Kuhaylan Hayfi: How old is it?

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on March 5th, 2008 in France

Wisteria CFWhy am I starting this “Strain of the Week” series with this particular strain?   Shameless promotion.  Kuhaylan Hayfi just happens to be the strain of my Asil Arabian mare, Wisteria CF, which also gives me an excuse to display her picture.

There are other reasons, too: many Asil Arabian horsebreeders are familiar with the strain, as a result of the importation of the desert-bred Kuhaylah Hayfiyah mare *Reshan to the USA by Homer Davenport in 1906.  *Reshan went on to become one of the foundation mares of Arabian horse breeding in America, and left hundreds of Asil descendants in this country, most of which belong to the Davenport group, like Wisteria CF.  (For those of you who have been living on the moon for the past half-century, the term “Davenport” refers to those Asil Arabians descended exclusively from the desert-bred Asil Arabian horses imported to the USA by Homer Davenport in 1906, and from a few others desert-breds he’d owned prior to this importation).

Back to the strain itself, of which *Reshan is only the most famous desert-bred representative. First, how old is it?

Youthful as strains go, Kuhaylan Hayfi ‘only’ goes back to the second half of the nineteenth century: the Abbas Pasha Manuscript, which collects Bedouin testimonies about Arabians horses up to ca. 1850, makes no mention of it.  This implies that Kuhaylan Hayfi may not have developed yet as a distinctive strain, because it is unlikely that such an important strain would simply be overlooked by a horse collector like Abbas Pasha, or by the Bedouins for that matter, so as not to deserve even a passing mention in the book. 

At the same time, French importation records show that a desert-bred mare that was imported to France in 1892 at age 5 was sired by a stallion the French called “El Lehefi”.  This is clearly a deformation of “al-Haifi”, which gives out the strain of the sire, and informs us by the same token that the strain was already in existence by the early 1880s.  

Bottom line: the strain Kuhaylan Hayfi got its name at some point during a thirty year window between ca. 1850 and ca. 1880.  If anyone of you has additional information that could lead to narrowing this window even further, please bring the evidence forward (e.g., is it mentioned in the list of strains given by Lady Anne Blunt in “Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates” (pub. 1879)?

8 Responses to “Kuhaylan Hayfi: How old is it?”

  1. Yes Edouard, the Blunts mention Kehilan Heyfi (as they spell it) in the list of strains in their book The Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates (1879). So the strain dates from at least the 1870s.

  2. That’s what I thought. Do you think the mention of Hayfi (Heyfi) in this book is an outcome of their first trip to the desert in 1878, or that they got it from an earlier list of strains? Is there such an earlier list of strains, which to your knowledge, lists Kuhaylan Hayfi? Whatever the case, the strain can now be dated back to the mid 1870s at least..

  3. Roger Upton’s Gleanings from the Desert of Arabia also has a list of strains and substrains, including “Keheilet Heife.” Upton was in the desert before the Blunts, but Gleanings was not published until 1881. It’s tempting to say that Upton had gathered all his source material ahead of the publication of the first Blunt book, but I suppose we really don’t know. I can’t think of any earlier compilation of strain names than these.

  4. Very interesting, and look forward to reading more.

    Edouard, sorry to have missed you this year at the AK Convention, and please do not feel shy in sharing more pictures of Wisteria CF, she is one of my favorites.

  5. Edouard…have your feelings changed about the importance of strain breeding? Or are you referring to it to mainly nod at the ancestors, like a family name?

    Good to “hear” you again, Edouard.


  6. Hi Janelle, I will post an entry about strain and type very soon. It’s big discussion.

  7. Dear Edouard,

    This is to mention to u that el-Hafi name does belong to the SAMHAH strain ( 2 lines: el-Gomeyah & el-Hafi) as stated by Raswan & Blunt. This is different from Kuhaylan Hayfi. Therefor, I think that the one u mention imported to France was for the strain of SAMHAH Hafi ( Arabic ??????


    Professor Ihsan Mahasneh

  8. Yes at least two strains of Samhan: Qumay’ and Hafi, but H-A-F-I (with second letter alif not yaa).

    Possibly Samhan al-Hafi belongs to a clan of Utaybah called al-Hafi but not sure..

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