Both Africa and Arabia claim to have been the birthplace of the great Eastern race of horses. Some say that Africa gave the horse to Arabia, and others that the Arabians migrated to Africa. Such migration, according to Eusebius, did occur. He informs us that some of the early descendants of Cush settled on lands on the eastern side of the Red Sea, and gradually moved to the south of Arabia, whence they crossed the sea and transplanted themselves into Ethiopia. The Ethiopians, we are told, agreed in many points with the Arabian Cushites, and were believed by most Asiatic nations in the time of Joseph us to have originated from the same source. At the period when these Arabians passed over into Africa, namely, during the time the Israelites were in Egypt, other African natives besides the Egyptians possessed horses, and battles had been fought with chariots and horsemen before these Arabians arrived in Africa. Consequently horses must have been fairly well distributed on African soil before their introduction into Ethiopia by the Cushites. Of course the idea of migration has resulted from the belief that the equine species originated from a single pair. It may be thought that it matters little whence the horse originated, but in reality it is most important. For if the various animals emanated from single pairs, the horse from one stallion and one mare, then we have to account for the distribution of varieties, and how different equine types have been developed; whereas if we accept the theory of the evolution of several varieties in different regions of the globe, it will not be difficult to understand how, by intercourse between different types of the same species, distinct breeds have been brought into existence. That this mode of development has taken place during the historic period is evident; we know how the large horses of mid-Europe have been improved by commerce with those of the East, how the hobby, the race-horse of Queen Elizabeth's time, by intermingling with the Arab, has led to the ultimate production of the English thoroughbred, and how thousands of years before this period, this great Eastern breed was sought after by civilized and quasi-civilized nations - by Assyrians, by Babylonians, and by Egyptians - for his qualifications as a hunter and a chariot horse. The African horse was introduced into the hippodrome by the Greeks, and into the circus by the Romans, and at the present day the great performers in the hunting-field and on the turf are descendants of the Barb or the Arabian.
There is no doubt that horses of the highest qualifications have through all ages come from tropical, or at least warm regions, and the Arab horse is believed by many to have been the parent of the equine race, or at least to have been the first domesticated variety.
Although the Arabs claim their descent from Ishmael, it must be remembered that many provinces in this country had been inhabited before Hagar was banished to the desert by Abraham. Joktan ruled over Yemen, and his youngest son, Jorham, founded, it is said, the kingdom of Hejaz, while his posterity " kept the throne until the time of Ishmael". Consequently Ishmael, when he lived in the wilderness of Paran, was in contact with a settled and somewhat civilized population, who possessed horses, and who most likely had subjugated them; for we know that on the eastern side of Arabia the Babylonians and the Assyrians had employed horses in battle, and that the wild life the Arabs led, owing to the nature of the country, induced them in their earliest days to train horses for hunting and martial pursuits. The prediction that their hand should be against every man, and every man's hand against theirs, has been fulfilled. From the time of this utterance to the present day the Arabs have lived by attacking and plundering caravans which pass through the desert, and this they could not have accomplished so easily had they not possessed swift horses to overtake the travellers, or to escape by rapid flight from foes too strong for them to overcome. This desert life was, therefore, a great incentive to the production of the world-famed Arab, whose services from the most ancient times every civilized nation has acquired, either by purchase or by capture in war. Both Greece and Borne hired Arabian and African cavalry to assist them in their conquests, and on more than one occasion the onslaught of these splendid horses and horsemen converted a threatened defeat into victory. The auxiliaries also of other nations who assisted the Romans in the battle-field rode upon horses who owed their excellence to the result of a cross between their native breeds and the Arab.
The Persians, early in their history, obtained from the desert horses which, by intermingling with the indigenous stock of the country, produced a breed second only to their half-brothers the Arabians, whose descendants formed the magnificent Persian horse so celebrated in history for its brilliant exploits in time of war. The same story could be repeated of other nations whose cavalry was composed of horses in whose veins flowed the blood of the Aral). When the Saracens extended their dominion by conquest, the distribution of their horses in the various conquered countries still further assisted in the diffusion of Arab blood among the many native equine races. In fact, it was propagated in the East and in the West in the train of the Arabs who subsequently penetrated to the limits of the known world.
After the introduction of Islamism, new Mussulman invasions extended the fame of Arab horses to Italy, to Spain, and even to France, where, without doubt, they have left traces of their blood. But the event which more than any other filled Africa with Arab horses was the invasion of Sidi-Okba, and still later the successive invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries after the Hegira. It was not until the days of Mohammed that the important qualifications of the Arab were fully recognized. By the Arabs the horse is considered to be a divine gift, and his protection and kind usage to be a divine duty; blessings also are to attend those who keep horses. "Whosoever keeps and trains a horse for the cause of Allah is counted among those who give alms day and night; publicly or in secret he shall have his reward. All his sins shall be forgiven and never shall dishonour his heart."