By Edouard Aldahdah
Posted on April 3rd, 2010 in General
The other day, I was reflecting back on what is already ten years of interest and involvment in asil breeding in the USA. Ellen May and Jeanne Craver had asked me to provide some answers to questions they had drafted about the experiences and memories of second generation Al Khamsa supporters (i.e., people whose parents had been involved in breeding Al Khamsa horses, in my case desert-bred horses from a similar background). And these answers, which you can read in the next Khamsat magazine, got me thinking further: “of all the horses and bloodlines I was fortunate to become acquainted with in the last ten years, how come I ended up with a Kuhaylah Hayfiyah mare of Davenport bloodlines”?
Part of the answer is fate. I did some of my studies at the University of Chicago, four hours away from Craver Farms, where there were still some 100 plus Davenport mares and stallions back in 2000. Tzviah Idan put me in touch with Charles and Jeanne Craver, and an ensuing friendship developed that endures until today. Fate again in 2007, when Anita Enander called me and said: “You need to own an Arabian mare, and I think I know which one you might want most”. Things took a life of their and I ended up acquiring Wisteria CF (Triermain x HB Wadduda by Mariner) from the Cravers. Pirouette CF (Javera Thadrian x Piquante by Plantagenet) had always been my favorite Craver mare, since I saw her in 2002, but she had just been sold, and Wisteria was a close second. The grand stallion Javera Thadrian (Thane x HB Diandra by Mariner) had always been a favorite of mine, and he was Pirouette’s sire and Wisteria’s grandsire.
But there must have been something else. I was involved in translating the hujaj (Arabic certification documents) of Al Khamsa Foundation Horses from the original Arabic to English, for the reference book Al Khamsa Arabians III, and as such was given temporary access to copies of a lot of original hujaj. This is when it downed on me that the Arabians known as Davenport Arabian horses (to simplify, the exclusive descendants of the horses imported from the Arabian desert by Homer Davenport in 1906) were one of only two groups of Al Khamsa horses whose desert-bred ancestors were documented by way of these hujaj. The other group comprises many of the BLUE STAR horses originating from the House of Saud.
Hujaj are very important, because they are written documents that transcribe the words of a horse’s breeder, who vouches for a horse’s origin and authenticity in front of witnesses. Of the people involved in a horse’s existence from its life to its death, the breeder (not the first owner, or the second, or the importer) is by definition the most knowledgeable about a horse’s background. This is all the more important when this breeder is a Bedouin man, because Bedouins are the original custodians of this breed. Of course, hujaj can be and have been fabricated by all sorts of middlemen and horse merchants, and even by Bedouins themselves, too eager to sell a horse to gullible foreigners. However, in the case of the Davenport imports, we know for a fact that the hujaj were not fabrications: the stakes were too high (the guy had a special permit from the Ottoman Sultan, after all) and Davenport and his friends traveled in company of a guide trusted by Bedouin tribes, whose leaders put their seals and signatures on the horse’s hujaj.
Other groups of Al Khamsa horses are not documented by way of hujaj, but rather by way of import certificates drafted by consulates, or by way of notes provided by their new owners (e.g., all the Blunt imports, except Meshura, who has a surviving hujjah, but who has no Al Khamsa eligible descendants). Most if not all the original Egyptian horses (those belonging to the Al Khamsa “Egypt” ancestral element, e.g., Zobeyni, Ghazieh, Saklawi I) do not have hujaj that survived into the present time, even though some of them might have been referenced in the Abbas Pasha Manuscript, which is equivalent to a compilation of hujaj, since the Manucript is essentially a record of interviews of Bedouins horsebreeders. Some horses like Mesaoud have brief notes written by their non-Bedouin breeder, in Mesaoud’s case Ali Pasha Sherif, whose stud had a hugh reputation, apparently equal to that of the best Bedouin marabet.
That is not to say that the horses without hujaj are less pure or asil or authentic than others. They aren’t. It is just that the information about them comes from second hand sources, from outside the Bedouin system of transmission of data. Personally I like it that the one mare I own now goes back in all her lines to horses bred by and documented by and vouched for by nomadic Bedouins at a time (pre-World War I) when these horses were still very much part of these Bedouins economic and social lives. This is important to me, as an Arab, and as a student of the history of the Middle East.