18 Interesting Arabian Horse Facts
Arabian horses are one of the oldest breeds that are known. It is often considered to be the first domesticate breed of horse and is recognized as being over 5,000 years old. Originally bred in the Middle East, Arabians are now throughout the world and the oldest purebred horse in the world today. Many of today’s “modern” breeds have Arabian genetics at some point within their bloodlines.
Here are some additional fascinating Arabian horse facts so that a greater familiarity with this very popular breed can be obtained.
#1. Arabians are known for the physical endurance.
The original Arabians were bred by the Bedouin tribes along the Arabian Peninsula. Dating as far back as 3000 BC, they used their horses for travel and war because of their physical endurance. Arabians have a large lung capacity and great strength, giving them the ability to travel long distances in desert conditions without much difficulty.
#2. All Arabian horses have the same physical trait.
Arabian horses always have black skin underneath their coat. The only exception to this skin trait is when there is white hair as part of the coat. It is believed that this skin color developed as a way for the horse to be protected from the hot desert sun that is present in the Middle East.
#3. Arabians are usually bay in color.
Bay is the most common coat color for this horse breed. Other color variations include black, grey, chestnut, and roan. Some Arabians may have palomino coloring, but this coat color may not be recognized as part of the breed standard and could prevent the horse from being registered.
#4. The skeleton of an Arabian is different than any other horse.
Horses today have skeletons that offer 18 pairs of ribs and 6 vertebrae. Arabians have one fewer vertebrae and two fewer ribs. This hasn’t affected their overall height or stature when compared to other horses, however, as the average Arabian will stand at least 14.1 hands in height and weigh between 850-1,000 pounds.
#5. Arabians were once given the nickname the “Drinkers of the Wind.”
This nickname was due to their overall speed, strength, and endurance. During the later days of the Egyptian empire, these horses were often used to pull chariots. Sometimes they may have even been used for racing in addition to the benefits of having an Arabian around for transportation needs.
#6. There are specific breed racing events held in the US for Arabians.
Arabian horse racing events that are breed-specific have existed in the United States since 1959. The average race for Arabians is 6 furlongs and the biggest event of the year is the Arabian Cup Championship. Arabian racehorses are one of the most affordable racing investments that exists in this part of the horse industry, with the average price for a racing horse falling between $5,000-$20,000 in most circumstances.
#7. More than 500 horse shows for Arabians are held every year.
In the US, more than 500 sanction Arabian Horse Association events are held annually. These events are sanctioned by the US Equestrian Federation and several different competitions are available for the breed. This includes equitation, sidesaddle, and dressage. Each horse that competes accumulates points toward various achievement awards.
#8. Arabian horses have several genetic concerns as a breed.
There are 7 specific genetic disorders that commonly affect this breed of horse, which is more than average for modern horse breeds today. This includes cerebellar abiotrophy, lavender foal syndrome, juvenile epilepsy, and Wobbler’s Syndrome. Certain immune system disorders are also common within this breed, as are certain physical malformations.
#9. Arabians are one of the few breeds of horses that can actually dance.
Dancing might be too strong a term, considering the techniques used for dancing are more like dressage techniques and show gaits. The tradition of dancing Arabians, however, dates back for more than a century and is often included as an informal part of shows around the world.
#10. Arabian horses are a foundational component of many myths and legends.
There are several stories that involve Arabian horses that have been offered throughout history. It is said that King Solomon was gave an Arabian stallion as a gift and every hunt that included this horse was successful. Another says that the Prophet Muhammad had five mares return to him after he set his herd loose to drink at an oasis and these mares became the five strains of Arabian horse.
Another says that an angel told the wind to stop swirling, so it gathered itself and the dust into a horse that would become the first Arabian.
#11. The lineage of many Arabian horses can be tracked for hundreds of years.
For the Bedouin tribes, the ancestry of each horse was tracked through oral traditions. Crossbreeding horses with “non-pure” blood was expressly forbidden. The Bedouins didn’t believe in gelding male horses either, so very few colts were kept and this helped to increase the strength of the Arabian bloodline while providing foundational genetics for several other horse breeds.
#12. Arabian horses were introduced to Europe because of war.
It is believed that the earliest horses with Arabian genetics came to Europe in the late 1000s because of wars that were being fought. When armies from Europe invaded Palestine, including during the years of the Crusades, the victorious knights would often return home with Arabians as part of their victory. As larger horse breeds were developed, Arabians then became light cavalry horses that were used for war until the 1900s.
#13. The rapid increase of Arabians in Europe came from a single failed attack.
In 1522, the Ottoman Empire sent more than 300,000 horse-mounted troops into northern Europe. The goal was to conquer Hungary and the surrounding region. The Hungarians, joined by the Polish armies, were able to defeat the Ottoman advance in 1529 near Vienna and captured a majority of the horses brought in the process. Many of these horses would become foundational bloodstock for Europe’s major studs.
#14. One breeding operation had a profound effect on the Arabian breed.
The Crabbet Park Stud was one of the most influential breeding operations in all of Europe. It was started in 1877 and numerous trips were taken to the Middle East so that the best Arabians could be brought back to England for breeding. Over nearly 100 years, this program would breed and export world-class Arabians around the world, having a dramatically positive impact on the breed.
The only thing that stopped the Crabbet Park Stud was the creation of a motorway through the property that forced its sale. This dispersed the horses and ended the program that arguably made the modern Arabian the horse that it is today.
#15. In the early 1900s, the Arabian breed was almost completely decimated.
The Russian Revolution stopped almost all breeding programs for Arabians under their control. World War I stopped most breeding programs as well. In Europe, there were believed to be just 17 purebred Arabians that remained by 1932 that were documented in studbooks. More studs were lost or destroyed in the aftermath of World War II. At one point in Europe, just three breeding programs were operational.
#16. The end of the Cold War brought a recovery in the Arabian breed.
Arabian horses were rare in the Americas until 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Those that were in the Americas were often half- or quarter-breed horses. The few pureblood Arabians that did get imported were highly prized and sought after. It wouldn’t be until the 1990s when breeding programs in the West would be started.
This added interest and breeding caused the formation of the World Arabian Horse Association to be formed around the time the European Union was formed. Today Arabian horses can be traded all over the world.
#17. George Washington rode a half-Arabian mount in the Revolutionary War.
One of the primary mounts for General George Washington was named Blueskin. He was a half-Arabian who was believed to be sired by a stallion that was owned by the Sultan of Morocco. There is a rich tradition of owning Arabians in the Presidential lineage of the US. Martin Van Buren received two Arabians in 1840 as a gift and Ulysses S. Grant receive an Arabian stallion as a gift as well.
#18. All American Arabians were lost after the Civil War.
There was an effort to breed Arabians in the United States in the mid-1800s. A. Keene Richard was known to specifically breed Arabians, but all of his horses were lost during the Civil War. He was also suspected of crossbreeding Arabians and Thoroughbreds. There are no known purebred descendants.
With their high tail carriage and the height of how they carry their head, Arabians continue to be one of the most distinctive horse breeds in the world today. These Arabian horse facts show that even if a breed is ancient, it still has the power to influence the modern world in many ways.