Introducing *Layya

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on September 23rd, 2008 in Lebanon, USA

In 1947, American billionnaire and press magnate W.R. Hearst (of Hearst Castle fame) sent a party of several people, including his stud manager Preston Dyer, and the photographer J. Williamson, all around the Middle East in search of Arabian horses for his San Simeon stud. They toured Egypt, Arabia, Syria and ended up buying 14 horses from the racetrack of Beirut, Lebanon, most of them from Henri Pharaon. Pharaon was then president of the SPARCA (Societe Pour l’Amelioration de la Race Chevaline Arabe), which managed the Beirut racetrack. He was also Minister of Foreign Affairs of the newly independent Republic of Lebanon (my home country). If you want to known more about the Hearst importation and its circumstances, check this article out.

One of the horses Preston brought back to the USA was the grey mare *Layya, the subject of this entry and a couple others to come. 

According to papers given by *Layya’s Lebanese breeder Georges Khamis to Dick Skinner of the Hearst Stables, *Layya (which he writes Leah) was a “Shikeh” by strain, by the stallion “Kayan” out of the mare “Naileh”. Khamis’s handwritten pedigree of *Layya provides somes details about *Layya’s ancestors. All of these are Asil Arabians that lived in the Biqaa’ valley of Lebanon in the 1940s – the golden era of Lebanese Asil Arabian horse breeding. Old time Lebanese horse breeders are familiar with many of them.

I spent much time gathering and cross-checking available information about these horses. The result of my inquiries is gathered in an “Index of Asil and Non-Asil Arabian Horses of Lebanon and Syria”, which I hope to publish some day.  So far, the “Index” contains more than 100 horse entries, many of which shed new light on the background of Arabian horses imported to the USA, such as *Layya. Click here to read what the “Aldahdah Index” 😉 has to say about the stallion Kayan, *Layya’s sire. It also has other entries about the rest of the horses in *Layya’s pedigree, which I will share with you in due course. 

George Khamis sold Layya to Henri Pharaon who sold her to Preston Dyer for W.R. Hearst. *Layya was imported to the USA, where she founded an important family, through crosses with Hallany Mistanny and Arabian stallions from Richard Pritzlaff’s breeding. The rareakstrains website has a list of her progeny. Al Khamsa, which accepted *Layya as a Foundation Horse a few years ago has a detailed entry for *Layya on its website, drawing in part on information available in the Aldahdah Index.  

21 Responses to “Introducing *Layya”

  1. I have a mare that traces in tail female to *Bint Rajwa and *Rajwa of the Hearst imports and I would love to know more about the Hearst horses. I have read the Arieana website info and even got a copy of Mrs. Hearst’s “Horses of San Simeon” on an interlibrary loan. I was very disappointed on what little was said in that expensive book about the Arabians.
    A few years ago I put forth a question on one of the forums (I think it was blackhorse) seeking the strain of my mare’s line and Joe Achar graciously supplied the strain of Saqlawiyah Ejrifi. Does anyone know any more about this strain or about the Hearst horses? I didn’t realize that they (the Hearst imports) were so controversial. You would think that after spending so much time and money in search of the finest Arabians that they would settle for horses of suspect purity.

  2. Hi wrangler, there will be upcoming posts about other Hearst imposts, so stay tuned for a post on *Rajwa.

    A person who has access to a lot of original documents about the Hearst horses is Michael Bowling. You may want to ask him.

    Indeed, the recorded strain of *Rajwa is Saqlawi “Ejrifi”. I have never heard of that strain before and it may be a bad translation for Saqlawi Arjabi or Erjibi, which is one of the four main strains of Saqlawi. Remember the legend that has the Saqlawi’s trace to the four brothers Jidran, Ubaayran, Rajab (hence Arjabi) and el-Abd.

  3. In the Hearst import there is one other “Siklawi Ejrefi” it is Arkane which dam is stated as “Siklawie Ajrafie”.
    In Judith Forbis “The classic Arabian Horse” page 288 under Saklawi there is Ejrife.

    So my dear Wrangler it seems that this strain existed in the Djezireh, the place of birth of Rajwa.As for Bint Rajwa His sire is “Kayrawane”Edouard may give you more infornation on him

    “Arkane” a pure-in- the strain Saklawi, was a winner of 16 races from 1939 to 1945.
    Is there any descedant of this horse left?

  4. Nothing Asil left from Arkane. Pity.

  5. As per Al Khamsa website
    “The ownership by Henri Pharaon is from *Layya’s certificate of identity from the racetrack in Beirut, sealed by the Lebanese Ministry and the US Consul. Importation information is from AHA stud books”
    The only Hearst import certificate NOT sealed by the Lebanese ministry and the US consul is Layya’s.

  6. Of course it is! I am sending it to you now.

  7. I just send you the Identity certificates of Layya and (Jamil) Ghamil issued by the Hippodrome du Parc de Beyrouth.
    Ghamil cerificate as all the Hearst cerificate Except Layya’s is signed by Lerry Winter Roeder Vice -Cocul of the USA and by Halim Harfouche Chief of cabinet of the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. the 22nd of October 1947. with the due fiscal stamps (all the certificates are the same)Except Layya’s .
    You will notice also that on all Layya’s cerificate unlike the others ,near the picture of the mare someone wrote “cette jument est pur sang Arabe ” (this mare is pure bred Arab) the signature below this statement is unknown to the “Hippodrome du parc de Beyrouth” you may send this copy to Nabil nasrallah the General Director of the SPARCA and ask him about the signature.
    the only reference that the mare was exported to the USA is on the page concerning the race record :Transfered October 1947.Preston Dyer.agent Sunical Land &Livestock dept.California.If tou want I may send it to you.
    these documents were sent to myself in March 2001 by R.J Cadranell 130th Ave Ne # d-202 Kirhland WA 98033

  8. So I guess we have two different documents for *Layya. Very interesting. I will need to ask R.J.
    about this.

  9. Your idea about “El Dahdah index is fantastic”as a matter of fact we know more about other countries horses than about ours.
    You must publish is it ASAP in English or in Arabic while the peolple are stiil alive ,like sayed Hussein who nearly retired from horse business ,leaving it to his step son,The health of Abu Ala’a Jabri is not so well …

  10. So in your opinions is this an important line (layya) to preserve? Are there many others preserving this line? Obviously there are some mixed opinions. Michelle

  11. My opinion was based on a document where there was no Lebanon’s foreign ministry sealing ,nor the US consulate sealing.
    Meanwhile Edouard send me a document with all those sealing.Like he said we had 2 diferent documents .For me the subject is closed and Layya is OK.
    All Asil lines are ,those days, important to preserve.
    As I live in Beirut I dont know the “Layya’s” line breeders.

  12. Sorry Edouard ,but as I’m not able to post any text or photo,and I think this is an important subject,maybe Michael Bowling can give us more info.the article is from “The Horse”

    Test Allows Arabian Breeders to Scan for Inherited Neurologic Disorder
    by: Robert S. Johnson
    September 23 2008 Article # 12746

    Equine cerebellar abiotrophy is a debilitating neurologic disorder that affects Arabian horses almost exclusively, and for which there is no treatment or cure. But, thanks to the work of veterinary researchers, breeders now have access to a new DNA test that could help them detect carriers of the condition so they do not propagate the problem in their herds.

    The cerebellum is the part of the brain that plays an important role in the integration of sensory perception, coordination, and motor control. Equine cerebellar abiotrophy kills neurons in the cerebellum, causing head tremors and a lack of balance. Unfortunately, there is no treatment. Affected horses are routinely euthanized before adulthood because of the risk they pose to themselves and others.

    Cecilia Penedo, PhD, a geneticist at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, said cerebellar abiotrophy is passed on 25% of the time when both parents are carriers of the gene.

    “We really don’t know what causes the variation, but it occurs,” Penedo said.

    Researchers at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory have developed an indirect DNA test to help determine if a horse is a carrier. Penedo said the test, which is completed using a hair root sample and identifies markers associated with cerebellar abiotrophy, already has been used by a few breeders, and a few others have shown interest in the test.

    While gene therapies to treat the disorder could become available in the future, Penedo said she doesn’t expect to see them for years. Besides, the new test can front-load a solution to the issue.

    “A cure is not needed if one doesn’t produce affected foal,” she said. “That is the goal, and that’s the beauty of having a diagnostic test, because people can plan breedings. As long as they do not breed two carriers, they will not produce a cerebellar foal.”

    In August the Arabian Horse Foundation gave a $5,000 gift to the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory for use on the cerebellar abiotrophy research project.

  13. Of course this line ought to be preserved! As far as I can tell, this is the only line from which a DNA sample was taken in the USA, and compared with a DNA sample from a mare from the same strain back in the Middle East, and the two were found to be matching. Precious! She is also well authenticated pedigree wise.

    The only trouble is that there are two versions of her papers, one complete, with signature, stamp and seal and all, and another without.

    The only person whom I know is preserving this line is Jenny Krieg, who owns HS Marayah. If you can get a hold of the mare PH So Uneeq (check her out at, a remote cousin of Marayah, you’d be doing this line and the Arabian breed in general a great service.

  14. Unfortunately I won’t have time to spend much time reading this site for ……. months. However, since you mentioned the rare AK strains site so I have to chime in….. If you notice any inaccuracies on the rare strains site, please feel free to contact me (contact info is on the rare strains site) so that I can correct it!

    For example – PH So Uneeq is not on the ’25yo and younger’ table! Didn’t realize that error until someone said that she was mentioned on this site! I’d rather have the correct info than living in the illusion that I never make mistakes (excuse me while I laugh hysterically).


  15. I must tell you Edouard, that your first posting commnet on Sept 23, 2008 had incredible timing as I had been looking at a descendant of Layya to purchase. I was doing a search for layya on the internet when the search engine brought up your post. You can see my post and the date after my discovery of this so very helpful site.
    I had never heard of this strain and actually was interested in the mare because I origially thought that she was straight egyptian. I was not intending on adding the non egyptian lines but upon seeing her and having read your post I was concerned and the possablity was extremly high that If I did not purchase her she would not go to a breeder or anyone who understood what they had…soooooo
    I know own a descendent of Layya. Her name is Nile Swan. On her sire line she is by Hadaya Nile Comet who was by Ansata Ibn Sudan and out of a Nile bred mare to Ansata Nile Moon…to Falima. On her dam line she goes to Ibn Fadl, Turfa, the grandmother to Fabo(if I remember correctly) ,Sheikho Ibn Sheikh, Hallany Mistanny, and of course Layya.

    The Rare Strains site by Anne was also extremely helpful in identifying the endangerment of this strain becoming extinct in America. Thank you Anne and Edouard.

    So I ask you all…now what? Of course I would like to breed her…but I need to know of others who are preserving this line. Also the name of this strain according to the Al Khamsa site said that the strain was named changed from another strain to the name of the mare that was so famed they changed to strain to her name Shikeh, also I have seen it spelled shykeh I believe.

    Can any one tell me about this famed mare and what made her so important to the people who renamed the strain to her name? And are there others of this strain in the middle east and where or anywhere else for that matter. She is a little underweight right now but when I get some weight on her and some photos I will post them for you if I can figure out how to do so on this site. Thank you for all of your help, Everyone! Michelle

  16. Congratulations, Michelle, for owning Nile Swan! This is truly a line worth preserving. Please send me photos when you can, and I will post them here:

  17. It’s now time for someone to find the mare PH So Uneeq from this sam line, and preserve her.

    According to Jenny Krieg, the only stallion available from this line is Dommino. Tabbou was another, but he was sold away, and the lady who sold him refuses to tell anybody the name of the person she sold it to.

  18. Hi Michelle,

    I am so excited that you have Nile Swan — congratulations! BTW, a friend and I are also in the process of buying Maggie Sherdaya.

    Would love to talk with you! My email address is ululu (at)

  19. Hi All, Nile Swan is doing great and has put on some weight. I have a great photo of her but Edouard I do not know how to post it. Should I send it to you by email? Michelle

  20. Yes please.

  21. Very interesting when you consider how many strains exist that are very rarley

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