Arabian horses are by far one of the most popular and well known horse breeds.  They are very ancient, and many of today’s horse breeds have Arab bloodlines as part of their foundation.  Considered by many to be the most beautiful horse type, Arabians are a very popular show and racing animal.  They are extremely versatile, being found in every facet of equine activity.  They are spirited, fast, full of stamina, and many people find great enjoyment in Arabian ownership.

Breed History

As said before, the Arabian is a very ancient breed of horse.  There is much controversy over its origins, and new theories constantly arise as new archaeological evidence is uncovered throughout the world.  One theory as to the origins is that they were were the original wild horses of Northern Syria and Turkey.  Another theory suggests that they originated in Arabia, and that is where the early Arabian peoples found them and domesticated them.  Either way, around 2500 BC is when Bedouins took horses with them into the Central Arabian desert and began a nomadic lifestyle.  By about 1500 BC the horses were fully domesticated and were being used for all sorts of work.  Around this time people recognised that not only were they useful to ride and perform labor, they were also a way to conquer new lands, and close the gaps between societies.

Egyptian Pharaohs used them as chariot horses, and the animals began to take these lords to new lands and expand their influence outside of their kingdoms.  The horse became a symbol of power and prestige, courage and status.  The Arab appeared in art, on rings, on official seals, and was written about and celebrated by many early poets and writers.

The Bedouin became the breeders that have had the most influence on the domestic development of the Arabian.  They deemed it highly important that the bloodlines be the purest of pure, and devoted their time and energies to ensuring this. The Arabian horse was the most treasured possession of the tribes, as they provided mobility for their nomadic lifestyle. The desert formed a strong spirit in the horse, as the “hot-blood” was needed to ensure stamina and long winded toughness. The weak horses did not survive.

The Arabian horse became a religious symbol for the Bedouin people.  They were sacred and celebrated in many ways.  They were also used as a war horse, and from this stemmed competitions and racing among tribes to determine the strongest, fastest and bravest horses among them.  Mares were the most cherished breeding stock, and it was considered a great honor to be given an Arabian mare.  Bloodlines were traced through the maternal side, and several notable strain of Arabian were developed from the mares.

As time went on and the world became more civilized, the Bedouins would send gifts of horses to European royalty.  By the 1800’s the horses were extremely popular in Europe, and many stud farms were established to facilitate breeding.  This aided in the spread of the Arabian throughout the world, and the horse became a popular breed to use in the development of new breeds, as well as in the improvement of established breeds.

Breed Characteristics

The Arabian is known for being strong, intelligent, brave, durable and kind.  Humans were such an intricate part of their development that it is only natural that they have an affection for their human counterparts.  They tend to be gentle and curious, yet they are capable of great acts of courage and bravery.  They are also very fast, and have great stamina, which makes them a very popular candidate for endurance riding.

In general they are a smaller animal standing about 15 hands tall on average.  They posses only 17 ribs where other horses posses 18, they have 5 lumbar vertebrae while other breeds have 6 and they have 16 tail bones where other breeds have 18.  This is what makes them compact in body, and contributes to their characteristic high tail carriage.  Their head is very refined and possesses a concave or dished profile.  They have a fine tapering muzzle and large intelligent and widest eyes.  They have a distinctive arch of the neck, which gives them a very proud look.  They have refined but sturdy bones, and have good tendons and good feet.  They also have fine and thin skin, and long, flowing manes and tails.  They are generally bay, gray or chestnut in color.

Due to their versatility, they are used in many different horse sports.  They are shown in costume at large Arabian shows such as the Arabian Nationals held in the United States.  They are also used for competitive trail riding, endurance riding, driving, pleasure riding, western classes, and even for reining and working cow horse events.  They have breed associations such as the Arab Horse Societies and the World Arab Horse Organization that are dedicated to keep the bloodlines pure, and which promote the use and ownership of Arab horses.


The Arabian Horse Society of Australia