Arabian breed information
Arabian horse general information
COLORThe Arabian Horse Association recognizes purebred horses with the coat colors bay, gray, chestnut, black, and roan. Bay, gray and chestnut are the most common, black is less common. True roan may not actually exist in Arabians; rather, roaning in the Arab could simply be a manifestation of the sabino or rabicano genes. All Arabians, no matter the oat color, have black skin, except under white markings. Black skin provided protection from the hot desert sun.
Although many Arabians appear "white," they are not. A white hair coat is usually created by the natural action of the gray gene, and virtually all "white" Arabians are actually grays. There is an extremely small number of Arabians registered as "white" and having a white coat, pink skin and dark eyes from birth, possibly as a result of a nonsense mutation in DNA tracing to a single stallion foaled in 1996.
The Bedouin had assorted beliefs about color, including several myths about the so-called "bloody-shouldered" horse, which is actually a particular type of "flea-bitten" gray with localized aggregations of pigment. One tale states that a gray mare carried the Prophet Mohammed in battle when he was wounded. The faithful mare carried her bleeding master back to his tribe's camp. The blood from his wound stained her coat, and her shoulder permanently bore the mark. From then on, goes the myth, Allah marked the finest horses with the "bloody shoulder."
SIZEThe breed standard for Arabian horses, as stated by the United States Equestrian Federation, describes the Arabians as standing between 14.1 and 15.1 hands (57 to 61 inches (145 to 155 cm)) tall, "with the occasional individual over or under." Thus, all Arabians, regardless of height, are classified as "horses," even though 14.2 hands (58 inches (147 cm)) is the traditional cutoff height between a horse and a pony. A common myth is that Arabians are not strong because of their size. However, the Arabian horse is noted for a greater density of bone than other breeds, short cannons, sound feet, and a broad, short back; all of which give the breed physical strength comparable to many taller animals. Clearly, for tasks where the sheer weight of the horse matters, such as farm work done by a draft horse, or team roping, any lighter-weight horse is at a disadvantage, but for most purposes, the Arabian is a strong and hardy breed of light horse able to carry any type of rider in most equestrian pursuits
ORIGINBesides mythological and religious accounts of the Arab's origin, records show that the breed existed as long as 5000 years ago. The Arab has been very carefully bred throughout its history. The Arab is called "Kehilan" in Arabic, which means "Thoroughbred" a name passed on to the breed of that name due to its Arabian progenitors. The Arab is the "purest" of all breeds of horses. There are many types of Arabs which descend through 5 different lines of females: Kuhaylan El Adjus, Siglavy, Habdan, Hamdani and Obajan. Each of these types has distinct physical characteristics
INFLUENCE1. Asiatic Wild Stock
TEMPRERAMENTFor centuries, Arabian horses lived in the desert in close association with humans. For shelter and protection from theft, prized war mares were sometimes kept in their owner's tent, close to children and everyday family life. Only horses with a naturally good disposition were allowed to reproduce. The result is that Arabians today have a temperament that, among other examples, makes them one of the few breeds for which the United States Equestrian Federation allows children to exhibit stallions in nearly all show ring classes, including those limited to riders under 18.
On the other hand, the Arabian is also classified as a "hot-blooded" breed, a category that includes other refined, spirited horses bred for speed, such as the Thoroughbred and the Barb. Like other hot-bloods, Arabians' sensitivity and intelligence enable quick learning and greater communication with their riders. However, their intelligence also allows them to learn bad habits as quickly as good ones, and do not tolerate inept or abusive training practices.
Some people believe that it is more difficult to train a "hot-blooded" horse such as the Arabian, Thoroughbred, Barb and Akhal-Teke. However, most Arabians have a natural tendency to cooperate with humans, but when treated badly, like any horse, can become excessively nervous or anxious, though seldom become vicious unless seriously spoiled or subjected to extreme abuse. On the other hand, romantic myths are sometimes told about Arabian horses that give them near-divine characteristics
Arabian horses have refined, wedge-shaped heads, a broad forehead, large eyes, large nostrils, and small muzzles. Most display a distinctive concave or "dished" profile. Many Arabians also have a slight forehead bulge between their eyes, called the "jibbah" by the Bedouin, that adds additional sinus capacity, believed to have helped the Arabian horse in its native dry desert climate. Another breed characteristic is an arched neck with a large, well-set windpipe set on a refined, clean throatlatch. This structure of the poll and throatlatch was called the mitbah or mitbeh by the Bedouin, and in the best Arabians is long, allowing flexibility in the bridle and room for the windpipe.
Other distinctive features are a relatively long, level croup and naturally high tail carriage. Well-bred Arabians have a deep, well-angled hip and well laid-back shoulder. Most have a compact body with a short back. Some, though not all, have 5 lumbar vertebrae instead of the usual 6, and 17 rather than 18 pairs of ribs. Thus, even a small Arabian can carry a heavy rider with ease. Arabians usually have dense, strong bone, sound feet, and good hoof walls. They are especially noted for endurance.
Some people confuse the refinement of Arabians with having weak or too-light bone. However, the USEF breed standard requires Arabians have solid bone and correct conformation, and the superiority of the breed in endurance competition clearly demonstrates that well-bred Arabians are strong, sound horses with good bone and superior stamina. At international levels of FEI-sponsored endurance events, Arabians and half-Arabians are the dominant performers in distance competition worldwide.
Mounted skeleton of an Arabian horse
Another misconception confuses the skeletal structure of the sacrum with the angle of the "hip" (the pelvis or ilium), leading some to assert that the comparatively horizontal croup and high-carried tail of Arabians correlates to a flat pelvis and thus they cannot use their hindquarters properly. However, the croup is formed by the sacral vertebrae. The hip angle is determined by the attachment of the ilium to the spine, the structure and length of the femur, and other aspects of hindquarter anatomy, not necessarily the angle of the sacrum. Thus, the Arabian has conformation typical of other horse breeds built for speed and distance, such as the Thoroughbred, which properly includes the angle of the ilium being more oblique than that of the croup, the hip at approximately 35 degrees to a croup angle of 25 degrees. The proper comparison of sacrum and hip is in length, not angle. All horses bred to gallop need a good length of croup and good length of hip for proper attachment of muscles, and the two do go together as a rule. The hip angle, on the other hand, is not necessarily correlated to the line of the croup. Thus, a good-quality Arabian has both a relatively horizontal croup and a properly angled pelvis with good length of croup and depth of hip (length of pelvis) to allow agility and impulsion. Within the breed, there are variations. Some individuals have wider, more powerfully muscled hindquarters suitable for intense bursts of activity in events such as reining, while others have longer, leaner muscling better suited for long stretches of flat work such as endurance riding or horse racing
Arabian health and genetic issues
There are six known genetic diseases in Arabian horses, two are inevitably fatal, two are not always fatal but usually result in euthanasia of the affected animal, the remaining conditions can be treated. Three are thought to be autosomal recessive conditions, which means that the flawed gene is not sex-linked and has to come from both parents for an affected foal to be born. The others currently lack sufficient research data to determine the precise mode of inheritance. Arabians are not the only breed of horse to have problems with inherited diseases; fatal or disabling genetic conditions also exist in many other breeds, including the American Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, American Saddlebred, Appaloosa, Miniature horse, and Belgian.
Genetic diseases that can occur in purebred Arabians are the following:
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). Similar to the "bubble boy" condition in humans, an affected foal is born with no immune system, and thus generally dies of an opportunistic infection, usually before the age of five months. There is a DNA test that can detect healthy horses who are carriers of the gene causing SCID, thus testing and careful, planned matings can now eliminate the possibility of an affected foal ever being born.
Cerebellar abiotrophy (CA or CCA). An affected foal is usually born without symptoms, but at some point, usually after six weeks of age, develops severe incoordination, a head tremor, wide-legged stance and other symptoms related to the death of the purkinje cells in the cerebellum. Such foals are frequently diagnosed only after they have crashed into a fence or fallen over backwards, and often are misdiagnosed as a head injury caused by an accident. Severity varies, with some foals having fast onset of severe coordination problems, others showing milder symptoms. Mildly affected horses can live a full lifespan, but most are euthanized before adulthood because they are so accident-prone as to be dangerous. Though clinical signs are distinguishable from other neurological conditions, the only way to verify a diagnosis of CA is to examine the brain after euthanasia. An indirect prediction analysis that identifies DNA markers associated with CA is available.
Lavender Foal Syndrome (LFS), also called Coat Color Dilution Lethal (CCDL). The condition gets it name because most affected foals are born with a coat color dilution that lightens the tips of the coat hairs, or even the entire hair shaft. Foals with LFS are unable to stand at birth, often have seizures, and are usually euthanized within a few days of birth. There is currently no genetic test for LFS.
Occipital Atlanto-Axial Malformation (OAAM). This is a condition where the cervical vertebrae fuse together in the neck and at the base of the skull. Symptoms range from mild incoordination to the paralysis of both front and rear legs. Some affected foals cannot stand to nurse, in others the symptoms may not be seen for several weeks. This is the only cervical spinal cord disease seen in horses less than 1 month of age, and a radiograph can diagnose the condition. There is no genetic test for OAAM, and the hereditary component of this condition is not well researched at present.
Equine juvenile epilepsy, sometimes referred to as "benign" epilepsy or "idiopathic" epilepsy, is not usually fatal. Foals are born normal and appear normal between epileptic seizures, usually outgrowing the condition between 12 and 18 months. Affected foals may show signs of epilepsy anywhere from two days to six months from birth. Symptoms of the condition can be treated with traditional anti-seizure medications, which may reduce the severity of symptoms. Though the condition has been studied since 1985 at the University of California, Davis, the genetic mode of inheritance is unclear, though the cases studied were all of one general bloodline group. Some researchers have suggested that epilepsy may be linked in some fashion to Lavender Foal Syndrome due to the fact that it occurs in similar bloodlines and some horses have produced foals with both conditions.
Guttural Pouch Tympany (GPT) occurs in horses ranging from birth to 1 yr of age and is more common in fillies than in colts. It is thought to be genetic in Arabians, possibly polygenic in inheritance, but more study is needed. Foals are born with a defect that causes the pharyngeal opening of the Eustachian tube to act like a one-way valve. Air can get in, but it cannot get out. The affected guttural pouch is distended with air and forms a characteristic nonpainful swelling. Breathing is noisy in severely affected animals. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and radiographic examination of the skull. Medical management with NSAID and antimicrobial therapy can treat upper respiratory tract inflammation. Surgical intervention is needed to correct the malformation of the guttural pouch opening to provides a route for air in the abnormal guttural pouch to pass to the normal side and be expelled into the pharynx. Foals that are successfully treated may grow up to have fully useful lives.
The Arabian Horse Association in the United States has created a foundation that supports research efforts to uncover the roots of genetic diseases. The organization F.O.A.L. (Fight Off Arabian Lethals) is a clearinghouse for information on these conditions. Additional information is available from the World Arabian Horse Association (WAHO).
Arabian fun facts
The Arabian is one of the most popular breeds of horse in America. The Arabian Horse Registry of America, Inc. (which was originally called the Arabian Horse Club of America) was founded in 1908. The following year, the first stud book was published and listed 71 purebred Arabs in American held by 11 owners. By 1978, a total of 167,501 Arabians had been registered and the number of registered owners was 53,872, including Canada and Mexico. The highest (non-syndicated) price paid for an Arabian as of this writing was $350,000 paid for a stallion, Cometego, in 1977.
Arabians are found in a wide variety of uses, including hunting, jumping, endurance, dressage, trail riding and work on ranches. The first horse show devoted exclusively to the Arabian was held in California in 1945. By 1949, the A.H.S.A. had established a separate Arabian division. Arabian horse races were first held at Laurel, Maryland in 1959. At the other extreme of competition, the Arabian International Cutting Horse Jubilee began at Filter, Idaho in 1970.
The Arabian has greatly influenced other breeds of horses. Perhaps the most famous Arabian to come to Europe was the Darley Arabian. He became one of the three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred breed. Arabian blood has proved a significant influence on other breeds. In addition to the Arabian native to the Middle East, there are also distinct strains of Arabs in France, Germany, Poland and America.
Unlike other horsemen, the Bedouins only used mares for the hunt and for war. Stallions were used only for stud. Most colts were sold to horse dealers because only a few were needed for breeding. Breeding was only traced through the mares, not the studs. A pure-bred or "Asil" mare was highly revered. It was believed that only an Asil mare could carry one to victory in war.