The problem with sources

By Joe Achcar

Posted on December 5th, 2008 in General

As Edouard said “relying on second hand  sources can be a problem”.I say relying on first hand sources can also be a problem.

Are the sources and information  for accepting a horse as Asil always reliable.?

Take the Egyptian Stud Book we have to rely on the word of Egyptian stud manager who sometimes wrote under “Asil” Anglo Arabs(Raswan index photocopies),we never heard about this horses, were they being used as “Asil” on Arab mares ? who knows? maybe. 

The horses bought from Hazem Pasha( a thcherkesse) by El Hadad were very tall horses,a little bit unusal for Bedouin bred horses.

 the mares height: Geheilt el Sheriff  1.58m, Kheila 1.60m,

Siglavy Bagdadi was 1.56m.Mersuch 1.57m.Those horses were not ,except Mersuch, Hazem pasha breeding.Siglavy Bagdadi is said to be by the Ruweylat,

Wifrid Blunt wrote that Iraqi tribes crossed their mares with Turkmen horses,the south of Bagdad region was  breeding horses for the Indian race market, (Major General Tweedie,The Arab and his horse).

 It is very difficult to recognize a Pure from a part bred ,Edouard father experienced this in Beirut,the only way is inside informers like the police.

Ie:In 1897 Prince Roman Sanguszko acquired from Ali Pasha sherif a white stallion called “Massad”.”Massaad” was “the one sent from the Hejaz to Ali Pasha Sherif (who had never bred from him,not being I suppose ,certain of his origin) and the horse was sold for 11 pounds at the first APS auction.Prince S.says his produce are good” Lady Anne Blunt november 1899. (Britta Fahlgren)

Someone informed Ali Pasha on the horse origins.How many horses have been sold with no “informers” about their origins?

When ,some years ago,Joe Feriss asked me about the Bisharat horses I asked Bisharat Pasha grand son ,my friend,Wassef ,who told me they must have been pure ,”my grand Father would never dare send mongrels to the King, he will be too much afraid of informers” 

This was the power of informers 

What is the Bisharat horses breeding ? what is their strain ? despite this we find Beshir in the pedigree of famous horses:Salaa el Dine,Ibn Galal I,Jamil,Asfour..

Is the Bisharat were accepted as Asil? on what bases?my source as yours ,is Colin Pearsons “the Arabian horse families of Egypt” 

We rightly condemned the Poles for Szumka II 1824 . But Unfortunately we dont want to investigate more our “Asil” horses.

13 Responses to “The problem with sources”

  1. Joe what you wrote is very courageous and I heartily agree with you.. the Basharat horses is an obvious case, but there are others too..

  2. In correspondence, Basharat Bey’s granson, Midhat provided the proper strains of the horses involved, even though they did not get recorded in some publications. The importance of the proper kind of gifting or horses in the Middle East is a significant issue for recognizing the Basharat Bey horses. What Joe Achcar said to me about the risk of giving an “unclean” horse to the King carries a lot of weight. Midhat Basharat’s reputation was on the line and he had too much to lose if these horses he gave to the King would turn up not to be considered “Asil.” I think this was also confirmed by Dr. Ameen Zaher (who was secretary to the King) in a letter to Georg Olms, that this particular gifting was of “clean” horses, and that such a risk otherwise would not have been taken. It was considered on par with the horses that King Abdul Aziz Al Saud gave to King Fouad and King Farouk, yet the mares Hind (Saud) and Mabrouka (Saud) have never been subject to any scrutiny. My position in proposing horses for Al Khamsa for acceptance is that if they can be considered contemporary with the others already accepted, they deserve to be recognized. Recognition is a human judgment problem that can adversely affect some potentially important horses especially when the genetic base is critical. I can’t begin to tell how it saddens me that Ta’An did not get registered while in the US. I had to work to make sure that the Bahraini stallion Mlolshaan Hager Solomon did get registered. Both these horses truly represent “asil” to me yet in the wrong setting they can be overlooked and disappear.

  3. Joe, the (big) problem with the reason you cite for accepting the Bisharat horses is that it is “proof by negation”, a type of argument that is not normally well received in academic inquiry. It is not positive argumentation.

    An example of positive argumentation is: “the parents of the horse are Asil, the reputation of his breeder is excellent so the horse is Asil”.

    An example of “proof by negation” is “a horse cannot be non-Asil because his breeder would be too afraid to offer him to a king, so the horse is Asil”.

    The number of partbred Arabs offered to House of Saud over the years is beyond anyone’s imagination. The racehorse Amer, who has generated a lot of controversy in this blog and elsewhere, is a case in point. One story about Amer is that he was a gift from the sons of Sharif Nasir bin Jamil (Jordanian royalty) to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Is this enough evidence for Amer to be eligible to any Asil Roster (e.g., Al Khamsa’s)?

  4. This is something that causes those of us in Al Khamsa Roster work to twitch and worry. There is a fine line between horses that are asil but do not have all of the seals and those that are not asil in similar circumstances. I do not know the answer. We have made it particular hard to make the Al Khamsa Roster, but that is no guarantee that we have walked the line correctly.

  5. Hi Joe
    Could you kindly explain why the information provided by Medhat Bisharat where not given together with the horses and so recorded in the Inshass Stud Book?
    In the Middle East when you present a horse you inform the new owner of the horse origin’s.
    What is the Bisharat horses breeding?What Strain?how Midhat got the information and Wassef also a grand son have any?
    What is the faith of the Anglo-Arab horses registered as Asil in the Pasha’s herd book?Did they became stallions or broodmares.
    How do you rely on the words of any 110 years ago Egyptian herd book ,when in one of them Anglo-Arabs are registred as Asil?

    How many horses like Massaad,who certainly came with a Hujja,were accepted because nobody inform the buyer of the horse real origin.

    The “Bilad es Sham” were full with non-Arab horses. Damoiseau in his book 1819/20 speaks about Turkmen horses and “Barak” Arabians.
    Pure Man in a sense was absolutely right

    What about the unusual size of the Bedouin bred horses of the El Hadad Iraqi mission?You accepted them as Asil because they came from Babolna.
    These horses are supposed to be Bedouin bred horses(as per El Haddad Book)
    Some years ago you visited the Syrian Mesopotamia have you seen horses with this height? maybe one or two, because the owners,who became farmers were able to give more food to their horses.
    But what about their life condition 100 years ago when they were still nomads?One Bedouin told me once “my grand parents did not fast on Ramadan,for them it was Ramadan all the year” so it was also for their horses.

    From where come this unusual height in these particular horses :a Pure Arab mare of 1.60m 100 years ago!the owner(a Pasha not a peasent,or tribeman) should never have sell this unique specimen.

    Let us see stop seing the straw in the eye of our neighbour…and be more humild and dig more in our horses origin

  6. One thing that must be perfectly clear is that at no time did I propose horses to Al Khamsa on the basis that they would be considered “Asil” in the strictest sense often used here. As far as I know, the term “Asil” is not a part of the AK By-laws for proposals. The criteria simply has to fit that understandably broad concept of “reasonably assumed” to descend from horses bred by the Bedouin (I am generalizing here).

    Years ago Carol Schultz and Carol Neubauer published a book called: “The Desert Arabian Horse, Definitions, Organizations, and Classifications”. In that publication is a chart of concentric circles the very center of which represents in essence tribal Bedouin Arabians accepted as truly Asil by everyone (probably horses like Al Aawar, etc., and horses accepted by the tribes themselves, etc.). Each succeeding circle represents categories that would fit acceptance criteria of various organizations, breeding groups etc., the outer circles representing that which is lesser to least known. I think the chart realistically addresses the world of Arabian horses as it is now. Edouard and I have talked about this before and we fully understand the varying degrees of recognition. Al Khamsa has an open process in which horses can be proposed for acceptance and for removal, but is not based on an attempt to define “Asil.” Most importantly it does strive to educate people to breed Al Khamsa horses as close to the originating culture as is realistic in today’s world.

    The Bisharat Bey horses in general would be within the same concentric circle as some of their contemporaries already in Al Khamsa’s roster so the voters decided to include them.

    As for their breeding, the letter about their breeding was from Bisharat Bey’s son, Midhat (not grandson, my mistake). He indicated that Bashir El Ashkar is sired by a Saqlawi out of a Kahila Ajouz. He indicated that Badria was sired by an Abayyan and out of a Hamdani.

    As for why this was not in the English translation of the Inshass stud book is anyone’s guess. Many documents pertaining to Egyptian horses were in resources hidden and packed away during the 6 day war and later rediscovered. When the original Inshass Herdbook was found it was not published in English until 1974 and was known to be incomplete. After the abdication of King Farouk and during Gamil Abdel Nasser’s Socialist reformations, there was little interest in the King’s horses, considered a plaything only for the rich. Also we do not know how demanding the record keeping criteria was at Inshass under King Farouk, compared to his father King Fouad. A letter from King Farouk’s secretary, Dr. Ameen Zaher satisfied the Asil Club and of course later Al Khamsa. Dr. Zaher also has a degree of respectability internationally. Al Khamsa it is interested in “reasonable assumptions”. The acceptance of the Basharat Bey horses did not rest solely on the fear of reputation. Al Khamsa voters have always required more than that.

    There are so few Hujaj available to add something for most Al Khamsa horses. If a more strict criteria including Hujaj were necessary for acceptance, we may just as well enjoy what we have as pets and lament as we read the history books.

    But the reality is that in today’s Arabian horse world, there is a difference between those horses whose known ancestry have a past connection with the Middle Eastern cultural breeders mainly tribal influenced, and those horses who have some ancestry clearly with non-Arabian horses born in north Europe not influenced in any way by the first providing culture.

    As an interesting aside, Sheikh Humeidi’s cousin Youssef and I had some enjoyable conversations on my Shammar visit. One was interesting to me. I was discussing the Davenport horses in America and he was proud of the fact that they were preserved in the U.S.(of course we know they have Hujaj also which is added reason for recognition). But when I asked him if the Shammar would be interested in re-introducing the old lines of Davenport from the U.S. with the horses of the Shammar he said that it would not happen. The understandable reason is that they new the histories going way back on their own horses but they have no way of knowing who witnessed each of the breedings in the U.S. since the time of the 1906 importation. Here was an example of a group of very “Asil” horses in the U.S. unable to be recognized for breeding by the Shammar tribe today. This is but one reason why all the remaining horses that fall within those center AND middle circles need to be recognized and maintained so that we can at least have some way of staying close to the originating culture as a source and an inspiration for what we call the “Arabian” horse. It is getting further and further away from us all the time.

    Joe, you ask me what I accept as “Asil” but a clear definition that every one universally can agree on first must be established and it has not happened yet that I can see. It is kind of ironic that we who love these horses are faced with the same challenge as WAHO itself did in the early 1970s just to come up with a definition of what a “purebred” Arabian is, and it took them many years to do this. In the meantime we need to continue to support various circles in the chart that give us a feeling we are saving something that is vanishing swiftly.

  7. Joe
    I’m against this commercial use of “Asil” or “Straight” or “Pyramid” or whatever,when we are not sure that what it is advertised is 100% true.
    Take Laszlo,he has treasures,pieces of antiquities,and he keep quiet all this years.
    This man is the editor of a very important horse magazine in Hungary for 14 years:
    he could very well advertise his horses,but instead we knew about him by chance,because of a photo I posted.

  8. I want to reassure Joe Ferriss that I didn’t mean anything to the contrary when I spoke about Al Khamsa walking the line!

    Agreed that Al Khamsa seeks conformity with horses it considers have a “reasonable assumption” of descending entirely from horses bred in the desert by the horse breeding tribes of bedouin Arabia. That accepts horses of those sources that have gone to Europe, or Egypt, or the US, and we feel we can make a good effort to follow those lines back.

    We publish what references we find on each Foundation Horse, whether it is pristine or has warts.

    Joe is right; if we had to restrict ourselves to the horses in North America with no warts, there wouldn’t be any we had to worry about. Our line is to do the best we can.

    The problem of coming together internationally to agree on the contents of the concentric circles seems to me to be as large a stumbling block as it was in previous years, but I hope I am wrong!

    All of us of good will and faith in the bedouin Arabian horse have to find a way to hang together!

  9. I am not sure that anything I said had to do with commercialism. Neither did I say anything about straight or pyramid in my reply. I think what I am trying to address is the bigger picture of being faithful to the kinds of horses that the Bedouin bred, used, and passed on to others. If we are unable to agree on how to define what is left of the “asil” horse we must at least be faithful to the intentions of the Bedouin with what we have left that is closely aligned to that ideal. I think the spirit of Al Khamsa has been true to that goal from the beginning. While I may from time to time be associated with Egyptian breeding because of my writings, those who know me know that my belief is in the preservation of the kind of horse that the Bedouin relied upon regardless of where that remains geographically.

  10. We rightly condemned the Poles for Szumka II 1824.

    I’m not sure that Szumka II’s dam is really in a different category from the other Slawuta taproot mares. Britta Fahlgren’s book points out that “Wladyslaw Sanguszko is the only primary source to mention the ‘English mare’: three Szumkas are to hand to be her son. Of Polka herself no more is known than her date of birth, 1808.”

    Ursula Guttmann’s book from 1968 assumed that the Szumka out of the English mare was Szumka II 1824, and that therefore Polka was the English mare referenced by W. Sanguszko. Carl Raswan had followed the same line of reasoning a few years earlier in The Raswan Index (see entry 7679 for Polka but also entry 10232 in which he mentions that there were multiple stallions named Szumka and it’s possible that one of the others was out of the “English mare” that W. Sanguszko obliquely referenced).

    Then came Wojciech Kwiatkowski’s book on Babolna in 1994, which describes Polka as Slawuta broodmare #14, gives her a color of dark bay, says she was bred at Slawuta, that her sire was Gniady, a horse purchased in Vienna in 1793, and that her dam was a mare also named Polka and also bred at Slawuta. That does not sound like an English origin to me.

    I’m not sure which Poles you are condemning, or why. During the days when the Slawuta stud bred from Szumka II in the 1830s and 1840s, the Sanguszko family, to my knowledge, never claimed to be breeding purebred or asil Arabians. I doubt that, at that early date, very many people in Europe even understood the concept of a pure breed of horse, although I could be wrong.

    In later decades, I don’t think the Sanguszko or Potocki families ever held their horses out to the Blunts to be “mazbut” in the same way that the Blunts regarded their own horses at Crabbet.

  11. Dear R.J
    I fully agree with your point of vue.
    I wrote :”Rightly” because we dont have all the elements in hand,about SzumkaII, not because of any thouroughbred blood.

    Quoting Britta Fahlgren:
    “One promising line of discussion is the breeding of the Slawuta mare Adelia 1857,her dam was Rolka 1844 and her granddam Rolka 1835 ,in Russian ,the word that is spelled Polka is prounouced Rolka.

    Of Polka,Lady Blunt,visiting the Potocki’s(Skoworonek breeders),heard nothing”She sounds like a Polish mare” Szumka II however was a”doubtful sire” but this was only because of his dam Polka ‘s unknown background rather for any known flaw.Any pedigree such as Polka’s which stopped short of desert bred parents was sufficient for Lady Anne to automatically eliminate both horse and produce as pure-bred Arabian(Later in her life ,her selectivity extended even to Desert-bred Arabians,(Ali Pasha Sherif and Massad db).End of quoting

    I respect ,and I say it many times ,the Polish horse breeders,for the quality of their horses (being full-blooded Arabs or pure bred Arabs)

    On the other hand all the horses considered as Asil in all the organisations(Al Khamsa ,Asil Club,Pyramid Society or others) may not be as Asil as they think.

    Until now nobody could answer my question on the faith of Anglo-Arabs born 1894/95(Arab sire ,dam Thouroughbred mare) considered as Asils at His Excellency (in Arabic Sa’adet dawlato)Abd el Halim Pasha stud book.(he could be of the Royal family.Nubar pasha(first prime minister of Egypt) memories book)

    We have to rely on Egyptian Stud Manager’s or on paper works written by a “Katib”(the one who is in charge of writing)for the horses origin.Even from the Abbas Pasha HilmiII stock who was the RAS first Arab horses foundation stock in 1914 and what if one of these Anglo Arabs were used on them as an Asil stallion?

    Massad db came from Hejaz with a Hujja,nobody could send a horse without a Hujja to Ali Pasha,even tough he was culled by the Pasha because of its origin.So it seems that even a DB can have a wrong hujja.

    Did the Bisharat horses came with a hujja to Inshass?who sign it?why their origin does not apear in the Inshass stud book and later in the Egyptian stud book? we have only to rely on the Bisharat grand-son word for their origin to accept them as Asil.

    At the same time we deny the Asil status for Denouste because one of its ancestor the mare Kalifa 1845 have some problems.

    We accept the El Hadad Iraqi bought horses even tough some desert-bred
    mares were 1.57m or 15.4 hands and 1.60m or 15.7hands (Geheilet el Sheriff and Keheila)very unusual for desert-bred mares.
    This day is the sacrifice day for our Moslem brothers, remembering our common ancestor Abraham,
    Al salam aleikum,may peace be on all of you.

  12. Dear Joe, Al salam aleikum to you as well. I have the greatest respect and admiration for you and your knowledge and I am glad that you are challenging our thinking on this blog. We always need to revisit our ideas.

    As far as I know Al Khamsa does not use the term “Asil” in classifying its horses. But I think your points are becoming clearer here. It seems you indicate that if “asil” in the strictest sense cannot be applied always, then considering the “reasonable assumption” approach like Al Khamsa uses should be applied in a broader way to the history of other horses not currently acceptable to many. Also you mention the curiosity of accepting unusually tall horses.

    I think there are two things involved here: Culture and Science.

    The culture of hujaj has a long an old history which has not always been valued by those non-Bedu people obtaining horses so did not always receive the same respect for preservation that it perhaps should. [How many of us have kept the instructions given to us by a manufacturer of a product, for proper care of our purchase and instead tossed them away?] We have to make reasonable assumptions and also have a certain amount of faith to fill in the void of the absence of hujaj. (By the way Besheir El Ashkar and Badria information is from Basharat Bey’s son, not grandson). From the Blunt dairies we read that the Blunt’s acquired the mare Bint El Bahreyn from the Khedive and was bred to a thoroughbred (Cedar) before she obtained her since the Khedive also had thoroughbreds and was giving up his breeding of Arabians in favor of concentrating on Thoroughbreds. Bint El Bahreyn was described as high on the leg and imperfect head, too long. But we have faith that things were kept straight at the Khedive’s stud, and Bint El Bahreyn was as represented, and she becomes an Al Khamsa Foundation mare. I don’t know that the Khedive provided a hujah for Bint El Bahreyn (who he received as a gift from the Ruler of Bahrain) and no hujah is mentioned to my knowledge.

    The science of “asil” horses is tied to the life style of the Bedouin who live and migrate over a huge geographic area. Certainly this life style over this broad and varying geography would cause a variation in size, looks, substance, etc., depending what a particular tribe’s needs are in their defined territory. It seems unlikely to me that unusually tall horses like Thoroughbreds would do well in this broad desert geography, but who knows what happens when some of these horses are no longer bred within the lifestyle needs of the Bedouin but rather bred to fit the tastes of city dwellers who engage in racing, etc. Lady Anne Blunt criticized some of the tall horses of Dr. Branch but who is to say by looking which ones have the “fly in the ointment”?

    This is why I repeat what I said before that to me Al Khamsa does not define “Asil” in relation to its acceptance criteria, but it does encourage study and appreciation for the providing Bedouin culture so that when breeding horses there is some focus on what we are actually charged with preserving. It uses lots of ancestral pictures in its publications which is a great asset.

  13. Leaving aside any commentary but size:

    Charles and I were surprised at the sizes listed in Ammon, and I was especially glad to have Karen Kasper’s photos of the skeleton of Bairactar. In the “non-flesh” he appeared to be quite a normal size Arabian. We used the photo in Al Khamsa Arabians III, with Karen standing beside him as added scale.

    Then recently I read on, I believe, about an early European method of measuring from the wither to the ground, but following the barrel. This was said in the discussion to be the basis of those early large sizes for the Weil horses.

    This is not something I know, and I would surely love to know about it!

    Interesting thread!

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