Preliminary list of desert-bred war mares imported to the West

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on January 22nd, 2011 in Arabia

When Arabia’s Bedouins tribes engaged in warfare with one another, mares were typically chosen over stallions as war mounts. A number of these war mares found their way to the hands of Western buyers like Homer Davenport and the Blunts, and became part of the foundation stock of Arabian horse breeding in the West.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of such mares, which had actually taken part in these battles and raids:
— Rodania, taken in war by Tays ibn Sharban of the Sba’ah Bedouins from Sattam ibn Sha’lan of the Ruwalah Bedouins; the Blunts bought her from Tays.
— *Wadduda, the war mount of Hakim ibn Mhayd of the Fad’aan Bedouins; Hakim gave her to Ahmad al-Hafiz, who gave her to Davenport. She had two battle scars on her body.
— *Abeyah, the war mare of Mit’ab al-Habd of the Shammar Bedouins, taken in war by the ‘Anazah, and later obtained by Davenport.
— *Hadba, the war mare of ‘Ajil ibn Zaydan al-Jarba of the Shammar, went to two other people after his death, before she was obtained by Davenport.
There should be more, but, as far as I can recall, there is no direct evidence of their participation in Bedouin warfare. Queen of Sheba, for instance, was the mount of Butayyin ibn Mirshid of the Sba’ah Bedouins, but the Blunts do no mention that he was ever used a war mount.  The same goes for Ferida and Jerboa, two other Blunt mares. The Blunts’ Hagar was a war mare too, but she did not leave any modern day asil descendants. Dajania and Meshura were too young to be used in war, but both their dams probably were. Davenport’s *El Bulad and *Mowarda were both the sons of famous war mares, which could  not be obtained, so their sons were purchased instead. *Werdi, Sherifa, Basilisk, *Reshan, and *Jedah were most certainly not used in war, but Kars was, even if it was not in Bedouin warfare, but rather in Russian-Turkish Crimean war of 1878.

5 Responses to “Preliminary list of desert-bred war mares imported to the West”

  1. This is interesting and I would love to have time to comment properly!!
    In too much of a hurry now but as an aside, our horses trace to Hagar, I love Lady Blunt’s description of her under saddle galloping (for fun, it was not Lady Blunts idea if I remember correctly!!!) over the roughest ground for twelve miles before she could draw rein. This is an example of the real PROVEN desert blood that I am alluding to in my perspective on WAHO horses, as I have said before, truly Asil horses are incredibly precious and I respect you all for preserving them. There is however a massive wellspring of wonderful Arab blood within the WAHO pool,sadly lost to Asil breeding but of immense value. I would rather see Asil kept Asil…of course, but used more widely to help gradually dilute out any doubtful lines by engaging with and educating the general Arab overship. As I have said before, Asil horses are a super elite and beyond price, but within WAHO there are a vast number of superb ARAB horses with only absolutely minute flaws in their pedigree ( as well, of course a some utter travesties such as Amer who belong in a sports horse register) tracing to truly great Bedouin horses who are no longer represented in the Asil group, it seems a shame to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    Blimey, I am now late and I actually wanted to discuss other war mares not rant on about WAHO… sorry !!

  2. I have not had time yet to recheck some references that are in the back of my mind,so will wait until I am sure of my facts!
    But just in terms of horses imported to Britain maybe Meshura and Mejamieh belong on the list?
    For Meshura she is described as a ‘celebrated mare’ and as having white patches from saddle galls,foaled in 1875,bought by the Blunts in 1881,so is likely to have been used in war??
    Mejamieh was certainly used in war,against the British.

    Assuming the following…
    Horses are a massive liability to a nomadic tribe ,they are far less efficient than camels in the desert, need more water and better food, so only the absolutely best mares would justify being kept.
    A mare proven in war would be beyond price to her owner, in my experience, nothing makes for a stronger bond with a horse than shared hardship and danger and for a Bedouin a great mare could mean the difference between life and death. It is not only the blood or strain but also that this mare is trained, with the investment of time that that implies, and can be relied on, with all THAT implies for the ghazi’s life expectancy.
    There is ample evidence of the extreme high regard in which celebrated mares were held. Selling an unproven filly or colt may be a more attractive propsition, depending on breeding value of the individual.
    The above of course would apply less to settled tribes who could more easily keep more horses.

    If I am correct in the above, then two aspects strike me..

    1)It is a blessing that any war mares were got from the desert at all, the value of Rodania (who carried battle scars)for example, is evident worldwide today.

    2)re Davenport…What amazes/puzzles me is the extraordinary success that Homer Davenport had in getting such horses as he did in such a ludicrously short period of time, his book reads like fiction (so unlike Lady Blunts measured and accurate notes)…I know that the answer will be found in ‘The Annotated Quest’which I MUST buy. Nevertheless the war mares you listed above, which I understand had unquestionable provenance ilustrate what a valuable resource Davenport blood is.
    (by accident almost, I am happy to find those you mention bar Abeyah in my horse’s pedigrees (:).
    I suppose Davenport was buying at a time when firearms were rendering the war mare of less use (I can’t remember where I read a report of the bodies of 400 dead mares littering a battle ground?) and thus more easily purchased than even 30 years previously?

    All in all whether the buyer be rich Westerners or Egyptian Pashas with enormous wealth and an eye for beauty, I doubt that the very best mares ever left the desert;
    if ‘best’ is to be judged by Bedouin criteria that is.

  3. I believe the timing, political aspects, character of its leader, and other aspects made Davenport’s expedition unique.
    However, I will leave that to the experts to explain. Jeanne, Edouard, R.J., Michael? This is your cue…

  4. You are right! It does take a book of annotations, and some people (Michael and RJ especially) have been doing some amazing work in the 17 years since the AQ was put together.
    I think the original book does a decent job, but the story is epic and we can never know it all.

  5. Meant to say… *El Bulad himself carried a spear scar. I need to take the time to check on the rest. Good topic!

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