By Edouard Aldahdah
Posted on January 2nd, 2012 in General
The Abbas Pasha Manuscript [1993, edited by J. Forbis and G. Sherif], which is essentially the transcription by Abbas Pasha’s envoys of Bedouins’ testimonies about their horses, is the foremost primary source on the Bedouin-bred Arabian horse available today. Its hundreds of testimonies is the precious remnant of an oral culture, now long gone. No wonder modern Saudi families and clans who have nothing to do with horses anymore are relying on it as a bargaining chip to ask for favors from the Saudi royal family, or to ascertain their social status (things along the lines of: “Your Highness, my ancestor gave your ancestor a precious mare, they were close, it is written in the horse book, so now I need… from you in return”).
However great the legacy of Judith Forbis as a breeder of Arabian horses of the show type has been, her most enduring legacy, IMO, is to have made this book available to Western audiences. Page after page, the information in the Manuscript debunks many Western misconceptions about Bedouin horse breeding. Really, the only thing missing from the book is an index of the individual horses, strains and Bedouins mentioned.
Check out this quote, page 439 [notes between brackets are mine]:
“The Sheikhs of Subayah [actually, Subay’, a Bedouin tribe long allied to the Aal Saud] came and they were asked about their horses of the ‘Abeyya strain [in context, ‘Ubayyan al-Suyayfi]: Baddah al Saifi [actually, al-Suyayfi] and Shafi the son of Fuhayd al Saifi [ditto] and Mesud ibn Ghadir, the sheikhs of Subayah [Subay’] replied: She is ‘Abeyya Sherrakiya of al Sherrak […]. And we [in context, Fuhayd al-Suyayfi, Shaykh of Subay’] mated the safra, Hosayna, to a Kuhaylan Saada [actually Sa’dan or Sa’d] Tuqan, the horse of Hubaylis of al Qublan of Mutayr. And she gave birth to a shaqra filly whose name is Barissa who is with Shafi, the son of Fuhayd.”
Here you have a Bedouin shaykh, the son of the tribe’s leader, talking about the horses he and his father bred. They mention having bred one of their mares to a Sa’dan Tuqan stallion, and refer to that strain as a branch of Kuhaylan, like the Kuhaylan Hayfi, Rodan, or Mimrah. There is another instance of a breeding to the same Sa’dan Tuqan stallion on page 430.
Now according to Carl Raswan, the Sa’dan strain is Ma’naqi related, and is not a branch of the Kuhaylan. In his (totally arbitrary, IMO) strain categorization, the Sa’dan is one of the strains a purist Bedouin breeder should avoid breeding his asil mare to. If that were true, why would the leader of the Subay’, a major Bedouin tribe in the area of Riad in Najd, breed his mare to a stallion of this strain? and why the Mutayr, another major Bedouin tribe from Najd, maintain a Sa’dan Tuqan as a stallion, which means the strain is shubuw (to be mated from) to both the Mutayr and the Subay’?
Who would you believe in this case? the documented Bedouin primary source, or the undocumented western secondary source?