By Carl R. Raswan
**originally published in Western Horseman Jan/Feb 1944 issue
Defects in conformation and balance are caused by faulty breeding, by mixing of types, blood lines or strains.
Previous articles have explained this with examples and photos of undistinguished types of Arabian horses in contrast to well-proportioned, harmoniously-balanced individuals of pure strain types. Besides these unrelated and pure types, we have the related strains.
In the July-August, 1943, issue, on the bottom of page 15, I gave a complete list of the related strains and explained to which type each one belonged: To the Kuhaylan-strength; the Saqlawi-beauty, or Muniqi-speed (angular, coarse, plain) type.
Arabians bred within related strains, in spite of their mixtures, always resemble each other in some general way within their individual group (Kuhaylan, Saqlawi or Muniqi). Their various points of conformation assemble like a fixed pattern of mosaic and blend harmoniously into that total picture which we call a distinguished type (Kuhaylan, Saqlawi, or Muniqi) – because they are akin by blood within their group through centuries of inbreeding.
All distinguished types have been established (1) on harmonious proportions and (2) on symmetrical lines.
This applies to Arabians with rounded outlines as well as those of angular outlines, and these harmonious proportions and symmetrical lines are the great “points” which evoke in us the impression of a well-balanced animal.
Kuhaylan and Saqlawi Arabians bred within related (sub-) strains are well-balanced horses. They differ from the original strains only because they have plainer heads and bodies, and a lack of (the more refined) details in their whole make-up. The Muniqi related (sub-) strains show a great variation of conformation among each other (See January-February, 1942, issue, Pages 62-63).
Many horse breeders prefer Arabians of the related Kuhaylan and Saqlawi (sub-) strains to those of the original strains, because those of the related strains have certain points of conformation or distinguished features which please some horsemen more than others. I have heard Arabs as well as Europeans say that they prefer the Hamdani (sub-strain of the Kuhaylan) because the Hamdani have a longer croup and wider back than other strains.
Others claimed that the Samhan have the best muscled shoulders. Polo players in Egypt told me that the Abayyan are the most sure-footed Arabians. One gentleman in Poland, a great Arab breeder, chose color and was enthusiastic over the Hadban’s seal-brown coat with black markings, black feet and black mane and tail. Other horsemen discern the different tail carriages. Some wanted it “level” with the hindquarters, not high-flung. And there are breeders who insist on a combination of beauty and speed (Rabdan strain) or speed and strength (Abu Urqub strain).
Whatever a horse lover holds superior in an Arabian of a related strain usually does not concern the points of the horses’s head. Mostly it deals with points of his conformation.
In previous articles I mentioned that the mixing of the two classic-antique types, (1) the Kuhaylan (including its sub-strains) and (2) the Saqlawi (including its sub-strains), does no harm — as far as Arabian characteristics, harmonious proportions, symmetrical lines and the balance of the whole horse are concerned.
So that there will be no misunderstanding, ONLY the angular type of the Muniqi (including its sub-strains) when mixed with Kuhaylan and (or) Saglawi strains destroy the rounded outlines and takes away some (or all) Arabian characteristics. The mixing of pure Kuhaylan and Saqlawi and their substrains is harmless as far as rounded outlines and Arabian characteristics are concerned.
It is only a question of more or less refinement, finer bone or more muscle, and sufficient or less balance. For example, a Kuhaylan stallion bred to a Saqlawiyah mare will produce an offspring with more flesh (muscle) or a finer (bone) frame; while the foal of a Saqlawi stallion and a Kuhaylah mare will have a stronger (heavier) and wider frame (the mother’s side seems to give size and frame), but lack proportionally some muscle or flesh either in front or behind or on top.
Historical famous breeders like Abbas Pasha and Ali Pasha Sharif of Egypt (1815 to 1897) “threw” a Kuhaylan stallion into their Saqlawi (or related blood like the Dahman) strain every third generation to give more muscle, more width and more strength to their over-refined, incest-bred Saqlawi (and related substrains) — or they took Kuhaylan sub-strains which “leaned” to the Saqlawi type (the Wadnan and Shuwayman) and mated them with the Saqlawi and (the Saqlawi-related) Dahman. The result was well-balanced animals which were neither representatives of strength (Kuhaylan) or beauty (Saqlawi), but rather of strength AND beauty (muscle and refinement), harmoniously blended and balanced and retaining perfectly the rounded outlines and Arabian characteristics of both classic (antique) strains — the Kuhaylan AND Saqlawi.
Lady Anne Blunt purchased some of these supremely fine and perfect horses and retained their qualities as long as she did not mix them with angular Muniqi.*
When Lady Blunt and her successor mated the rounded and angular types, they got away at once from the classic Arabian type and produced horses like Feluka, Nueyra, Rejeb and Selima.
The PURE strain Arabian — as well as the Arabian of a related strain — should conform to the following points:
The NECK must be proportionately long and well muscled (but pliable). It should be neither short nor thin. Even at perfect rest a rounded outline (the crest) is apparent in the Kuhaylan, Saqlawi, and their related strain.
SHOULDERS must be long, never straight, but well sloped (obliquely) and sufficiently muscled where they reach the withers. The shoulder-point below the neck (that is the collar-bone of the horse) must be set deep enough.
The BACK must be short, well-muscled, no “razor-back” but a deep “seam” with muscles on both sides of the backbone (spine). The back should be level, but a slight “saddle-back” (if the top is wide and strong) may be considered harmless. Horses of the Abayyan strain are slightly sway-backed, but carry just as much weight as any others. While the back must be short, the topline from the withers to the tail must be long (long hind quarters, long withers and long, oblique shoulders).
The more slope of the shoulders, the further extended the space in front of the rider, the shorter (and stronger) the back — but the longer the topline and, relatively, the longer the line below (between the fore and hind legs, or rather between the points of the elbows and stifle joints). The missing vertebrae in the backbone make the Arab a greater weight-carrier.
LOINS: The coupling of the ribs and hipbone has to be very close, allowing room for two or three fingers — not more! Misbred Arabians are usually not short-coupled, but badly ribbed-up (flat-sided with roach back), instead of having loins which are short, level, thick and wide across in front of both hipbones. Ordinary Arabs have the roach-back in connection with a high croup (“high behind”) and their tail set on too low. Most of these poorly bred Arabians have an abdomen which is “hering-gutted” (tucked-up flanks, instead of let-down).
See the photos on Page 16 in the January-February, 1942, issue, and Pages 13 and 14 of the July-August, 1943, issue.
Tail-carriage is very important in the Arab. The dock (root of the tail) reveals the black skin of the Arab. The missing vertebrae in the root of the tail insure its graceful carriage and greater strength on account of the shorter leverage. The tail should be attached high (level or almost level with the croup) and issue forth gracefully in an elevated curve from the hind quarters, and not appear like a broomstick set below the croup into the buttocks — nor should the tail dangle from a goose-rump between the hocks.
THIGHS: Long, well-muscled and wide as a base for wider gaskins.
GASKINS: By no means thin. Poor (mongrel) Arabs can always be recognized by their coarse heads, lack of tail carriage and weedy gaskins. An Arabian of the related or pure-strains has wide, strong (well-muscled) firm and long gaskins (long and wide like the forearm).
Compare the photos of the Arabians in this issue with some of those in previous issues.
Many horsemen forget to look at the gaskins and the width of the cannon bone in the hind leg. A glance at these two points reveals quickly and definitely how good or bad an Arabian is.
HOCKS and all other joints of the legs (knees and fetlocks) must be clean and flat — no swelling. Many “beautiful,” well-fed Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqian horses have soft joints. They would never stand the rough life of the desert where endurance tests not only the heart but the legs of the horse.
Hocks and knees should set very low (deep), a sure sign of a (most desirable) long forearm, long gaskins and short, wide cannon bones with large sinews (forearm and gaskins packed with firm muscles). I have found that a deep chest goes with a long forearm. As an outstanding example, see Mesaoud’s photo on Page 14 of the March-April 1943 issue (shown above).
HIND LEGS: Parallel lines of the lower hind legs (profile of the cannon) are the key which reveals the general conformation of the whole animal. It seems impossible for a poor horse ever to have wide and parallel lines in its hind leg (cannon bone). If not wide, the gaskins above are poor (thin), and if not parallel, there is a dent below the hock.
Faulty construction of the cannon bone causes swelling of the hock — and for that same reason in the forelegs too, with a dent below the thickening as in the hind leg. But it is not a fault when there is a gentle curve in the hind leg above the hock. Many call it a “sickle” if it is extremely curved. It is the place where the lower thigh passes into the hock, and a slight bend there indicates a leg of great endurance. The Kuhaylan and Saqlawi and their related strains have it more or less.
A straight (dropped) hind leg, also called “well let-down,” indicates great speed. The Muniqi and its related strains have these straight hind legs. Swollen hocks, knees and pasterns are rarely due to disease, but to faulty construction, and this in turn has been caused by mixing unrelated strains together — the curved hind leg, for example, mixed with the anatomical construction of the straight hind leg.
A pure-strain Muniqi, therefore, is just as good a horse as a pure Kuhaylan (or Saqlawi), and a horse of the related strains which belongs to the Kuhaylan (or Saqlawi) group is just as good as one that belongs to the related strains of the Muniqi group. But we should never forget that the Kuhaylan and Saqlawi groups have (anatomically speaking) an entirely different construction than those Arabians of the Muniqi-related strains.
The Jilfan (which belongs to the Muniqi) are the most angular of the Muniqi-related strains. On the bottom of Page 15 in the July-August, 1943, issue, I have shown which related strains of the Muniqi group are not pure Muniqi type any more, but have so much Kuhaylan or Saqlawi blood added during the last centuries that they can hardly be recognized as Muniqi type.
But when we mix the angular Muniqi with the rounded Kuhaylan or Saqlawi we are liable to get diseased (faulty, lymphatic) joints. Nature tries to adjust itself by enlarging joint ligaments to absorb the strain set up by faulty bone construction. High-leggedness in the Arabian is a mixing of long (angular) lines with rounded ones — lack of girth– circumference, little depth of chest, long cannon bone.
Arabians of related strains should not be confused with those which come from a mix-up of the two main groups (the rounded AND the angular). Those of related strains are either the offspring of the rounded type OR the angular, but not of both.**
I do not try to “feature” any particular Arabian horses (or their owners) through the photos accompanying my articles in THE WESTERN HORSEMAN. I have tried to be impartial and to use pictures only as a means of demonstrating types and certain points, rather than individuals. If photos are submitted to me in care of THE WESTERN HORSEMAN I will select some for use in future articles.
If some Arabians do not get sufficient credit in horse publications, don’t blame the horse. Sometimes it is the photographer’s fault, or the author’s. Don’t cease to love your own horse first, and love it even if it is not photogenic. Some of the horses I have loved were not purebred, nor related in the strain, but “indescribable.” Nobody wanted them but my own heart.
*Some splendid examples are: Rasim (photo on page 10, November-December, 1941, issue); Mesaoud (photo on Page 14, March-April, 1943, issue); Daoud (photo on Page 8, September-October, 1943, issue); Ibn Yashmak, Risala, Rifala, Rifla, Rasima and Nasra.
**For other photos of related strain Arabians, see Pages 9,10 and 11, September-October, 1941, issue; Page 16, January-February, 1942, issue; Page 13, July-August, 1943, issue. For drawings and photos explanatory of the angular and rounded types, see Page 15, January-February, 1942, issue, and see list on Page 15, July-August, 1943, issue.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As has been stated by THE WESTERN HORSEMAN before, neither Mr. Raswan nor this magazine has sought in these articles to promote or detract from the esteem in which any Arabian strain is held. Strain breeding is practiced in the development of domestic animals of all breeds. This and other similar articles by Mr. Raswan have been presented purely for the purpose of clarifying the dominant characteristics of each family or strain. Mr. Raswan is preparing a number of additional articles concerning Arabian horses, to be presented from time to time in THE WESTERN HORSEMAN. The subjects to be discussed include: “Training and handling of Arabians,” “Early Arabians in the United States,” “Arabian Race Horses,” “Analysis of Arabian Pedigrees,” “The Blunt Arabians,” “Ali Pasha Sharif Arabians,” “Arabian Foals,” “Arabians on the European Continent,” “Arabian Stallions,” and “Arabian Mares.”