On Sa’dan Tuqan as Kuhaylan

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?


27 Responses to “On Sa’dan Tuqan as Kuhaylan”

  1. I have long wondered what was behind Raswan’s Ma’naqi theory.

  2. Raswan with his Strain Theory…was a Dreamer,like Karl May.

    In Turkey the Major Star, was the Stunning Chief Sire: “Baba Sa’d”…a Kuhaylan Sa’dan Tuqan, bought in Baghdad.
    His Sireline is the most common in Turkey.
    I will send Edouard a Picture from him…Maybe he will post it.

  3. The primary source of course. As others more knowledgeable and experienced than I have stated Raswans great value came from his wake up call to us in the west to save the at that time- 20’s, 30’s,40’s and 50’s few asil horses. To that end the Cravers for example performed admirably. And in fact were followed by Judy Forbis among others.
    The thing to remember about Raswan though is that he was never trained as even a journalist would be trained to evaluate primary sources and compare them to each other- to ask check questions for ascertaining truth. Certainly he received no training comparable to the way modern day academic phds are developed with close supervision from advisors for thesis development, and the requirement that they defend their thesis before a panel of experts. The experts would have closely questioned him before voting on whethor or not the theory, that the Muniqi strain was crossed off of Turkomans(sp), was worth the the time of day. I suspect that if you have shown the panel of experts renowned Muniqi horses like Haleb or some of the french remount purchased horses ( all of whom showed classical arabian type in every sense) thay would have given it little shrift.
    best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  4. Well that shuts that particular case with a resounding thump doesn’t it?

  5. Raswan was a learned man. And he was also subject to errors. The Shayks are learned men “in their environment” and they too are subject to errors.

    Raswan died before he could make corrections. Ms Jane Ott verified as much as she could and she also had many unanswered questions.

    The Muniqi was much revered by Raswan as per his teachings to Pritzlaff, Jimmy and Thelma Dean, Bazy Tankersley and many other breeders of note.

    Raswan and his Turkoman theory was stated as he learned. Sadly, he did not have the length of years to recheck many of his premises.

    The verbal history of the Arabian, as acquired from the desert is also not subject to peer review, therefore it also must be studied and verified rather than just accepted

  6. Leo you make interesting points, but I have to disagree about the last one about submitting the first hand sources from the Bedouins to equal scrutiny to Westerners’ theories (because they are theories).

    I like these horses, and to understand them better, I want to understand the environment that produced them, to feel it, to sense it. I don’t want to rationalize it, to classify it, to categorize it, and to bring order to it. Just to understand it as it was, not to bring my own grid/lense with me.

    I know the “Muniqi” strain was revered by Raswan for its suppoed special characteristics, but it needen’t be. It’s just like any other strain, it neither needs to be revered nor vilified. All strains are alike and are family names for horses, no individual carries special virtues because it belongs to a certain strain. There are good individuals from every strain, and some of these passed their qualities on.

  7. Edouard,

    as I have stated, “*Haleb, says it all!” Probably the finest Bedouin Arabian Stallion ever to leave the desert! And was considered the finest stallion by most Bedouin, before he left. ( *Haleb simply said it all then, and still does now! ) My argument or thinking is simple, let *Haleb or those who know point out the fact. *Haleb and the others of that importation say more then books or opinions. They are the facts that say it all. They the Bedouins horse and the Bedouin are what we should only be open to see and listen.

    Thanks Edouard, Jackson

  8. What, exactly, did Raswan say about a Ma’naqi-Turkoman connection? Did he say where he got the information, and is it possible his source(s) was/were biased or misinformed?

  9. Of note: Raswan knew the Davenport-Bradley imports well, he also knew their strains, was in the desert, and visited the people there as to this importation. His views held as to the Asil of *Haleb, and his remarks to others, he did not consider the family strain of *Haleb Asil! “Muniqi” strain was not Asil, period, as to Raswan. The Catalog took the stand that it was or was not. Yet, singled out any horses that had no known crosses to “Muniqi.” His, Raswan’s, photo’s in the Index were silly!

    He could have used *Haleb as a photo model, did not!
    I can be outspoken, as well. Yet, I will defend the beginnings of Raswan and the Blue Catalog, they were indeed a great beginning! Thank goodness, for yes, Al Khamsa, and others around the World. Even better, the Bedouin way of living, as they alone are and were the authority on their Bedouin Arabian Horse!

    Find a photo of *Haleb, there is what a Bedouin’s Horse is and was. There are many apples on a single tree, yet
    they are, yes, all apples.

    Jackson/Bedouin Arabians

  10. Leo,
    I have to say that I agree with Edouard’s last point, what shaped this horse was the environment of Arabia and the culture and history of the Bedouin,who cannot in that sense be ‘wrong’ because there are no pre-existing rules on tablets of stone, the Bedouin are the rules.
    I am talking about renowned,respected horse breeding tribes,not marginal or town Arabs, and that is a very important distinction.
    There may be differences of opinion or prejudices between certain tribes, which we can put aside if they are at odds with the prevailing opinion amoungst the horse breeding tribes, or we must accept that there are several schools of thought but to say that a Bedouin sheihk could be ‘subject to error’ regarding his own horse does not make sense to me it is like saying that the sea was ‘wrong’ in the way it sculpted a piece of coastline.

  11. Edoaurd it is allowed, that I send you the Picture from Baba Sa’d ?

  12. yes teymur i will use it soon thank you for sending it to me.

  13. Just I send it…you recived my Message?

  14. What the Raswan Index says about the Sa’dan strain is: “After the SA’DAN left YEMEN they became mixed with MU’NIQI blood in IRAQ.” Entry #8828. This statement does not preclude the existence of asil Sa’dan among the Mutayr and Subay’ at the time of Abbas Pasha, nor does the statement preclude Sa’dan being a branch of the Kuhaylan.

  15. the strain mentioned among the mutayr and the subay’ in the AP mass is Sa’dan Tuqan, the main branch of the strain, with Tuqan being a bedouin from the mawali tribe (and a distant ancestor of queen alia of jordan, originally alia tuqan from nablus in the palestinian territories), the mawali is a northern tribe which was never in yemen but was formed in syria in mamluk times. so by the time the strain went to the mutayr and the subay’s by 1850-60 (date of AP mss) it had already been with the mawali in the north.

  16. Hi Lisa, to quote your comment:
    “I am talking about renowned,respected horse breeding tribes,not marginal or town Arabs, and that is a very important distinction.”
    I do understand your point but I did not want to let it pass without pointing out that each of the “town Arab” sources of information must be evaluated individually since some were understanding and dedicated to the “Bedu horse” and instrumental in authenticating some horses. And in more recent times helping gain recognition for the remaining tribal horses in Syria and elsewhere. They are a secondary source to be sure but not to be marginalized in total.

  17. Fair enough Joe, the same applies even to some Westerners, I hope that I did not seem to be being disrespectful to non Bedouin experts, and certainly not to discredit anyone’s work, but it remains, naturally, that the Bedouin are THE source.

    I suppose I was stating my view, in direct reply to Leo, not that a town Arab or other outsider cannot be right; but that a Bedouin, respected by his peers from a horse breeding tribe such as Edouard cited, cannot be wrong.

    My comments were refering to the past in any case as life has changed so much now,even for the Bedouin.


  18. no problem. I was sure you understood the nuances of this but I felt the need to comment only because each source should be evaluated individually and often early western travelers and writers were skeptical and sometimes created a general prejudice against non-Bedu judgments.

  19. I might add that some of the skepticism was for good reason when the tricks of dealers selling horses in Arab towns was exposed in some of the old writings. I am reminded of the discussion of the “Jambazis” in the 1911 book Life in The Moslem East by Pierre and Emma Ponafidine. It all reminds us that after all our research we still have to rely on reasonable assumption and a bit of faith.

  20. That is interesting! Boy, these strain evolution stories are so fascinating!

    And Joe, “reasonable assumption” just keeps working! It is a good basis for understanding.

  21. Sabbah of Shuwayman Sabbah fame was also a Bedouin man of the Mawali, a tribe that incorporates many elements of the larger Tai Bedouins. The tribes of al-Fadl (plural al-Fudul) and the Bani Lam are also Tai offshots, and so is of course the tribe today known as Tai in Northern Syria and Northwern Iraq.

  22. Tuqan is prestigious Palestinian family today. Check out the poetess Fadwa Tuqan, who is another famous member of this family. Their ancestor was a Mawali chief who settled in Nablus, and his own ancestor happens to have owned the most famous branch of the Sa’dan strain.

    There are other know branches of the Sa’dan strain which are Sa’d al-Hassun and Sa’d al-Nahr.

  23. Reasonable assumption might be the best way to go for those of us who aren’t members of bedouin famalys who are breeding distinguished marbats of Asil horses. I say that because its a framework that builds nicely on most of our academic training- systemic inquiry looking for evidence we can easily quantify. We in the west simply don’t have the cultural strengths of the bedouin breeders. But here in the states for example we can access stud book records, veterinary documentation etc. even tax records and estate sales, and dare i say it Arabian horse magazines.
    Best wishes
    Bruce Peek

  24. The Kuhaylan Sa’dan Al Tukan, have always been exclusively bred by the Muntefik, by the Tauqah-Shammar, and by the Sa’dan clan of the Zauba’ Shammar. The Kuhaylan Sa’dan Ibn Shara’i were also bred in Yemen by Ibn Shara’i of the Bakil. The Sa’dan Al Tukan were also bred by Al Hamad of the Al Tawqan of the Muali tribe, and by Ibn Mas’ud of the Tauqah Shammar. The Sa’dan resemble the long-lined, taut Ma’anagi, but are usually easy to handle and have more rounded lines like the Saqlawi; they are equally broad in the front and in the back, like the Kuhaylan; sometimes fine-boned and small with narrow heads and small eyes.

  25. Teymur this looks like copy paste from Raswan you should cite your sources. why do i know? because Raswan conflates names as usual: Tauqah (a section of the shammar) and al-Tuqan (a family) of the Mawali sound close enough to each other so he makes the strain come from both places. This is typical of his work. He makes analogies based on sounds.

    what he does with strains and tribes is similar to this: Are you from washington dc? then you must be from washington state, too. and your last name must be washington, too; and it is even likely that you studied at washington university in saint louis.. i would personally discard the reference to the sa’dan tribe of yemen as well as the tauqah shammar as fabrications because both sound too close to the strain name saadan tuqan. thee are simply coincidental homonyms.

  26. That is an important point, Edouard, and it is cautionary for all of us who don’t really know Arabic and the Bedouin!

  27. Its one of my Books…yes

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