, from P. Upton’s “The Arab Horse”:

    His strain is “Managhi Ibn Sbeyel”, his dam being “a bay Managhieh Ibn Sbeyeli”; his sire “a grey Kohel Cheyti”, which Peter Upton interprets as K. Sueyti (or Suwayti). His height was 14 h 2 1/2. His breeder is recorded as (spelling matters here): Dehmedi Azoba Ibn Amoud, which Upton renders as “Sheikh El Hamoud of the Al Zoba tribe, allies of the Shammar”.

    His breeder’s name is interesting, because it provides clues on his origin, while at the same time leaving us with more questions than answers.

    Dehmedi as a first name does not exist, it is a wrong transcription of another name: either Daham or more plausibly, al-Hamidi (El Hmeidi), as in Sheykh Hamidi al-Jarba, the leader of the Shammar today.

    Azoba: if it’s a middle name, then it is a transcription of the Arabic name ‘Azab (as in ‘Azab al-Waji’, a Bedouin I know). If it’s the tribe’s name, then it’s al-Zawba’ which is rendered in English/French as the Zoba Shammar (one of the three branches of the Shammar, along with Aslam and ‘Abdah). It makes more sense from a phonetic viewpoint, but it leaves a big question unanswered: What is a tribe’s name doing in the middle of the breeder’s name, between the first name, and the “Ibn X” which is the typically clan’s name (as in Ibn Sudan, Ibn Saud, Ibn Zobeyni, etc).

    Finally, Ibn Amoud: spelt like this, it’s the name of a bona fide Shammar clan (Al-Amoud), part of the Zawba’ / Zoba section, and owners of an excellent marbat of Saqlawi Jadran (known after them), which they obtained in war from the ‘Anazah. What is also probable, however, is the identification Upton suggests: Ibn Amoud is Ibn Hamoud, and the H became silent. Hamoud is a much more common name than Amoud, and if that’s the case, then it is much more difficult to track the breeder down.

    If we assume that the breeder’s first name is either Daham or Hmeidi and that Ibn Amoud is indeed the clan’s name, and that Zoba is indeed the section’s name (three separate assumption that need to be taken together, so low probability), then it becomes easier to check whether such a breeder existed.

  21. Whoever or whatever that horse is, he is not an ugly horse. Arabian horse owning people often become blind to the qualities of other breeds and in today’s large number of weedy, long loined, light boned SE’s, the inability to see the good qualities and conformation of horses of other breeds means that many will be unable to bring more to their programs than a outstanding knowledge of pedigrees attached to horses with truly short upside down necks and other less than an optimal structural form. For someone who grew up around people who had using harness horses, they did know what good conformation was, since it was essential for a horse that spent up to four hours a day, or more in harness, in fields and on dirt roads for these animals to stay sound through out the growing and harvesting season. They could not be mere visual hobby horses.

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