The Mohammedan conquests extended from the centre of Asia to the western verge of Africa, and a great part of Spain was long held by the Moors or the Arabs. In all the territories they acquired by the sword, there the Arab horse always left his impression on native stock, or remained in such regions to perpetuate, unsullied by admixture, the purity of his race. In no country is this so observable as in Spain; for in this country, when European nations possessed only very indifferent equine stock, Spain was celebrated for her splendid breed of horses. No doubt these animals had been obtained from the Moors during their 800 years' possession of Andalusia, during which period the Arab horse had con-veyed his good qualities to the mares of the surrounding country. The jennet, doubtless, is a descendant of these horses, but previously to the occupation of Andalusia by the Saracens, two breeds of horses existed in Spain; one, the ancient war-horse, which Gervase Markham and the Duke of Newcastle considered in their days the best charger and most accomplished menage horse, "an animal unrivalled in war and not to be excelled in equestrian exercises"; the other, the horse indigenous to the country, used in ancient times as a beast of burden, to carry packs like the mule, the descendants of this breed being still used in the same capacity as their ancestors. Both these breeds had been improved by intercourse with the Arab horse during the domination of the Moors. But previously to this date an improvement had been effected by the introduction of Eastern blood, and when the Duke of Newcastle eulogized the Spanish horse he praised not the native - bred horse, but a breed which derived much of its excellence from relationship with the Arab. Honian, a Nestorian physician at Bagdad, 850 A.D., brought out editions of Aristotle, Plato, Hippocrates, Galen, and others, and also biographies of celebrated horses in which the pedigrees of these animals are clearly traced back for thousands of years, their performances narrated, and their services rendered to their masters in battle and in the chase recorded, the highest praise always being bestowed upon the descendants of the mares ridden by the prophet in his flight from Mecca to Medina. It is not to be wondered at that Mohammed valued the horses of the desert so highly when we consider the services they rendered to their masters in war, and that, without their assistance, the vast Mohammedan conquests could not have been secured. The horse consequently became an object of the utmost respect, and means were resorted to in order to ensure that the Arab horse, in all his purity of descent, should be handed down to posterity. It is owing to his purity of blood that this animal, both in the past and in the present, has made such a useful stock-getter. No other horse in the world can be depended upon to stamp his likeness on his progeny as the Arab, and it is for this reason he has improved the various breeds of horses throughout the world. It is thought by many that the Barb is a better horse and a more celebrated sire than the Arab, and in this opinion Arabian authorities agree; but they do not consider that this animal forms a distinct breed, only that he has descended from Arabs which were imported into Africa, and in that country produced offspring superior to those grown in Arabia.
Accounts of the migration of the Arab horse into Africa, and thence into other parts of the world, tend to show that European horses have derived their best qualifications more from the Barb than the Arab, i.e. from the region of the Sahara; and it certainly is the breed that both in prose and verse is the most highly praised. But whether they are both of the same descent is not of much importance, since one fact is patent, namely, that from both breeds European horses have obtained those characteristics designated quality and high breed. There is little doubt that it was with Barbary horses the Moors invaded Spain, and that during the many years they remained there the blood of the Barb was communicated to her native breeds, from which crosses the jennet and the celebrated Spanish war-horse arose. The exploits of these improved breeds have been handed down to us both by Spanish and by Arabian authors. We are told of their feats of daring and their splendid performances, and to what a great extent the smiles of the fair sex and their commendation incited the equestrians to deeds of valour. These were the days of chivalry and of a civilization introduced into Andalusia by the Moors and the Jews. This great intellectual development was checked by the expulsion of the Moors and the Jews, who, nevertheless, left behind them libraries, and among other things interesting manuscripts on equitation and the treatment of horses, and these have been handed down to us either directly or through the medium of Spanish literature. On the departure of the Moors most of their property was confiscated. Their horses, from which neither love nor money would part them, were seized or sold for a tenth of their value. These remained in Spain, and from Spain many of their descendants were distributed over Europe, and soon after found their way into England.
Plate LXXV. THE DARLEY ARABIAN From a contemporary engraving.
Plate LXXV. THE GODOLPHIN ARABIAN After a painting by G. Stubbs, R.A.