The head of the Arabian horse – a controversial topic

By Matthias Oster

Posted on February 10th, 2018 in General

In order to start a discussion on the controversial topic of the Arabian´s head two photos of very different stallions of the Dahman Shahwan strain follow: the dark bay Dhahmaan Hoobeishi (Kuheilaan Umm Zorayr Al Dheleem X Dhahma Umm Wajnah) 1998 from the Royal Stud of Bahrain:

Grey straight Egyptian stallion Montasar (Madkour X Maymoonah) 1981 – 2009, breeder and owner the Seidlitz family, Germany:


9 Responses to “The head of the Arabian horse – a controversial topic”

  1. Thank you for raising this topic Matthias!

  2. I think both stallions have good points, the difference of light between both photos and the difference of movement between both horses do not help to make a fair comparison between both.

  3. Two of Dhahmaan Hoobeishi’s points that I admire are his eye cages and his nostrils. Would like to see what the latter look like when fully expanded!

  4. I agree a lot Jenny ^^. Dhahmaan Hoobeishi’s whole nose is really beautiful : nostrils, lips and the greatest chin I’ve noticed for quite some times. Not to mention the quality of his skin and hair. He must be really impressive live!

  5. Bedouin Arabs put a premium on triangular heads. The extreme or intense concavity of the profile, this “dish”, was not something they were looking for. The impression of a dish is created by a high forehead, and a triangular head, which is the combination of a fine muzzel, a broad and deep jaw, and a straight or slightly concave profile.

    There was a derogatory term for horses like the second horse, for this muzzle that is bulging upwards: “Aftas”. It occurs in written descriptions of horse defects from 1200 years ago, all the way down to XXth century Bedouin oral accounts.

    The current standard for the head is a Western invention. In that sense, Westerners invented the modern Arab horse. This invention wasfollowed by the Pashas of Egypt, like Prince Mohamed Ali Tewfiq of Manial Stud, who was Western educated and influenced.

  6. Let me be a bit provocative: the Bahraini bay horse is the real deal, and the grey horse is the Western invention.

    Why? An easy answer is: the wide majority of horses with straight profile are the Bedouin bred ones (including the Bahraini, the Syrian, the Saudi, the BLUE STARs), and the wide majority of the dished ones are the ones in the West. That does not mean that the Bedouins or their descendants were incapable of breeding for concave heads; it just means they did not value it.

    Also the majority of the ancestors of horses with extremely dished heads did not have extremely dished heads.

  7. So from a functional viewpoint the dished western- Egyptian head does not according to the exrays inhibit air flow.. Okay. How about the teeth? Are the two horses both equipped with equally sized straight teeth that aren’t worn against other teeth with every chewing motion of their jaws? If so then I have no objection. Oh wait how about the eye sockets – are they fully functional? The reason the teeth came up is the mini horse breeders have been having great difficulty coming up with horses whose heads don/’t show horridly mishapened teeth. When heads get small and dainty there is less room for proper teeth. We do of course know that the Bedouin did indeed breed at least some dished shaped heads- Abeya comes to mind. Since the western type heads didn’t come from cosmetic
    surgery the genes for them were present in the pool a long time ago.
    Bruce Peek

  8. Edouard, could you please explain what you understand under a upwards bulging muzzle, aftas. The Bahraini horses have been really impressive, from head to tail, including legs and movement. But the same applied to the Egyptian Montasar. Comparing the old desert lines with modern western Arabians: they are sometimes worlds apart.

    The teeth are a good point, but so far I did not find any problems except for parroth mouth/overbite.

  9. From our skull collection (now at the Carnegie museum in Pittsburgh): the teeth vary greatly in size, but not misalignment. The actual bone of the jaw that supports the teeth varies. So with the smaller heads from the eyes down, the teeth are proportionally smaller, and supported by less bone. No skull that we examined (around 200 altogether) had teeth out of line. (Not referring to overbite or underbite.)

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>