By Edouard Aldahdah
Posted on June 21st, 2011 in General
Those of us preservationists who have a mare or two, and can’t afford to breed them every year, always find it harder to choose stallions when the time comes to breed their mare. They have to live with the consequences of their decisions, and this alone tends to make them more risk averse. Of course, the new world of opportunities opened by artificial insemination techniques makes such decisions all the more difficult to make.
I am finding myself in this situation now that it is time to breed Jadiba. Even more, I am asking myself a lot of questions, like:
— should I just pick the best horse for my mare, the horse who will correct her defects, and emphasize her qualities, and hope for offspring that are “better” (prettier?) than both parents?
— or should I pick the horse a Bedouin would have picked, using Bedouin standards of selection (if these could indeed be generalized), because I want to breed the kind of horse Bedouins — as custodians of the breed — wanted?
I always thought I should do the latter, which is an intellectual view. Now I am not sure anymore. All I know that I need to balance an intellectual view with practical considerations.
Bedouins liked their stallions to ooze power, courage, virility and masculinity. Their liked horses that could do things; their stallions had to have the same characteristics the Bedouins took pride in having themselves. In terms of human masculine ideal, they liked their horses to be the equivalent of firemen and construction workers here in the USA, not top-models whose gender is hard to define. They liked horses like Clarion (photos below).
They did not like “pretty”; they did not like “cute” (“cute” as applied to all things masculine, is a western, post-modern value anyway), and they certainly did not like “exotic” and “extreme”. I am not even sure they liked “classic type”. They would scoff at the colts some rich Gulf Arabs are breeding today, many of them are indistinguishable from fillies. Values have shifted indeed.
In the 1970s, a very typey grey desert-bred stallion was brought from the desert to Aleppo for breeding. He had a more “classic” head and a more dished profile than most desert breds, a head an average Westerner would have liked. His origins were excellent: he was a Kuhaylan al-Khdili of the marbat of ‘Abbud ‘Ali al-‘Amud of the Agaydat Bedouins, and the marbat traced back to ‘Udayd al-Waqqa’ of the ‘Anazah. Yet no one would breed his mare to him, because Bedouins and townfolks alike considered him “too pretty, like a female”. This part of the story tells you about Bedouin’s preference for bold, masculine stallions.
‘Abbud also owned the stallion’s sister, Leelas and he was very attached to her. ‘Abbud was very picky about choosing a stallion to breed her, so much so that Leelas went ten years without being bred. The late Consul of Qatar in Damascus, Yusuf al-Rumaihi, who was seeing such a beautiful mare going to waste, finally convinced ‘Abbud to lease her to him for a year, and bred her to his Egyptian stallion Okaz (Wahag x Nazeemah). The mare produced a daughter, Khaznah, for Rumaihi, and both were eventually registered in the Syrian Studbook in the 1980s thanks to him. In the early 1990s, ‘Abbud finally saw in al-A’awar, the chestnut desert-bred Hamdani Ibn Ghurab stallion of the Shammar a horse he liked, and he sent old Leelas to be bred to him. The result was Leelas’ second and last foal, a chestnut colt called Saad al-Thani, who has now taken over his sire’s duties as the main breeding stallion for Radwan Shabareq (who told me the story). This part of the story tells you that Bedouins liked stallions like al-A’awar, and it’s one of the many reasons I liked this horse, too.