Arabian Horse Qualities, History, and Competitions

Updated on June 15, 2019
Emmy ali profile image

Eman is a writer and engineer. She loves horses, especially the Arabian horse.

The Arabian horse is one of the most popular breeds out there.
The Arabian horse is one of the most popular breeds out there. | Source

The Arabian horse is one of the Light Horse breeds. It is also one of the oldest breeds of horses. The breed is distinguished by their distinctive head and high tail carriage. Their origins date back 4,500 years. They originated on the Arabian Peninsula and spread in all countries of the world either through trade or wars. Arabian horses used to be breed with other breeds to improve the abilities of the selected breed's patience, accuracy, speed, and possession of strong bones. The breed is most present in horse riding.

The Main Organic Qualities of Arabian Horse

The original Arabian horse is characterized by the beauty of the exterior, as its trunk is magnificently harmonious.

Small, refined, wedge-shaped head that is homogeneous with the neck and rest of the body
The number of lumbar vertebrae is less than one or two vertebrae in the Arabian horse than other horses
Small ears that are generally smaller in stallions than in mares
Limbs are solid and prominent tendons end with a small rounded hoof and solid steel
Colors are gray, white, brown, blond, or black
Height is between 145 and 160 cm
Large, bright and intelligent eyes
Long, arched neck
Soft skin
Thin, soft, shiny and short hair
Back is rich in muscles
Small muzzles
Broad forehead
Large nostrils
High-carried tail
This skeleton shows the underlying structure of breed characteristics including short back, high-set tail, the distinction between level croup and well-angulated hip. This specimen also has only five lumbar vertebrae.
This skeleton shows the underlying structure of breed characteristics including short back, high-set tail, the distinction between level croup and well-angulated hip. This specimen also has only five lumbar vertebrae. | Source

Characteristics of Arabian Horses

  • All horses', especially Arabian horses, love music and have distinctive rhythmic movements when they hear the tunes of drums, flutes and other instruments.
  • High fertility, infertility cases of the Arabian horse or mare is very rare. The Arabian horse does not lose its reproductive power even if it is older than 30 years.
  • They is cured quickly of wounds and fractures of bones.
  • It has an excellent respiratory system and large thoracic cage, which helps to bring large amounts of oxygen to the lungs.
  • The Arabian horse is characterized by courage and enthusiasm.
  • The ability of the horses to endure trouble is beyond description.
  • Pure Arabian horses are loyal to their owners, especially if they are the ones who raise them and train it themselves.
  • The authentic Arabian horse has a sharp memory, especially for the places it goes through, or the people who deal with it.

Arabian Horses Throughout History

Arabian horses have been documented serving many functions all over the world throughout history in various eras and countries all over the world including:

1. The Ancient World

2. In Islamic History

3. Egypt

4. Maghreb

5. Europe

6. Central and Eastern Europe

7. America

8. Australia

1. The Ancient World

Warhorses were common drawing subjects in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamiaand were characterized by concave faces and raised tails. Usually, horses appear in drawings, when pull chariots or are used in hunting. Eastern-style horses appeared in works of art in the Greek civilization and the Roman Empire. The first appearance of the name of the Arabian horse was in Persia about 500 BC. These semi-Arab horses share the contemporary Arabian horse in many features including speed, patience. A horse structure was discovered in the Sinai dating back to 1700 BC believed to be the oldest evidence of a horse in ancient Egypt that was probably brought into Egypt by the Raiders of the Hyksos. This horse had a wedge head, a small muzzle, large eye, and all features of the Arabian horse.

2. In Islamic History

After the Hegira (the migration of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD), the Arabian horse spread in the known world of the time and became a recognized breed. By 630 AD Islam spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In 711, the Islamic conquest arrived in Spain, and Muslims dominated most of the Iberian Peninsula in 720 AD. The horses of the conquerors were a variety of oriental species, including the Barbhorse and the Arabian horse. The Arabian horse also spread through the Ottoman Empire, which appeared in 1299 AD. The Ottoman Empire possessed many Arab horses through trade, diplomacy, and war. Ottomans also encouraged private breeding farms to ensure the supply of horses.

Did You Know?

The most famous Arabian horses are Horse Godolphin, Horse Darley Arabian and Byerly Turk Horse.

3. Egypt

Egypt historically brought Arabian horses from the desert of Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula as a source of pure horses. In the thirteenth century, Sultan (Ruler) An-NasirMuhammad ibn Qalawun and Sultan al-Zaher Barquq imported many horses from the Arabian Peninsula. Mohammed Ali established a breeding farm at the beginning of the 19th century by importing a few of the Arabian horse's dynasties from the Arabian Peninsula. His son Ibrahim and his grandson Abbas Helmi continued to import and care for the original Arabian horses.

4. Maghreb

Arabian horses entered Arab Maghreb Countries with the Islamic conquests in the seventh century AD, as well as with the migration of Arab tribes to North Africa. They are considered the main horses in the Tbourida Fantasia (performance), which have been part of Moroccan folklore since the 15th century. Moroccans have hybridized Arabian horses with the breed of Berber horses to obtain a more powerful breed.

Battle of La Higueruela, 1431. Note the differences in tail carriage of the various horses in the painting. The Arabian's high-carried tail is a distinctive trait.
Battle of La Higueruela, 1431. Note the differences in tail carriage of the various horses in the painting. The Arabian's high-carried tail is a distinctive trait. | Source

5. Europe

The first arrival of the Arabian horse to Europe was indirectly through Spain and France or through the fighters returning from the Crusades, which began in 1095, where European armies reached the desert of Palestine and many of the cavalries returned with the Arabian horses they had obtained from the spoils of war. Also, the breed arrived in Europe when the Ottoman Empire sent 300,000 cavalries to Hungary in 1522. Many of the Turkish cavalries were riding authentic Arabian horses. In 1529 the Ottomans arrived in Vienna, where the Polish and Hungarian armies were able to stop them. These armies took the horses from the defeated knights. Some of these horses were introduced to the main farms in Eastern Europe as a source of pure Arabian horses.

6. Central and Eastern Europe

During the 18th century AD, most of the major Arabian horse farms in Europe were established specialized in preserving their purity. The Brucians established the royal farm in 1732, the first purpose of which was to supply the royal stables with the horses, but soon many other farms were established, serving other purposes, including supplying the PrussianArmy with Arabian horses. By 1873, English observers felt that the Prussian knights were far superior to the British. English observers attributed this superiority to the ancestors of Arabian horses.

Other state studs included the Babolna Stud in Hungary, established in 1789, and Weil stud in Germany (now called the Marbach Stud Farm) established by King William I of Vittembark in 1817. King James I (BBC - History - James I and VI) of England imported the first Arabian horse to England in 1616. They were introduced into the European race, especially in England through the three horses of Darley Arabia, Burley Turk, Godolphin Arabian and the three who are the basis of the modern Thorobrid dynasty.

During the 18th century, the need for Arabian horses to improve the local European breeds of equine horses of the European armies increased, creating the need for increased trips to the Middle East. Spanish Queen IsabellaII sent her representatives to the Arabian Desert to buy horses. By 1893, the government farm Yogada Militar was established in Córdoba, Spain, to breed both Arabian and Iberian horses. The armies continued to be heavily involved in the importation and breeding of Arab horses in Spain until the early 20th century, and the Yogada Militar farm still exists to this day.

7. America

Horses arrived in America after the arrival of explorers or Spanish invaders. The explorer Hernan Curtis brought 16 horses of Andalusian, Berber and Arabian origin to Mexico in 1516. Others followed him, such as Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who brought with him 250 horses of the same breeds in 1540.

English colonies imported Arabian horses to the east coast of America. An example is Nathaniel Harrison, who brought an Arabian horse, Turkish, and Barb in 1747.

One of the main horses used by George Washington during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was a half-Arab gray horse named Blueskin (horse), also named as Lindsay Arabia, It is said that he has been obtained from the Sultan of Morocco.

In 1893, the Hamidie Society imported 45 Arabian horses. By 1908, 71 horses were registered at the Arabian Horse Registration Office in America. In 1994, the office registered half a million horse. Currently, the number of Arabian horses registered in North America alone is more than the total number registered in the world as a whole.

Old Hector Horse

Old Hector (c. 1792-1823) was a sire of Walers, trotters and was an important sire in colonial Australian bloodhorse breeding.
Old Hector (c. 1792-1823) was a sire of Walers, trotters and was an important sire in colonial Australian bloodhorse breeding. | Source

8. Australia

Arabian horses have been brought to Australia since the early European colonization of Australia. The first horses to be imported were authentic and small Spanish horses from the Andalusia region. Many of them were also brought from India. The very first were imported to Australia were between 1788 and 1802. In 1803, "Hector" was imported from India.

During the 19th century, many Arabian horses arrived in Australia. Most of these horses were used to produce hybrid horses. Native Arabian horses were used to improve the racehorses and some became very famous as such. The armed forces also joined horse-riding operations for cavalry, especially during the First World War. Arabian horses have become part of Australian breeds.

At the beginning of the 20th century, other Arabian horses arrived in Australia, most of them of English descent. The first Arabian horses of the Polish breeds arrived in 1966 and the Egyptian breeds in 1970. After that, they came from all over the world followed to Australia. Today, the Australian Arabian Horse Register is the second largest office in the world after the United States.

What Events Do Arabian Horses Partake In?

Arabian horses are versatile horses that compete in many equestrian events, such as horse racing, horse shows and various special offers in riding, endurance, jumping, horseback riding and many more. For those who are not interested in racing, they use it to enjoy horse riding or farm horse.

Arabian Horse


Arabian horses dominate the endurance races because of their stamina, as they are the leading race in the Tevez Cup, which covers up to 100 miles (160 km) per day. Arabian horses are also participating in FEI competitions, including international equestrian events.

There is a wide range of horse shows in the United States and Canada for Arabian, Half Arab and Anglo Arab horses approved by the United States Equestrian Federation Association in cooperation with the Arabian Horse Association. Lessons include reining, Western pleasure, hunt seat, English pleasure, saddle seat, halters, plus the very famous "original" costume class. Sports horses have become popular in North America, especially after the Arabian Horse Association started hosting an independent Arab championship for the Arabian Horse Championship in 2003, which grew by 2004 to draw 2,000 entries. This competition attracts Arabian and part Arabian horses that lead in jumping, hunter and horseback sport under the saddle, Dressage, and combined driving competition.

Part Arabians appeared at the Olympic-level competition. The Anglo-Arabian Lennon won an Olympic silver medal for France in Dressage in 1928 and 1932, in addition to a team gold medal in 1932. Another French Anglo-Arabian, Harbagon won the gold medal and silver individual at the Olympic Games of 1948. At the 1952 Olympics, French rider Pierre Duryola won the individual gold medal in the jumping show on the Anglo-Arabian Ali Baba. Another Anglo-Arabian, Tamarillo (horse), ridden by William Fox-Pitt, represents the United Kingdom in the International Federation for Equestrian (FEL). The Finnish Arabian Horse Society has presented the WAHO Trophy Award for 2013 to the 23-year-old Beshmet after a long and successful march in competitions, especially in small events and jumping.

Precautions to Be Observed When Buying or Importing Arabian Horses

Keep these points in mind when you begin the process of purchasing an Arabian horse.

  1. The date of the farm and its reputation in the export or sale of horses should be ascertained. If the farm is new, make sure that all the horses are registered.
  2. Make sure that the horse you want to buy is registered. There is a database covering all information, including the name of the horse, family, and grandparents.
  3. Make sure that the horse is completely free of diseases.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Eman Abdallah Kamel


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      • Emmy ali profile imageAUTHOR

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        15 months ago from Egypt

        Thanks, Lindacee, I glad you liked the article. Indeed Arabian horse is an incredibly smart breed. I hope you will have a chance to attend the Arabian horse show.

      • lindacee profile image

        Linda Chechar 

        15 months ago from Arizona

        A very thorough article about the origins, characteristics and history of this incredibly handsome and smart breed. The Arabian Horse Association of Arizona has a huge annual show in Scottsdale. I may have to attend next year.

      • Emmy ali profile imageAUTHOR

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        17 months ago from Egypt

        Thanks, Dr. Holland for commenting. It is great to have an Arabian horse. I agree with you that they are very beautiful horses and have unique qualities or as you said, majestic.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        17 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I owned an Arabian about twenty years ago. They are majestic creatures.

      • Emmy ali profile imageAUTHOR

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        17 months ago from Egypt

        Thank you very much, Linda. I'm really very glad because you found the article informative and educational.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you for sharing so much information about the beautiful Arabian horse. This is a very educational article.

      • Emmy ali profile imageAUTHOR

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        20 months ago from Egypt

        Thank you very much, Fatma. I am very glad because you liked reading the article and found it informative.

      • profile image

        Fatma sobih 

        20 months ago

        Nice article, very informative, I hope to learn how to ride Arabian horse

      • Emmy ali profile imageAUTHOR

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        20 months ago from Egypt

        Thank you very much, Mary, I am very glad because you liked it.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        20 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        These Arabian horses are so beautiful. They are lovely to look at.


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