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THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARABIAN HORSE IN EUROPE

The late Erika Schiele’s very last article, exclusively written for StraightEgyptians.com

Beduine

Foto: Grasso

 

When God decided to create the horse, he spoke to the south wind, "Condense yourself: I shall make of you a new creature to honor my saints, to demean my enemies, as a tribute to those who obey me!" And the south wind said, "Create it, Oh God!" Then God took a handful of the south wind, breathed over it and created the horse. He said, "Your name shall be Arabian. Let goodnes be bound to your forelock and bounty to your back. I have made your owner your friend. I have given you the power to fly without wings!" And thus, according to Beduin belief, the Arabian horse was created.

But where did it really come from? The story of it´s creation is still very much a mystery.

There is no shortage of those who claim that Arabians roamed wild over the Arabian peninsula as much as thousands of years ago, before a nomad placed the first rope around one of the elegant necks. What is missing is reliable evidence. It is generally accepted that wild horses never existed in Arabia. The horse did not arrive on the Arabian peninsula until the second century A.C. at the earliest, as is made clear by numerous inscriptions.

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Whether or not the breeding of horses was highly developed in pre-islamic times, is a matter of controversy. However, it does have the Prophet Mohammed to thank for its immense popularity and growth: He possessed only two horses during the historic battle of "Ohod", and he never forgot his defeat by a superior mounted force. From that time on, he elevated the breeding of noble, "asil" (=pure) horses to a matter of religious duty.

Mohammed´s followers penetrated far into the West, the North and the East on their fast horses. The sons of the desert galloped on thousands of noble Arabian horses through Egypt, to North Africa and across Spain up into French Touraine and planted the banner of Islam for centuries.

The seven-hundred-year rule of the Sarazens in Andalusia resulted in the first decisive refinement of European horses with Arabian blood. Although the Sarazens rode North African Berbers for the most part, "there were some horses from Damascus among them who wore golden hoofs, horses with the blue sheen of valuable gemstones," according to the chronicler.

During the Crusades European horses experienced the next impulse from the orient. At the beginning of the 16th century, the next wave of Arabian horses reached Europe. The stallions of the Pashas gave the domestic breeds a nobility they had never known before.

Wars with the Turks, attacks by the Tatrs and the "Thirty Years War" had a devastating effect on European breeding. In a letter to General Dumas, Napoleon’s personal adjutant wrote: "The Arabian horse stood up to the strains and deprivations much better than the European horse. After the terrible campaigne in Russia, the Emperor was left almost entirely with his Arabian horses."

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In order to fill the gaps in the reserves of horses, governments and princes sent out buying commissions to the Near East in the 19th century to procure horses from the Bedouins and in Arabian cities for European breeding farms.

Public interest in Arabian horses clearly diminished at the turn of the 20th century, and there was a definite reason: its small size.

With the exception of England, Poland, Russia and the USA, where continoues breeding programmes were developed, Arabians did not become popular again until after World War II. Then, however, it was not as a refiner of other breeds, but as a pure bred horse. And it began its victorious march, the greatest and most triumphant in its history.

During the last twenty years the Egyptian Arabian horse has gained its significance in Europe. Its nobility and charm were reminiscent of the classics of the painters of the 19th century, and they once again lent the European Arabian an oriental magic and flair.

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