Gloom and doom on French Asil Arabians?

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on July 17th, 2008 in Algeria, France, Morocco, Tunisia

Some of you have emailed me privately with questions about French and North African Asil Arabians of the past and the present. Thank you for your messages. It is nice to see that there is interest in these horses.

I reread the posts I have been writing on French Asil horses to refresh my memory. Most are “gloom and doom”, with words like “lost” and “last” all over the entries’ titles. The sad reality is that this grim assessment is true, and that French Asil are on the brink of extinction, despite the enormous number of desert horses imported to France and to its former North African possessions over the last two centuries.

Arabian horse in France were – and are still – bred by two categories of breeders: the Government and private breeders. Since Napoleon’s time and until WWII, the French government has been importing and maintaining desert Arabian stallions in stallion depots across the country, as well as a small herd of broodmares in the stud of Pompadour. Arabian stallions and, to a lesser extent Arabian mares, were bred to English Thoroughbreds to produce Anglo-Arabs, a breed France is credited for creating and developing. A small nucleus of Arabians was also bred separately.

Private breeders, many of whom have been breeding horses for  generations, typically bred both Arabians and Anglo-Arabs for racing purposes. This focus on short-distance racing, and the breeders’ feeding and breeding conditions, meant that the classic type(s) of Arabian horses was overlooked, and that another type prevailed. Such seems to be the case of the stallion Denouste, a most important horse in French Arabian breeding, of the Mukhallad strain. He seems to be okay pedigree wise, but as a 2 years old he certainly did not look like a pretty Arabian horse (judge for yourselves below: photo taken from the French site Forum sur le Cheval Arabe, where it was posted by Orient Arabians.. ). He will be the subject of a next post,. For now I have just left him out of the list of horses I have considered Asil…

In addition, at several junctures during the twentieth century, Arabian races came to a halt, and breeders had to enter Arabian horses in the same races as Anglo-Arabs, in which the latter clearly had an advantage… Some breeders – not all, only some – went ahead and bred their arabian mares to Anglo-Arab stallions and registered the progeny as Arabian.

The bottom line is that it is difficult to trust most bloodlines of Arabian horses of “Old” French bloodlines bred by French private breeders. The only stud I trust blindly is that of Mr. Robert Mauvy, as it relied on North African Asil bloddlines in addition to authentic bloodlines from the Pompadour government stud. It is worth noting here that Mauvy himself ascertained the purity of specific mares of French bloodlines at specific points in time, which doesn’t mean these lines are still Asil today. Examples include Djerba, a Mukhalladiyah by strain, and Dragonne, of the “strainless” Warda line. Warda was imported to the desert by Baron Fechtig in 1824.

Pompadour maintained two female lines of unquestionably Asil origins: the line of Bassala, a mare born in Algeria and tracing to the desert-bred mare Wadha (a Jilfat Dhawi), and that of Adana, an “old french” line, tracing to the desert-bred mare Zenab (a Hamdaniyah). The other female lines of But Pompadour were from private breeders and their authenticity of breeding has been questioned by purist breeders.

Of these two lines, that of Adana-Zenab has died out in Asil form: its last Asil representative was Ablette, which was bred to stallions of questionable purity (e.g, Ba Toustem). Ablette’s dam Attique was also bred to questionable stallions (e.g., Abel). The line to Bassala-Wadha was more fortunate as it benefited from the arrival of several Tunisian Asil stallions to Pompadour in the 1960s, and one Egyptian stallion, Fawzan (Tuhotmos x Fayrooz) in the 1970s. Now this line is down to two or three aged mares of unquestionable purity of bloodlines.

Finally, in the 1960s, some breeders imported Asil broodmares from North Africa: Tunisian Asil mares as Hallouma, Izarra, Naziha and Algerian Asil ones such as the Ghalbane daughters Achra, Oureah and others came in. Some were bred to Asil stallions, others were not. But not much is left of that blood either..

10 Responses to “Gloom and doom on French Asil Arabians?”

  1. Dear Edouard,
    could you please give a more insight look on the horses of Sidi Thabet? I’m trying to research the tunisian bloodlines in my mares pedigree but unfortunately am not very succesful in doing it. She’s a great-granddaughter of the mare Douja (Koraich x Malaga) which was born in 1972. Pictures would be really great as well.
    Thanks in advance.

  2. Hi Djoumanah i will get back to you soon on this one.

  3. Hi Edouard,
    Please check the website below, I think there are interesting pedigrees there…

  4. How about Haras de la Lizonne?

    They seem to be all asil Tunesian bloodlines (without Barr)?

  5. Hi Patrick, Jean Deleau’s (Haras de la Lizonne) breeding philosophy is that of a purist. His mares are from Moroccan lines.

    Moroccan Arabians trace to “Algerian” Arabian mares (from Tiaret, all Asil) and to French Arabian stallions (Aiglon, Minos, Agres, some Asil some not). Later, the King of Morocco received two Egyptian stallions from Egypt, and used them.

    Most Moroccan Arabians have the blood of Agres in them. Agres’ grandsire was Abel (Denouste x Alicante). Abel was bred at a private stud and then used at Pompadour. Robert Mauvy characterized the decision to use him as “unfortunate”.

  6. On Barr, I recall that Hansi Heck-Melnyk claimed he was not an Arabian, but a Barb. The Tunisian delegate at WAHO, whom she had told this, was horrified. I don’t know what the real issue with Barr is. If you want, I can tell Hansi to write a contribution to this blog about *Barr.

  7. To Djoumanah
    Koraich x Malaga by Madani ,look at Edouard’s post on Madani.
    Douja had 5 daughters Dahwa,Dana,Dashma,Dhiala all by the pure Egyptian “Al Aswad” by Ibn GalalxHosna
    Imarra by the pure Egyptian “Ragheb” by TuhotmosxRakia

  8. Dear Edouard,
    thanks so much for the pictures of Dynamite II and Madani. Like said before it seems almost impossible to get any information on the tunisian horses in my mares pedigree. Would be great to get more information on Barr, though (pics?). Personally I don’t think that the horse was a barb, but you never know…

    @ Joe
    Thanks for the in dept information on Douja. The only progeny of hers that I knew of was the mare Dahwa which is the dam of Desira, my mares dam.

    Sandra :-)))

  9. Dear Sandra
    you are welcome
    All of us have to put all the information we have at the disposition of Asil horse breeders.

  10. Hi, just came across the discussion searching on information about Koraich myself. I know DanaV, I think the last daughter of Douja, very well. She is still a happy, tough old lady (born 1982), still enjoying long hacks with speedy cantering. Her daughters and granddaughters are also fabulous fast horses.
    Good infos about pedigrees has the database, for some horses with photographs, yet not for Koraich.
    If there is a photo of Koraich available, I’d be happy to receive it.
    Thanks in advance, Trudie

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