Arabian horses are some of the oldest known pure breeds, and even though they may not be the fastest horses in the world, they are known for their endurance and have excelled in endurance races.
The Polish Arabian, the Egyptian, Russian, Crabbet, Spanish, and the Shagya Arabians are the main types of Arabian horses.
Here I will discuss each type’s characteristics, history, and what they’re best known for.
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The Arabian is a breed of horse believed to have originated from the Arabian deserts.
A study of the breed’s genetic diversity also places their origin in the Middle East.
According to Brittanica.com, their existence dates back to the 7th century CE. They were domesticated horses used for war, work, and protection mainly by the Bedouin people (residents of the Middle Eastern deserts including the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and Syria) before they started spreading worldwide.
Even without advanced selective breeding techniques, the Bedouin people created a breed of hot-blooded horses that could still bond with people and even hang around kids.
They avoided breeding horses that were stubborn to prevent the spreading of these characteristics to their foals. The Arabians we have today are a symbol of the climate they originated from and the culture of the people that kept them.
For instance, they have a bulge on their forehead, which may be an adaptation to the climate. But the Bedouin people believed that it was a sign of blessings from Allah.
Several other superstitions and legend stories surround the origin of this horse.
The modern Arabian is small, with a maximum height of 15 hands (152 cm) and weighing up to 1000 pounds. They are also characterized by arched necks, high-carriage tails, a dished shape face, and a slight bulge on the forehead.
The Arabian horses spread to other parts of the world through war or raids and trade. The respective countries used the original Arabians as their foundation bloodstock, which led to the various Arabian horse types we have today.
Breeders worldwide also used them to develop most modern breeds of horses, such as the Thoroughbred.
Now let’s look at each of the types.
1. Egyptian Arabian
The love for purebred desert horses by Egypt’s elite led to importing purebred Arabian stock from the Arabian Peninsula and Palestine.
One of Egypt’s rulers associated with importing this breed into Egypt was Muhammad Ali.
He built a stud farm in the 19th century that comprised thousands of Arabian purebreds.
When he died, his grandson, Abbas Pasha, took over. The breeding of these horses suffered major blows after that. First, Abbas Pasha passed away, and his heir sold and gave away most of the remaining purebreds.
Another relative, Ali Pasha Sherriff, took over and imported more pure breeds, but most later died in the late 1870s due to the African horse sickness.
The remaining horses changed ownership to different people, including Lady Anne Blunt, who owned Crabbet Park in England (more on this later).
In the 20th century, Egyptian horse breeders started an initiative to preserve the pure Egyptian Arabian bloodline started by Muhammad Ali, which led to the formation of the Royal Agricultural Society, which later became the Egyptian Agricultural Organization.
The modern Egyptian Arabian is also known as a Straight Egyptian. They are compact-sized, growing up to 15 hands tall, well-built, and they come in chestnut, rabicano, bay, roan, sabino, and black coat colors.
They are also quite rare, making up just 2% of all Arabian horse populations.
2. Polish Arabian
I love history, especially war history, because of how it changes the course of events.
And I love how the Polish Arabian breed resulted from wars.
Arabian horses appear in 16th-century Polish writings. When Poland was attacked by various enemies, including the Turkish, the Polish took the horses as war spoils.
Poland and Turkey made a truce, and the Poles could now purchase purebred Arabian horses, which helped improve their horses for pulling carts, farm work, and war.
However, most of the Polish Arabians died during WWI. According to History’s Hooves, out of 500 mares that Poland had before WWI, only 25 survived.
Efforts to rebuild their breeding stock started after WWI, and the first Polish Arabian horse registry, the Arabian Horse Breeding Society, was formed.
Unfortunately, all the work was undone in WWII when they still lost most of their broodmares. They still rebuilt their breeding program with the help of Hungary and Russia.
Today, there are two types of Polish Arabians, the Kuhailan, who are excellent athletes, and the Seglawi that are known for their beauty.
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3. Russian Arabian
The Russian Arabian has survived this long thanks to the love it received by Russia’s leaders and nobles, especially during Catherine the Great’s reign, and the passionate breeders who wanted to preserve the breed.
Arabian horses were first introduced in Eastern Europe, and they quickly gained popularity.
Most of Russia’s rulers fell in love with the breed and even imported more purebred Arabians to improve the local horse breeds.
Crabbet and Polish Arabians also played a role in developing the modern Russian Arabian.
Some of the notable nobles who contributed to Russian Arabian development include Count Alexey Orlov, Prince Nikolai Borisovich, and Count Stroganov. All Russian Arabians can be traced back to an Arabian Stallion known as Smetanka.
Like the Polish Arabian, the Russian type was also affected by wars and revolutions, but they imported more purebreds and continued developing their breeding program.
The modern Russian Arabian is friendly, athletic, and perfect for those looking to own their first horse.
Next, let’s take a look at some Arabian horses that you might not have heard off. These types are Arabians are rarer but no less interesting.
4. Spanish Arabians
The Spanish Arabian is another rare breed that comprises 1% of the Arabian horses.
These types of horse were developed at a time when the Spanish military needed a more robust horse breed.
The development started over 200 years ago when Yeguda Militar (A military section that deals with horse breeding) picked the best Arabian horses from the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, France, England, and Poland.
They developed an athletic cavalry horse that was trainable, agile, and with a good temperament. Besides being strong, the Spanish Arabians are also quite gorgeous. That’s why they excel as show horses as well as racing horses.
They are also good at dressage, cross-country, and many other equestrian sports. They are also sought after by breeders.
5. Crabbet Arabian
The Crabbet Arabian came about in the 20th century at Crabbet Park Stud farm in England, owned by Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and his wife, Lady Anne Blunt. They were both writers and poets.
They traveled to the Arabian Desert, North Africa, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East, seeking the best Arabian horses to develop a sturdy horse breed. Lady Anne Blunt passed away in 1917.
Her daughter Judith, known as Lady Wentworth, went ahead with breeding the horses and even imported additional horses from the Middle East to improve what was left of the Crabbet Park stud farm breeding stock.
She also became one of the major exporters of Arabian horses worldwide. The Crabbet Park existed until the late 70s when all the horses were redistributed to new owners.
The Modern Crabbet Arabian is athletic, slightly taller than the other types, has a good temperament, and is suitable for endurance racing and horse shows.
They also played a significant role in developing the other Arabian horses I just mentioned, and the Domestic Arabian, an Arabian horse, bred locally in the United States.
Breeders also used the Egyptian and Polish Arabians to develop the Domestic Arabian. California is the largest breeding center for Arabian horses, with other smaller centers being spread out countrywide.
6. Shagya Arabians
This type was developed as an improvement of local breeds to produce an athletic horse for cavalry that could also jump higher. It was developed in the Astro-Hungarian Empire for the Hungary Military.
They got their name from their foundation sire, Shagya, an excellent Arabian Stallion.
Today, Shagya Arabians are known for being athletic, fast, well-built, and larger.
Is the Arabian horse Right for You?
Yes, it is. Arabian horses form bonds with their owners, and they were even used for protection by the Bedouin people. They are also quite athletic, making them ideal for those who also want to try out any equestrian sport.
How fast can an Arabian Horse Run?
An Arabian horse’s speed ranges from 35 MPH to 40 MPH. They were bred for speed and endurance and were very instrumental in wars as cavalry horses. Today, they are some of the best horses for endurance racing.
Where did the Arabian Horse Originate?
The Arabian horse originated from the Arabian Peninsula, and it’s often associated with the Bedouin people. They kept them mainly for war and protection. When developing the types of Arabian horses we have today, breeders made several trips to the Arabian Desert to get the foundation bloodstock.
And there you have it. The types of Arabian horses include the Straight Egyptian, Polish Arabian, Russian Arabian, Spanish Arabian, Crabbet Arabian, and Shagya Arabian.
They may look a bit similar from the outside, but they all have a fascinating background story that’s intertwined with war, culture, ancient history, and modern history.
- “ArabianHorses.org – Arabian Horses.” Www.arabianhorses.org, www.arabianhorses.org/discover/arabian-horses/#Horse%20of%20the%20Desert%20Bedouin. Accessed 12 July 2021.
- Cosgrove, Elissa J., et al. “Genome Diversity and the Origin of the Arabian Horse.” Scientific Reports, vol. 10, no. 1, 16 June 2020, 10.1038/s41598-020-66232-1. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.
- Most modern horses came from just two ancient lineages. “Most Modern Horses Came from Just Two Ancient Lineages.” Science | AAAS, 29 June 2017, www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/06/most-modern-horses-came-just-two-ancient-lineages.
- “Stanley Ranch – What Is an Arabian Horse?” Www.foxworks.com, www.foxworks.com/clients/stanleyRanch/what_is_an_Arabian_Horse.html. Accessed 12 July 2021.
- “What Is Straight Egyptian? | the Pyramid Society.” Www.pyramidsociety.org, www.pyramidsociety.org/horse/history. Accessed 12 July 2021.
What do you think of the types of Arabian horses? Please share your thoughts below!
Peter was always been fascinated by horses. He got his first horse, a Morgan Horse, when he was 13 and he has been learning about them since then. He loves contributing on this blog to share what he learned so far. Find him on: FACEBOOK