Archive Article #3 - 09/16/02
What is Al Khamsa? It is an organization of like-minded Arabian horse enthusiasts. It is also a designation. Like other special-interest groups formed around the Arabian horse, Al Khamsa has chosen to focus on a specific group of horses. Each special interest organization defines the parameters that qualify horses to be called after the group, in this case, Al Khamsa. Al Khamsa horses are, according to the definition put forth by the club, those horses in the United States who are descended in every line from the original horses bred by the Bedouin tribes of the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. Some horses that were never in the United States but were the progenitors of horses that established offspring here have been accepted into the Al Khamsa roster.1
Al Khamsa horses do not fit within the designation of a nationality, such as Polish, Russian, Spanish, etc. Some of the Al Khamsa foundation horses went to Egypt, some to England, some to the USA, some to Argentina, some to Germany, and some to Hungary. The "thing" that distinguishes Al Khamsa Arabians is their origins with nomadic Bedouins. While more than half of Al Khamsa horses are described as straight Egyptian, it is not that they are Egyptian but rather that the foundation horses of certain breeders in Egypt came from the Bedouins of Arabia. Not all straight Egyptians are Al Khamsa horses. An additional third are part Egyptian, but the remainder have ancestors that have never been used in Egypt. They are all, however, Asil, meaning pure blood in every line.
To make identification easier, Al Khamsa foundation horses were assigned to an "ancestral element." There are twenty ancestral elements with surviving eligible descendants. The ancestral elements refer to the country, stud farm, person, or group with whom the foundation horse was associated. Several foundation horses which were acquired individually are designated by their own name. The five most common ancestral elements are as follows:
Egypt. Foundation horses imported into Egypt starting around 1840 are called the "Egypt" element by Al Khamsa. It includes horses imported into Egypt over a period of more than 80 years by five private breeders and the state-owned Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) of Egypt. The Bedouin Arabian horse did not arrive in Egypt casually but through the deliberate efforts of breeders like Abbas Pasha and Ali Pasha Sherif who both had huge studs of purebred Arabian horses. Khedive Abbas II and Prince Ahmed Kemal were members of Egypt’s governing family as was Abbas Pasha. Ahmed Bey Sennari was another breeder who imported foundation horses to Egypt during the late 1800s. In 1908, the RAS was founded with the goal of providing horses for the government. Their stock was derived from the various private studs in Egypt and also included horses from the Blunts. In addition, the RAS incorporated a number of desertbreds into its breeding program and, during the 1920s, certified their bloodlines. Of the foundation horses in the programs of these breeders, only 49 foundation horses have living descendants. Twenty two foundation horses came from Abbas Pasha, eight from Ali Pasha Sherif, three from Khedive Abbas II, seven from Ahmed Pasha Kemal, three from Ahmed Bey Sennari, and six from the RAS.
Blunt. Lady Anne and Wilfrid Blunt of England imported 46 horses between the years 1877 and 1913. Only twelve of their imports have surviving Al Khamsa descendants. The Blunts purchased a large number of their horses from Ali Pasha Sherif and other Egyptian breeders, most of which were exported to England. After Lady Anne Blunt's death in 1917, a number of horses which traced to the Blunt desertbreds were exported from England to Egypt and were incorporated into the breeding programs there. But although there are no horses today which trace exclusively to the horses bred by the Blunts at their Sheikh Obeyd stud farm near Cairo, there are still Al Khamsa horses that trace exclusively to the horses bred by the Blunts in England.
Inshass. Starting in 1920, the Inshass stud, founded by King Fouad of Egypt had stock consisting of established bloodlines already in Egypt to which they added an additional seven foundation horses. Four of these horses were gifts from the royal Sa’ud family of Saudi Arabia. One of the four was Nafa’a, the foundation mare of the Blue Pyramid Egyptians breeding program and the only horse described as Kuhaylan with no substrain.
Davenport. Homer Davenport owned several Arabian horses dating from when he saw the desertbreds that were presented at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, but he wanted to buy horses directly from the Bedouin. With the help of President Roosevelt, he obtained an export permit and in 1906 made the trip to the desert. He brought back 27 Arabians, registered 24, and 19 of those have living descendants. Almost 30% of Al Khamsa horses carry at least one line to one of the 19 original Davenport imports. The Davenport Preservation organization was formed to conserve horses that trace exclusively to these original 19 horses.
Sa'ud. Horses imported into America that were obtained from the Sa'ud royal family of Saudi Arabia. As the Bedouins began to settle in towns, members of the Sa'ud family acquired horses from them to incorporate into their various studs. The Sa'uds had long been noted for the quality of their horses. The king gave horses to the Inshass stud and those given to the early pashas were included in the designation Egypt foundation horses. Charles Crane and Albert Harris imported horses from the Sa'uds in 1932. Many Americans worked in Saudi Arabia in the oil business in the late 1950s and 1960s and several acquired horses and brought them home to the United States (ARAMCO). Seventeen Al Khamsa foundation horses came to the USA from the Sa'ud family studs in this manner. Almost 20% of Al Khamsa horses carry one or more lines to Sa'ud horses (including the BPE horses). The Blue Star breeding program also used Saudi horses to a large extent.
The following table lists the other 15 ancestral elements:
Parts of this article were excerpted from an article written by Carol Lyons from Arabian Visions magazine.
1 Visit the Al Khamsa web site for a complete listing of horses classified as Al Khamsa.