By Edouard Aldahdah
Posted on July 20th, 2011 in General
The other day I was looking at foundation horses (i.e., original Arabian horses imported to the USA and the UK from the Arabian desert) in the pedigree of my new mare Jadiba, trying to gauge how “comfortable” I felt about the information currently available to us in terms of their ‘asalah’ or authenticity. “Comfort” is an particularly subjective notion, by my own admission, partly because I am setting the bar, and I tend to set it very high, and partly because of the relativity of the very notion of ‘asalah’.
Of course, my level of ‘comfort’ is a function of the amount and quality of information available on these horses, and here a relative classification is possible by growing level of ‘comfort’. I for instance feel very ‘comfortable’ about most of the information on most of the Davenport horses in Jadiba’s pedigree, because many of them have surviving hujaj, or original authentication documents, especially *Wadduda, *Urfah, *Hamrah, *Muson, and *Jedah.
I also feel similarly comfortable about many of the Blunt horses in her pedigree, especially those who were bought directly from Bedouins like Rodania, Hadban, Pharaoh, Azrek, and Queen of Sheba. The ones like Kars, Basilisk, and Dajania who were bought via Ottoman, Kurdish, Turkmen or Circassian individuals, fall in a second mental category (I can’t help it), because of the interaction with these non-Bedouin individuals. I blindly trust Lady Anne Blunt’s knowledge, integrity and quest for truth, and I know that she would not have bred from a horse she did not have total confidence in. Be that as it may, I can’t help put Rodania — the war mare of the Ruwalah Bedouin chief, Pharaoh and Azreq — both of the Saqlawi ibn al-Dirri strain and bred by Barghi ibn al-Dirri — and Queen of Sheba — the Sba’ah Bedouin chief’s personal mare, a notch above the others.
I paradoxically feel very comfortable about the horses Major Upton brought back from the Sba’ah Bedouins to the UK, like Yathagan and Haidee, even if both, and especially the former, seem to have been of an inferior Arabian type. Which brings me to the real subject of this post, and the one horse which makes me cringe whenever I come across his name in Jadiba’s pedigree, where he comes up twice: Kismet. I don’t know what to think of this horse.
Here is what Al Khamsa has to say about Kismet:
“[born in] 1877, chestnut, imported in 1882 to India by the ‘aqayl, ‘Abd al-Rahman, then imported in 1884 to England by Mr. Broadwood, and finally imported in 1891 to the USA by Randolph Huntington. NOTES: The above information (except for the transfer to Huntington), which shows no strain, is from *Kismet’s entry in Weatherby’s General Stud Book Vol. XVI, p.657. *Kismet’s strain on his Arabian Horse Club register page is listed as “Keheilan-Montefik,” but the stud book entry reads “Maneghi-Hedruj.”The stud book strain information appears to have been provided by Huntington.”
We know that Huntington was rather obsessed with the Ma’naqi (Maneghi) strain, of which he wanted to purchase as many representatives as possible, and he may have relied unsubstantiated information that Kismet was indeed a Ma’naqi Hadraji. The more probable strain is Kuhaylan (Keheilan), and the Muntafiq is a Bedouin tribe. Both the strain and the tribal affiliation are more than one can hope for, about a racehorse coming from India, if you take into consideration the likelihood that Kismet’s military owners, unlike Lady Anne Blunt, were not too interested in ascertaining his Bedouin background. This lack of interest may actually explain the absence of the substrain/marbat and original breeder information, as opposed to the Blunt Indian import Hadban, who also came frome the ‘aqayl ‘Abd al-Rahman, and for which such information is indeed available.
The other thing that bothers me is a comment by Lady Anne Blunt, about the racehorse Maidan — who also came from the same Bombay horse trader ‘Abd al-Rahman, and who was also wrongly assumed to be a Ma’naqi Hadraji by Randolph Huntington. The comment is reported in Peter Upton’s “The Arab Horse”, who had access to the Blunt’s records: “Maidan, far more beautiful than Kismet”.
However, Kismet’s two offspring in the USA, Garaveen and Nimr, both show good Arabian type, and the picture of the latter, below, is still a striking example of great neck carriage and posture in Arabian horses, which he seems to have transmitted:
Also on the positive side, and according to the same Lady Anne Blunt, the ‘aqayl [horse merchant] ‘Abd al-Rahman Minni seemed to have had the reputation to buy horses from Bedouin tribes only, and the Muntafiq Bedouins were known to supply India’s horse racing market with young colts. Proximo and Hadban, both of whom are well authenticated, the first one particularly so, because the Blunt’s had seen him ridden by the Fad’aan Bedouin chief Jada’an ibn Mahayd a number of years earlier, came through Abd al-Rahman Minni.
What do you think, given all this?
The issue of Kismet is not as trivial as might first seem, because it raises other issues like [insert sound of a bomb dropping here] that of El Emir and his potential accession to the Al Khamsa Roster. Now that’s an ugly horse, judging from pictures and contemporary but an extremely well documented one, with strain information, marbat, breeder, tribe, clan, strain of sire, everything.