Using mtDNA to cross-check *Layya’s origins

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on September 24th, 2008 in Lebanon, USA

Getting *Layya into the list of Al Khamsa Foundation Horses was not easy. There were a lot of rumors about the Hearst importation from the very beginning. Many people here in the USA, believed that H. Pharaon, who sold most of the horses to Hearst, was a crook, and that the horses were not Asil, but mongrels. These persistent rumors meant that the descendents of the 14 horses of the Hearst importation stayed out of the radar screen of the US purist breeding community for years. For instance, they never made it to Jane Ott’s Blue Arabian Horse Catalog (new website!). 

Skepticism about *Layya was not limited to US breeders. Some people in the Middle East wondered how Pharaon could have parted with such a precious mare. Also, people took it for granted that the Khamis family of Rayaq, Lebanon, who bred *Layya, would never sell a mare from their prized Shaykhan strain to Pharaon in the first place. Of course this is contradicted by the fact that George Khamis, who at one time was staying in the USA for health reasons, wrote the pedigree of *Layya in his own handwriting (I will ask if I can share a jpg of that pedigree with you). But it didn’t matter. People were still talking fifty years after the importation. 

Despite such skepticism, Al Khamsa accepted *Layya a few years ago, and the current President of Al Khamsa, Jenny Krieg, even owns an Asil *Layya tail female descendent, HS Marayah (Hadaya Nile Anwar x Sherlaila), pictured below.


So last year, Michael Bowling and I had the idea to analyze mtDNA samples of a *Layya descendent (we chose HS Marayah) and compare it with mtDNA from mares of the Shaykhan strain from the Khamis stables in Rayaq, Lebanon. The Khamis bred horses of this strain until very recently, and with help from my father, we easily located a Shaykhah mare born at the Khamis stables. A few weeks later, Michael sent me this short message: 

From: michael bowling 
Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2007 10:24 PM
Subject: Re: *Layya mtDNA

HS Marayah does match the Shaykah mare from Lebanon. They both type as
A34 […].



I suppose this doesn’t leave much to argue about, does it?  

One Response to “Using mtDNA to cross-check *Layya’s origins”

  1. I know that mtDNA is a powerful tool for tracking ancestry through females (matrilineage) and has been used in this role

    And what about the Sire side?

    We are sure that “Neyla” is “Layya’s” dam and that she is a “Sheykha” but are we sure that Kayan is the sire?

    the Donato family use to own the Shaykha’s strain of Rayak,I know that because their daughter is my sister -in-law.When they stop bredding horses they gave their mares to the Khamis.
    Abu Ali Khamis the head of the Khamis family was in charge of feeding the French Army and all Rayack and Zahle knows that he use to sell donkey’s meat instead of Beef to the French Army.

    For your information your, according to old Lebanon trainer’s ,i.e Shebli Hassawi who was assistant trainer to Mazraani at the De Freige stables(one of the most important in the ME at that time for years (he is almost 90 today) told me years ago that famous race horse owner like Marun Misk use to cover their mares by doubtful stallions and send them to the desert to foal into friendly Bedouin tribes and the product brought back to Beirut as DB.Ask your father to give him a ring he will confrirm the story.Everybody use to say that Misk had a fabulous “Eye” for horse when it semms that we was running “ringers” against genuine Bedouin horses.
    If famous people like Marun Misk (One of the most important Beirut street is named by his name)are suspected to cheat what about M.Abu Ali Khamis?

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