The notion of Kadish

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on June 7th, 2010 in General

The word ‘kadish’ (feminine kadishah, plural kudsh) is one you will hear often if you become involved in Arabian horses in their native land, the Middle East. I for one, encountered it very early on in my life. I would be on a visit to a horse farm with my father, and we’d be looking at the mare herd that was roaming freely in large enclosed courtyards or open pastures, and learning about their elaborate origins and pedigrees (‘this one is a Saqlawiyah from this tribe, this one a Hamdaniyah from that clan’, and so on), when a wretched-looking horse typically kept in a separate enclosure would draw my attention, perhaps exactly because he was being left apart: ‘And what about this one?’ I would naively ask our host. “Oh, this one is just a kadish, we use him to pull the cart”, would be the usual answer, often uttered in a dismissive tone, as if discussing the ‘kadish’ further was a distraction from the more interesting conversation about the other horses.  The less people talked about these ‘kadish’, the more the curiosity of the ten year old I was back then was aroused.
On the way back from these visits, I would quizz my father about these ‘kudsh’. What were they? Were they Arabians? Where did they come from? Many of them looked exactly like the other horses everyone seemed to be bent on discussing endlessly, and some of them were even prettier. My father would tell me: “They are horses with no origins, common horses, local horses; nobody knows where they come from, and nobody cares to know”. Yet my fascination for outcasts of all kinds — which endures to this day — would prompt me to keep asking and observing.
These kudsh were not donkeys or mules, they were real horses yet people seemed to use them for utilitarian purposes only. They pulled fruit carts in rural areas, and gas tanks in urban areas, sometimes one could see them ploughing the land, too. I don’t recall seeing someone riding a horse, and upon asking him about it, replying that it was a kadish. Clearly there was no pride of ownership of a kadish, as in Arabians. It seemed like these horses had fallen off some Garden of Eden of horses, and that nobody wanted to reminisce about that fall. People did not keep oral or written records about them — same as with the donkeys.
That mystery remained until the mid nineties when Radwan Shabareq, a Syrian breeder of desert-bred Arabians from Aleppo, with whom we used to board a mare or two, gave me the most satisfying answer to date: the word ‘kadish’, he said, is the colloquial term for the Arabic noun ‘qateesh’, which means ‘he who was cut away’ or ‘he who was cut loose’, and comes from the verb ‘qatasha’, which means to severe or to cut. He added that it meant that links that tied these horses to the population of Arabian horses were cut, severed, and eventually lost or forgotten for some reason or other, typically as a result of human negligence or an adverse set of circumstances. What makes an Arabian horse an Arabian horse, in its native Middle East, is its strain (in Arabic rasan). Kadish have no strain, it was severed, cut (qatasha), discarded and forgotten about.
A few years later, another Arabian horse breeder from Aleppo, Mustafa al-Jabri, was to provide me with a specific  example to illustrate this notion of lost origins. He was telling me about the asil horses of a famous Shammar Bedouin clan, al-Bashat, actually part of the Jarbah ruling clan of the Shammar of Syria, but with ties to Kurdish tribes through their mothers — Al Asi ibn Farhan al-Jarbah was married to Jarjarah the daughter of a Kurdish chief, and al-Bashat were his descendants. Mustafa was mentioning some of the famous asil strains owned by al-Bashat, who collected them from the ‘Anazah and Shammar Bedouins of Northern Arabia, all the way down to Najd in Central Arabia. Ubayyan Suhayli was a prominent such strain, but there were others I don’t recall now. Mustafa was mentioning that in the 1970s, some of the Bashat had sold their horses to Saudi Arabia, but that they could not export them because of some bureaucratic red tape issues (maybe missing papers, maybe veterinary related issues). The horses were all gathered in one place waiting to be exported, they bred on from some time but their status was in limbo and they were not well cared for. Many of them died. A few years later, the bureaucratic issues were still unresolved, the original Bashat owners had died or left the country and moved to the Gulf states, their heirs and agents in Syria could not identify the remaining individual horses, most of which were then seized by a third party and sold as kadish in the horse market of Idlib in Central Syria.
So here is a case of an asil herd whose pedigrees and origins were lost as a result of a negative set of circumstances, their asil status was lost too as a result, and the horses which could not be individually recognized were downgraded to kadish status and sold as all-purpose horses in the kadish market. Yet they are the same horses which were  treasured by their Bedouin owners a few years earlier, and coveted by Saudi buyers. Mustafa’s story shed light on a specific aspect of the notion of kadish which I was not aware of, which is that the same group of horses can loose its asil status, its origins, its strain, and become kadish. Of course, not all kadish were once asil horses who lost their status, but only a tiny fraction. The wide majority of them are native horses who never had known pedigrees, so their parentage and connection to the Arabian horse population, if at all, cannot be ascertained.
An interesting parallel can be drown with the story of the Duke of Veragua horses in Spain, which emphasizes the differences between western and Bedouin notions of purity of Arabian horses. The Duke was the last direct descendent of Christopher Columbus and owned a well known stud of Arabian horses (many of them from Crabbet lines) which was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. The Duke was killed and the papers and identities of his horses were lost, yet the Spanish Government decided to recognize the surviving horses as purebred (Skowronek lines notwithstanding, nobody knew yet that he was a ringer) and registered them under the general label of “Veragua Horses”. Their descendants are still very much at the core of Spanish Arabian breeding today. These Veragua horses, in a Bedouin setting, would have automatically lost their purebred status, and would have been considered kadish.

19 Responses to “The notion of Kadish

  1. hello Edouard,
    in addition to these interesting informations I would like to ask You a question or Your opinion to Halabia of Abu Amin Halabi. Especially what You think about this opinion of “unproven” by Lady Anne Blunt´s beduin studmaster. Thanks a lot!

  2. Halabia is in my opinion a major issue in terms of the traceability of her origins. She is in every single straight egyptian horse by now, and a lot of others too.

    As long as we don’t know who that Abu Amin Halabi was, there will always be in issue with Halabia in my mind. All we know about him so far is that he had a son named Amin (hence the reference to him as Abu Amin) and that he was Halabi (from Halab, ie Aleppo). That’s all we know. And on top of this there is LAB explicitly expressing her doubts about Halabia’s daughter (sister of El Halabi) which came to be bred to her Jamil.

    If we were to apply to Halabia the same standards that we apply to Polish and other horses, then all Straight Egyptians would be stripped off their asil status because of her. But no one is ready to do this, so people are giving Halabia a MAJOR break.

  3. Edouard,

    If, then, there is no record, why is she Al Khamsa?

    Would this destroy Al Khamsa? Maybe this line should be
    recorded as a question? Then do we question all horses?The real answer to this, is being questioned, as can Al Khamsa believe the line and Egyptian Breeding. To doubt one is actually doubting all lines at that time, is this not true?


  4. I don’t know.. I guess former researchers must have relied on the authority of Dr. Branch, of Tibor Von Szandtner, and a number of others who never questioned her, and made ‘reasonable assumptions’.

  5. Is there some way to find out more about Abu Amin Halabi?

  6. Halabia was grandfathered into Al Khamsa from the Blue Catalog.

  7. Edouard, one of my questions was, if You know the exact expression that Mutlak used when talking about Halabia´s daughter to LAB. Second, for me Halabia has a strain that is given by the RAS: Saklawiah Jedraniah. Her name does not mean that she is from Aleppo but that she is owned by the man from Aleppo, Abu Amin Halabi. So her exact origin is unknown, but I accept her as asil, because of her birthday and the authorities of those days using her blood within their asil breeding programme.

  8. I will dig it out for you, Matthias. It was not Mutlak, I think, but Lady Anne Blunt herself. I recall she used the word unproven. But at least we have a strain.

    Two asides: one is the interesting tendency of Khedive Abbas Hilmi II to give Western names to his Arabian mares: Halabia’s real name was Carmen, and then there was Venus, the Hadbah Inzihiyah. Venus was also referred to as “Shakra Zefra”, which is not another name as many people believe, but rather her color: shakra zefra, is the equivalent of ‘roan’ in Arabic, and translates as ‘dirty chestnut’ (ie chestnut mixed with white hair).

    Another interesting tendency is that which has some Egpytian horses being identified after their owners: Nafaa after Muhammad Abu Nafie Pasha, Halabia after Abu Amin Halabi, and Kheir after Lewa (Lewa means army general in Arabic) Ibrahim Khairi Pasha.

  9. Lady Anne Blunt, Journals & Correspondence, page 376, February 18, 1916: “This morning the second Behtim mare came to Jamil. Mahmud told me that she is a daughter of the mare from Aleppo — thus a sister of that horse called Halebi which Mahmud considers unproven — both indeed are so.”

  10. Note that the Blue Catalog accepted Halabia apparently without reservation but sub-listed Lady Anne’s mare Basilisk. This might have been in part because of Carl Raswan’s treatment of Basilisk in The Arab and His Horse on p. 80. The Blue Catalog was the work of a very young woman working from resources that were extremely limited compared to what is available today. On page F-8, the Blue Catalog refers to Halabia simply as a “Saqlawiyah-Jidraniyah mare of Abu Amin’s breeding” which is how she is described in the RAS History.

  11. That statement from Lady Anne Blunt — “both indeed are so” is really damning… and I personally find the tendency to play up the Abbas Pasha horses in today’s Egyptians, while at the same time downplaying horses like Halabia but also Nafaa al-Kabira in the same modern Egyptians rather inconsistent, to say the least.

    By the way, the word ‘unproven’ as used by Mahmud who presumably only spoke Arabic (a language LAB understood well), translates as ‘ghayr mathbut’ which is a term often used in Middle Eastern horse circles to refer to horses that might well be asil, yet there are lingering doubts about their origins.

    In the case of Halabia what is implied by Mahmud, is that Halabia (rather, her son and daughter) must have had a really, really fancy pedigree and provenance (e.g., Saqlawi Jadran of Ibn Zubayni, of Simni, or Dale’ or some other prestigious marbat) but that such pedigree or provenance was unproven — at least Mahmud did not seem to buy it. It is unlikely that the origin from Halab (Aleppo) be what is being referred to as ‘unproven’, exactly because there is nothing exciting or special about an Arabian mare being “from Aleppo”. It’s a city, after all.

  12. Hi everyone,
    Can somebody please clarify for me whether Khedive Abbas II mentioned here is the same Khedive that Lady Anne writes about on pages 323 and 325 of J&C; the Khedive who according to his brother bred his Ali Pasha Sherif mares to the English horse Cedar?
    Regarding El Halabi and the possibility the same breeder covering his Arab mares with non-Arab stallions, is it significant that Lady Anne appears to have not used any horses bred by Khedive Abbas II (if I am correct she only purchased Bint El Bahreyn from him… and of course she ascertained this mare came from Ibn Khalifah)?

  13. On your first question, yes that’s the same person LAB mentions in her journal in these pages.

    On your second question: No, she actually bought Mezna (Antar x Meshura), her favorite riding mare, from him Abbas Hilmi. Antar was by K. El Mossen out of Moniet El Nefous, Meshura was from the same TF as El Dahma.

  14. Thanks Edouard… I had just realised that and came back to correct my mistake. Thanks for replying so promptly.

  15. bonjour,
    la jument arabe espagnole ESTOPA (tabal x uyaima) est elle ” asil”

  16. Non, bien qu’elle soit une magnifique jument. Derriere les pedigrees espagnols, il y a du sang polonais, par Ursus et Wan Dyck, et ces chevaux contiennent des traces de sang perse, turkmene, et anglais sans parler de lignees indigenes polonaises.

  17. je vous remercie,ou peut on voir toute ses informations sur les chevaux asils?

  18. le livre d’ursula guttmann de 1955 est une reference mais il est epuise

  19. L’arriere-grand-mere d’Estopa etait une jument Veragua, n’est-ce pas?

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