Discover Jordan's Nature & Cultural Heritage

Arabian Horses

Traditionally, Arab Mares are so valuable in Arab eyes that a group of people within one tribe would together own a single mare. This meant the sale of a particular mare was unusually complex -as each part- owner was required to give his consent.

A perfect Arab horse has big nostrils, long ears, a wide forehead, large ribs, a long neck and round croup, muscular quarters, and a stride of twelve feet at full gallop.

There are many thoroughbred strains of Arab Horse (known as asil, meaning ‘noble’). Five pedigrees are regarded as more worthy than the rest. Throughout the Arab World, they are known as Al Khamsah, ‘The Five’ (or, Al Khamsat Al Rasul, The Five of the Prophet). These Thoroughbreds are: Kuhailan, ‘Ubaiyan, Sagawi, Hamdany, and Hadban.

The Bedouin say that the first mare that ever existed was caught be Ishmael - in the desert of Nufudh south of Jauf. From her foal, Al Kuhaila al Ajuz, there came 130 families.

Enormous status is bestowed on the owner of a particular Arab horse; just as in the West racehorses are sometimes accredited with gigantic values. Traditionally, a Sheikh would keep one or more fine mares, known as rabat, for breeding. A particular strain would be guarded from jealous neighbouring tribes- and given as a gift to the highest ranking guest.

In part times qualities of an Arab steed in battle were manifold. Their dexterity, speed and, perhaps most importantly, their stamina, ensured that they were never far from the centre of a battle. Hardy stallions, kept by sheikhs for breeding, were traditionally kept away from the mares in iron hobbles, known as hadid.

Arab Horses have always been imbued with superstitious beliefs. Added luck will attend the creature if it is born by day, if it is of a reddish- brown bay colour, and if it has a circular spot on the forehead - formed by hair growing in a round pattern from one centre (called sa’ad).

An ill-fated horse, however, will have a white near hind leg, and a white off foreleg (this is called shukaili); or have white stockings (lattamat) on two of its legs; or a line of hairs growing towards each other on its throat (shaq zij). A particular line of hair behind the ear on the horse’s neck (known as fattalah) is unlucky, indicating - some say - that the rider will be stabbed while riding.

Traditionally an Arab steed’s stamina and performance in conflict was considered to be related to superstitious circumstances. The Evil Eye - known to most societies at one time or another - is linked in the Arab World to the horse.