There is unfortunately no room left for doubting that the Arab horse has suffered much through the mistaken and excessive partisanship of over-zealous friends. The lavish - one might almost adopt the expression fulsome - flattery of which he has been the victim has certainly alienated from him the sympathies of many a practical man; whilst the hysterical and childish allusions to this, in very many respects, most valuable horse as the "courser of the desert", the "Arab's faithful steed ", and such like sentimentalities, are, though possibly welcomed by the readers of improving works for the young, very far from calculated to attract a business man who wants his horse to use and not to gush over. In fact, had it not been for the existence of a small body of practical supporters of the breed, who have laboured in a serious manner to benefit the horse, there is good reason to believe that the Arab would have been to all intents and purposes non-existent in this country by now; but even as matters are, the position occupied by him is very different from that which should be occupied by the horse to which the Thoroughbred is indebted for many of his excellencies.
This admission is not exactly complimentary to the gratitude of English breeders, but a very reasonable excuse exists for their desertion of the Arab in the fact that the majority of his supporters appear to be so perfectly satisfied with him as he is, that very few of them have done anything to improve him by selection. No attempts appear to have been made to improve his speed, or action, by a series of inter-Arab crosses, the great aim of his admirers having been to obtain the blood of certain families; and having achieved this object, the majority of them seem to have been content. It is true that the Arab has increased somewhat in stature, as all breeds of horses do which receive the benefit of a residence in Ens-land, the climate of which, to say nothing of the high feeding, undoubtedly produces size; but in this respect the Arab has not been improved, in the opinion of some authorities, though many persons possessing open minds upon the subject entertain the belief that he might have been made better than he is.
Notwithstanding the above remarks, the writer does not desire it to be imagined that he is to be included in the ranks of Arabphobes, but, on the contrary, in the category of well-wishers of the breed. The Arab, in his proper place, is beyond all doubt a most valuable and useful horse, which is worthy of being appreciated far more highly than he is, and which has not exactly received fair-play from his opponents, who, quite forgetting what he has done for horseflesh in this country, have been disposed to depreciate his merits because he has not been proved the possessor of all the accomplishments claimed for him by over-zealous advocates. If only on account of the antiquity of his lineage the Arab is entitled to respect, for, although very few persons will be found to accept the theory that this was the breed selected by Noah as "the best" to accompany him in the ark, there is no doubt at all that this horse has been an inhabitant of the desert for centuries, and that his Arab owners have guarded the pure blood most jealously. It is true, of course, that no written records are forthcoming to prove the authenticity of early Arab pedigrees, but it must be remembered that in the East it is the custom to accept oral evidence, and there is no reason whatever for disbelieving such pedigrees of imported horses as have been carefully investigated and enquired into by experienced persons on the spot.
The Arab, according to all the authorities best qualified to judge, is descended from five mares, namely, Keheilan, Seglawi, Abeyan, Ham-dami, and Hadban. From these, other families have sprung, but the blood of one or other of the above mares runs in the veins of every animal which in the remotest degree can claim to be regarded as an Arab. No doubt the families have occasionally been interbred, but this circumstance would not affect the right of the offspring to be regarded as a first-class pure Arab, and prized accordingly; and when such unions have occurred, the foal has been included in the family of its dam; thus a colt by a Seglawi horse and a Keheilan mare would be styled a Keheilan, and would rank as a first-class Arab of untarnished pedigree. On the other hand, if a mare belonging to this class should be mated with a horse of inferior blood, or in any respect other than a member of her own rank, she and her foals are at once transferred to the second class; whilst the third class is composed of animals which, though possessing relationship with the highest order, are still further removed from them in blood, mis-marked foals of good breeding, and the like. Affixes are used to denote the best specimens of the five great families, and are also applied to the animals of the second class. As may be supposed, subfamilies have sprung up which have taken their names from their founders, such as the Seglawi Jedran, one of the most sought-for classes; and though, perhaps, the Keheilans are the most numerous, the best type of Arabs is the Nejdean, though it is becoming rare.
Many owners, of course, possess specimens of all the five great Arab families alluded to above, and Lady Anne Blunt, in her charming work, A Pilgrimage to Nejd, alludes to the fact that in the stables of Ibu Rashid at Hail, which she went over several times, there were mares of the following families: - Keheilet el Krush, a 14 hands 1 inch chestnut; a bay Hamdami Simri; a young Seglawi Sheyfi; a 14 hands 2 inch dark bay Keheilet Ajaz; and a gray Seglawi Jedran, etc. These mares, it will be noticed, all belong to the family of one of the five mares - or "Al Kamseh", as they are termed in the desert - whilst the affixes show the name of the breeder who founded the sub-family in which they are included. Thus Seglawi Jedran implies that the mare is of the great Seglawi family of Jedran's strain.