Arabian Horse Influence in History

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Posted by Sadie from D007072.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 at 8:09PM :

In Reply to: "King of the Wind" father of thorou posted by Sadie from D007072.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 at 7:54PM :

Arabian Horse History
by Becki Bell
The Arabian Influence

The next time a Quarter Horse owner turns her nose up at your Arab, remind her that without the Arab breed, the Quarter Horse she's sitting on wouldn't even exist.

The Quarter Horse isn't the only breed that owes some or all of its existence to the Arab. The Thoroughbred breed, for example, was founded on Arabian bloodlines. Most Thoroughbreds can trace their ancestry to one of two Arabians (the Godolphin Arabian or the Darley Arabian), or to a stallion of middle-Eastern blood, known as the Byerly Turk.

The Thoroughbred breed as we know it today was the result of deliberate crossbreeding in an effort to produce a better racehorse. The three foundation horses were bred to English mares, who were physically stronger but lacked the ability to sustain high speeds over long distances. Over the years, the classic Arabian features such as the dished face and the slender build have been bred out of the modern Thoroughbred in favor of the breakneck speed the breed is now known for, but the Thoroughbred, in large part, owes its stamina and courage to its Arabian ancestors.

Somewhat less well-known is the heavy influence the Arabian has had on the Percheron. Though the Percheron is a heavy horse with all the qualities of other draft breeds, it also has a refined look that can probably be attributed to its Arabian ancestors. Originating in the "La Perche" region in north western France, the Percheron can trace its ancestry back to 732 A.D., when the invading Moors abandoned their Arabian mounts after their defeat at the Battle of Tours. These Arabs were crossed with the heavy local Flemish horses to produce the foundation of the Percheron breed. Several hundred years later, French crusaders returning from the Holy Land after the first crusade brought more Arabs with them, and these horses were bred into the local Perchreon population. The practice continued into the 18th century, when the Royal Stud at Le Pin actively encouraged Percheron breeders to cross their stock with Arabs to further refine the breed.

Another European breed that was influenced by the Arabian is the Trakehner of Germany. The Trakehner breed was founded in 1732 by King Frederick Wilhelm I of Prussia, who wanted his soldiers to have warhorses that were faster and sounder than those typically found in Prussia at the time. He established a royal stud at Trakehnen and crossed Schwaike mares (the small native breed) with Thoroughbreds and Arabians. The best of these crosses were used in their highly selective breeding program, while those considered substandard were sold as riding horses.

The Halflinger, a breed that can trace its origins to medieval Austria and northern Italy, is also beholden to the Arabian for many of its modern qualities. Folie, the Halflinger's foundation stallion, was sired by a half-Arab called El' Bedavi XXII.

Even the Friesian breed, so distinctly different from its Arabian ancestors, would not exist as it does today without Arabians. Its trademark high knee-action, small head, and arched neck can be attributed directly to the Arabian blood that was introduced to the breed during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Today, Arabians are still being used to improve breeds all over the world. Many warmblood breeders are breeding their stock back to the Arabian in an effort to solve some of the soundness problems caused by an over-heavy build. Recently, though for a limited time, the American Trakehner Association opened its stud books to Arabian horses. Oldenburg horses were recently crossed with Arabians. And with the American Saddlebred, the Arabian forms the foundation for the National Showhorse, a relatively young breed, which is still developing today.

The complete influence the Arabian horse has had upon the horse breeds of the world cannot really be quantified. For centuries, whenever breeders saw the need for improvement in horses of any kind, they often brought Arabians in to do the job. As a result, the blood of these middle eastern horses can be found in the stock horses of Australia, in the small "native" horses of Japan, in many English breeds, and yes, even in the blood of the roughstock American Quarter Horse.

-- Sadie
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