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Archive Article #7 - 07/08/03

Why Egyptian?

A question not as easily answered as you might think.  Egyptian Arabian horses make up less than 15% of AHA registered Arabians.  There aren’t many dedicated breeders left in Utah and you seldom see them in the show ring.    But Egyptian Arabian advocates have found a presence on the Internet. There are several sites that feature Egyptian Arabians and some of those sites have public forums that host passionate, often heated discussions about purity, conformation, action, the politics of showing, and on and on. But everyone seems to have a different reason for sticking to straight Egyptian Arabians.  I am, of course only able to tell you why I am a preservationist breeder and have chosen to breed a rare bloodline of straight Egyptian horses.

I have always been “horse crazy” and, like so many others just knew Arabians were the best horses because Walter Farley told us they were.  Their intelligence, their beauty and grace, and their ability to go beyond the normal relationship of horse/human, makes them desirable as companions and recipients of our devotion and resources.  But why do some people choose to go beyond the “backyard horse” and devote their lives to the fuzzy critters?  I guess for the same reason most people find a place that makes them comfortable, happy, and offers some meaning to life beyond sustenance.  I live not far from a feedlot and it is apparent that there are more than enough horses in the world, even Arabians. I could not justify making more, no matter how pretty they are, until I found a filly that I simply could not NOT buy. I liked her so much that I also eventually bought her mother.  After I had the filly Shahloura for a while, I received an email that changed my life forever.  By chance, she was straight Egyptian and a very rare bloodline.  I became obsessed with researching strains, bloodlines, and the history of Arabians in general and in her lines in particular.  For the last four years I have sought books, magazine articles, and other researchers in an effort to learn about origins, early Western travelers to the desert, and what made the Arabian horses so special.  That is when I discovered that there are a lot of “backyard breeders” around the world who don’t show but communicate among themselves and over the Internet in their efforts to sustain and maintain some very specific bloodlines and strains.

 Arabian breeders that I have spoken with say they use Egyptian blood in their breeding programs to add refinement, indicating that there is a need for straight Egyptian programs. There are many highly specialized Egyptian breeding programs around like straight Egyptian (SE), Al Khamsa, Sheikh Obeyd, Asil, Blue List, Babson, Heritage, and many others.  The rarity of these often obscure groups is very appealing to many people. Like gold over silver, platinum over gold, and diamonds over all others, some people desire that which is rare and beautiful; the more rare, the more precious and desirable.  Arabian horses are undoubtedly (at least to this audience) the most beautiful horses and Egyptians are the most rare Arabians so they have a special appeal.  To understand why someone would want to preserve a rare bloodline, you would have to understand why people care about the last old-stand Ponderosa pine tree, or the endangered snow leopard.  If you believe that it is our responsibility as humans to guard and preserve the gifts of nature, you will understand why I and other preservationists have chosen to devote our energies and resources to them.  But preservation breeding carries the responsibility of maintaining a standard of quality, not just rarity or “pretty.”


As to the notion that preservation breeding is not compatible with selection for improvement or with breeding "quality horses," I think there are two separate ideas here: we want to improve our individual animals in the sense of breeding to combine more of the best features of our kind of horse in each individual. What we do not subscribe to is the conventional notion that one can "improve the breed," which seems to mean, in practice, "make it look more like some other breed." Most of us are breeding within specific pedigree limits precisely because in our experience they turn out specific kinds of good Arabian horses.  Michael Bowling

Breeders of many lines of Arabian horses often return to the Egyptians to infuse some of the old blood into that of their Polish, Russian, domestic, and matrix blood stock.  I am happily dedicated to recombining the bloodline of the foundation mare of my program to increase the concentration of her blood. The foundation mare Nafa’a is the only mare listed as Kuhaylan with no substrain.  A mare whose only purebred, living (traceable) progeny are those descended from Serenity Bint Nadia, brought to North America by Serenity Farms in 1968. That mare left two SE lines with living offspring through her daughters Serenity Kamila and Cedardell Tiffany.  After years of searching, I was finally able to bring together good representatives of both sides of the Nafa’a family.  Now the mares will be carefully bred back to stallions with the same foundation tracing to Nafa’a.  There are in this exclusive bloodline only 8 SE stallions and 8 SE mares of breeding age left alive in this little family and I feel lucky to be trusted with their care and continuance. What a challenge; what great fun!


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