Arabian horses are a breed of horse that originated in the deserts of the Middle East. They have a refined, wedge-shaped head shape with a finely chiseled bone structure, large, lustrous eyes, and small 'teacup' muzzles. They are one of the oldest horse breeds, dating back about 4,500 years according to archaeological evidence. Arabian horses are a very popular breed around the world, known for their incredible energy, high intelligence, and gentle disposition towards riders. Even in America, the purebred Arabian has a great adoration, where they are used on the trail and in many equine sports and activities.
For thousands of years, Arabian horses lived in an intimate co-existence with the desert tribes known as the Bedouins in the Arabian peninsula. They were bred by the Bedouins as war mounts for long treks and for quick forays into enemy camps. Arabian were prized and respected by their Bedouin owners. They often brought their Arabians into the family tent for shelter from the harsh desert environment. A strong bond grew between these horses and humans, causing them to develop into a friendly-natured, quick- to- learn, and willing- to-please breed.
Besides the nature of the purebred Arabian to be tremendous companions to the Bedouins, they were also known for their great physical attributes. Living in the harsh desert climate of the Arabian peninsula forced the Arabian breed of horses to adapt. Over the centuries they evolved into powerful horses with large lung capacities and an incredible endurance. They also developed a greater bone density than other breeds as well as sound, sturdy feet.
Many well known historical figures were known to ride Arabian horses. Some included Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Alexander The Great and George Washington. The prophet Mohammed, in the seventh century AD, was influential in spreading the popularity of the purebred Arabian to other parts of the world. He made Arabians a cornerstone in his Holy Wars and improved his army by elevating the Arabians to a sacred level. Also, like the Bedouin tribes, he and his followers paid special attention to the breed and zealously worked to maintain their purity when they bred Arabians.
Eventually the Arabian horse started to spread from the Middle East to Europe. Muslim invasions into Europe were one way the horses were brought into Europe. During the Crusades, starting in 1095 AD, European armies invaded parts of the Middle East. Upon return, many knights brought Arabians as one of the spoils of war. Another major infusion of the Arabian breed into Europe occurred when the Ottoman Turks sent over 300,000 horsemen into Hungary during the 16th Century. The Ottoman Turks were defeated in Vienna by the Polish and Hungarian armies and their pure-blood Arabians were captured.
The 18th century saw the largest establishment of great Arabian studs in Europe. There was a strict dedication to preserving a pure Arabian bloodstock. This led to many Arabian stud farms being founded throughout Europe and eventually the founding of the world-famous Crabbet Arabian Stud in England. The Crabbet Arabian Stud later provided foundation horses on many continents including North America, South America, Australia, and other parts of Europe.
Finally, in the 1725, the first purebred Arabian was imported to America by Nathan Harrison of Virginia. This first Arabian stallion on American soil was said to have sired over 300 foals from grade mares. Eventually, the strength of the purebred Arabian was utilized in helping to colonize and build America throughout the 18th and 19th century. Over time, the Arabians drew more widespread attention for their strength and distinct beauty. The Chicago World's Fair showcased Arabian horses to over 27 million people. Their popularity continued to rise and there was a significant importation of Arabian horses to America in the early 1900's. Their growing influence was especially seen as the Arabian Horse Club of America was formed in 1908 (known today as the Arabian Horse Association). From there, many stud farms were created, again, aimed strictly at maintaining the Arabian's pure blood.
Even today, the purebred Arabian is virtually the same as that ridden in the ancient Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East. Arabians now display their athletic talents in a variety of disciplines from English to Western, with the Arabian horse positioned as the undisputed champion of endurance events.