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Starting Your Own Arabian Horse Library

In this fast paced information age of the internet one wonders if books are useful items to own and collect. The truth is that nothing can take the place of those stolen quiet moments at your leisure or late at night when you can curl up with a book and browse or read intensely with a greater energy and speed than even the fastest computer, by candle light or even without electricity.


The Arabian horse is a fascinating subject covered in thousands of books almost as far back as when books were invented. For this reason books on this subject become not only sources of knowledge but sometimes valued collectibles. Given the scope of the subject where does one start? Well here are some simple suggestions for getting started.

Physical Space

Starting out you may think you only want to buy a book or two on Arabians and that will suffice, but odds are the process will continue to grow. So it is a good idea to consider where in your house you will want to shelve your books and as well as copies of your beloved magazine subscriptions. The standard convenient bookcase is the simple wooden moveable shelved one which is usually 6 feet tall by 3 feet wide by 1 foot deep and has about six shelves, found in most any furniture outlet. This will help you designate how much wall or room space you want to provide in case you want to add more of these. Initially one of these bookcases will handle most of your books and a number of years of Khamsat Magazines, etc.

You may also want to give some thought to the reading space location, being near the book shelves, in a relatively quite place, with ample lighting, a window or two away from the road, and a comfortable chair to complete the setting.

Subject Matter

It is a good idea to think about dividing up you library into categories of subject matter covered in your Arabian horse book collection. Some general suggestions would include:

  • Riding, training, showing and handling
  • Breeding, foaling and other veterinary and farrier related topics
  • Bloodline/pedigree oriented books
  • Historical and collectible material
  • Breed magazines

Unless you are planning to accumulate a massive library rivaling urban public libraries, you won't need to concern yourself with the Dewy decimal system. You can get creative about how to divide up your categories on the bookshelves, color keyed dividers or labels, etc.

Getting Started

Some people are by nature ordered in their approach to things, and others enjoy doing things at random and/or on impulse like myself. So there is no formula for what to buy first, but if you follow your fancy, you can store your purchases in an organized subject matter way as suggested above so as to be able to easily find them as your library grows (and it will).

I like to think that if your are new to Arabians it is best to go for the training and handling items first as I feel it is very important to get to know your horses first before you tackle that complex job of delving into its pedigree and even deeper into its history. There are certainly a large supply of books on this subject and most often they can be found in the vending displays of the book sellers at major Arabian shows, Scottsdale, US & Canadian Nationals, Egyptian Event, etc.

Next it is a good idea to focus on veterinary and farrier related books. The Merck Veterinary Manual is a very useful reference volume in understanding a wide rage of issues your veterinarian is likely to diagnose and deal with when he comes calling. It is really written more for vets though. Books on soundness and lameness are also useful in understanding the mechanics of your horse's movement and movement health. Books on conformation are useful for the basics but the longer you are involved with horses conformation is something not easily put into black or white rules. When you become an experienced rider your opinions on conformation may adjust somewhat to your own experiences and they specific type of riding you choose to do. After you have gotten to know your horse and have dealt with riding and basic health issues, you may have reached the point of wanting to breed your horse. Getting into the breeding environment will fill your bookshelf fast if you rely on books as it is a broad subject. What to buy in this regard is best influenced by attending quality reproduction seminars given at various times by universities or large breeders.

Now that the foal is on its way perhaps you are worrying if you should have studied pedigrees and bloodlines more. There is no stopping point to this area and the Arabian breed is profuse with books on bloodlines and pedigrees. Within the breed there are a number of organizations which represent the bloodlines of interest to them and they are a good start in getting their reference publications which define their bloodlines and pedigrees. Some of the more well known organizations are:

Crabbet/Maynesboro/Kellogg (CMK) - American breeding through mostly early Crabbet and English bloodlines.

Arabian Horse Owners Foundation - similar to above

Korrona - Organization for Arabian bloodlines representing Polish breeding

Pyramid Society - Organization for Arabian bloodlines generally representing Egyptian breeding

Al Khamsa - Organization for Arabian bloodlines descending to most Middle Eastern stock.

Asil Club - Somewhat similar to Al Khamsa but representing primarily European breeding interests.

There are many other sources of pedigree information as well sometimes from smaller organizations or groups of breeders who cooperate to identify and preserve certain bloodlines such as The Davenport Conservancy, Sheykh Obeyd Foundation, The Pasha Institute, The Heirloom Research Group, Bedouin Source Group, Saudi Society, Desert Arabian Breeders Alliance and Bani Sham Group just to name a few. As you come in contact with these organizations and breeders it is a good idea to buy their publications to round out your perspective on bloodlines and pedigrees.

There are also knowledgeable authors over the years who have published individually on the subject of bloodlines and pedigrees and these books are well worth collecting. Actually I believe Al Khamsa publishes a recommended reading list which includes some of these authors both past and present.

For many years I used to purchase the AHRA stud books as they came out even when the microfiche became available. However nothing can compare as a resource in your library now to the Registry's new CD ROM if you are set up with computer resources. This would be a comprehensive way to generate a pedigree of many of the Arabians worldwide. Please realize that no one publication or source is always the final word on pedigrees. In a breed as ancient as the Arabian and so prized worldwide, pedigree information can vary from publication to publication often with many contradictions.

Adding to Your Collection

The more you delve into pedigrees the more you will be drawn into the history of the breed and that will lead to collecting old, historical books. There are many famous writers and travelers of the past who have given their historical accounts of the Arabian horse and make for fascinating reading, not to mention that this part of one's library increases in value as it involves essentially antique books. Historical books can be found as far back as circa mid-19th century. These books are usually only available from specialty book dealers or private individuals or estate liquidations. They might be pricey but I have even found collectibles in used book sales from rural libraries—an adventure in finding them. However, a new dimension has now been added for locating the hard to find books. Namely, the internet. Some websites worth checking into are:

Magazines

I personally recommend that people save all their Arabian horse magazines. Over time they really form an educational and interesting picture of the trends in the breed as well as just plain fun looking for pictures of ancestors. Magazines are also collectible and I have heard that back issues of Khamsat Magazines are now appearing in collectors libraries. So be sure to plan on enough room for more than one book shelf. Eventually you will run out of room like I have.

This overview is general and intended only to give a few constructive suggestions for building your Arabian horse library. Specific authors and subjects are left to your preferences in your quest to build a library. Besides time and space does not allow for book reviews on some of my favorites but, if you go where Arabian horses and Arabian horse enthusiasts are, you will find plenty of books. Good luck on your quest. You will never be bored by the experience.

Recommended Reading List

This is by no means a complete list as there are many books to choose from but this will nonetheless give the reader a start. Some of these are available from horse book dealers and some are in public and university libraries.

AL KHAMSA ARABIANS II, Topeka, KS., published by Al Khamsa, Inc. 572 pages. Many photos of bedouin-bred Arabians, an extensive anthology of excerpts from literature about the Arabian horse, maps, glossary, information on Al Khamsa foundation horses and pedigree index tracing Al Khamsa Arabians back to their foundations. Also has a progeny section. Some libraries have these but is primarily available through Al Khamsa, Inc.

AL KHAMSA ARABIANS UPDATE (1998) the sequel update ancestry volume to the above book. The volume covers younger stock and progeny lisitings for many Al Khamsa horses registered since publication of the above volume. (See below)

ARABIANA, 1975, edited by William A. Simpson,. An anthology of articles about Arabian horses and their owners reprinted from YOUR PONY and THE INTERNATIONAL RIDER AND DRIVER, 1959 to 1974. Articles concerning many outstanding Arabian horses from all countries that have been exported to the US are included, as are rare photographs and material on foundation bloodlines and breeding programs.

ARCHER, PEARSON, and COVEY: THE CRABBET ARABIAN STUD, 1978, Alexander Heriot & Co., Ltd., Cheltenham, England. Numerous photographs, many never before published. The story of historic Crabbet Stud, England, and its founders, Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt, their daughter, Lady Wentworth, and of the Blunt's Sheykh Obeyd Stud in Egypt. Compiled in part from family papers, this book contains much material on Blunt foundation stock, as well as information on the influence of these horses in other countries.

ARCHER, Rosemary and FLEMING, James, Editors: LADY ANNE BLUNT, JOURNALS AND CORRESPONDENCE 1878-1917, 1986 Alexander Heriot & Co., Ltd., Cheltenham, England. An extraordinary presentation of the essence of Lady Anne Blunts private writings. This book gives keen insight into the perspective of the Blunts' on the Arab horse both in his native land and in Europe. This is a must for all readers in understanding the role of the Blunts influence worldwide in Arabian breeding.

ASIL ARABIANS, currently in 5 volumes, edited by the Asil Club, Hagentorwall 7, D-31134 Hildesheim, Germany. The Asil Club is the European equivalent of AL KHAMSA with members in many countries around the world. The two major sections in each contain an anthology of basic statements from the literature on the breeding of Arabian horses and a collection of pictures and corresponding pedigrees of individual horses of the members. Most quotations are translations from non-English literature and are therefore fresh and especially informative to the American reader. A beautiful collection of books about beautiful horses. Volume 5 is currently available. (See Asil Araber ad in this issue).

BLUNT, Lady Anne: BEDOUIN TRIBES OF THE EUPHRATES, 1879 (1st Edition in 2 volumes, London and New York in the same year; reprints available in both one and two volume form; 1960 edition by Best Publishing, Boulder CO. An account of Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt's first trip (1877-8) to the Arabian desert, the purchase of horses later sent to Crabbet, and several chapters on Bedouin customs, horsebreeding and strains of the horses.

BLUNT, Lady Anne: A PILGRIMAGE TO NEJD, 1881, 1st Edition London, John Murray, 2 volumes; reprints available in both one and two volume form. The Blunt's second trip (1878-9), this time farther into the interior of the Arabian desert, with descriptions of horses.

BORDEN, Spencer: THE ARAB HORSE, 1906 (1st Edition by Doubleday, Page & Co., New York; reprints include 1961 by Borden Publishing Co., Los Angeles; also published by Caballus Publishers in 1973 in one volume with the CRABBET STUD 1924 catalog under the title ARAB HORSES AND THE CRABBET STUD). Borden's stated purpose in this book was to encourage the maintenance of the purity of the original breed through knowledge of the Arab's history, characteristics, qualities, and strains.

BROWN, William Robinson: THE HORSE OF THE DESERT, 1929 (1st Edition by Derrydale Press, New York; reprints 1947-8; new edition 1967 by Jay Schuler Co., Springville NY). Brown was President of the Arabian Horse Club in 1918 and founder of the Maynesboro Stud in 1912. The book contains a complete background on the Arabian horse. It covers the habitat that fixed the Arabian type, its origin, history, qualities, and usefulness for cavalry. Brown has included an extensive list of the strains and families of Arabian horses, along with his opinion that "the indiscriminate mixture of strains by breeders ... has led to an inevitable loss of type much more quickly than the uninformed would suppose." A valuable source. Still one of the most attractive and informative books on the Arabian horse.

CONN, Dr. George H.: THE ARABIAN HORSE IN AMERICA, 1957 (1st Edition by Countryman Press, Woodstock VT; reprints include A. S. Barnes, NY in 1965 and Arco Publishing CO., Inc., NY in 1977). Dr. Conn presents thoroughly researched information on the Arabian horse and its influence on the light breeds. The book contains complete lists of all horses of Arabian breeding, purebred and partbred, imported to this country between 1730 and 1948. It describes the evolution of the Arabian Horse Registry.

DAVENPORT, Homer: MY QUEST OF THE ARABIAN HORSE, 1909 (1st Edition by Dade & Co., NY; many reprints; latest reprint by Caballus Publishers in 1973, in one volume with DAVENPORT STUD CATALOG 1910 under the title DAVENPORT'S ARABIANS). An entertaining and factual account of the purchase of Arabian horses from the bedouins of Arabia. Contains valuable material on the foundation animals of one of the most influential American importations. Photographs and Davenport's drawings add to the enjoyment of the book. (See also below)

CRAVER, Charles and Jeanne, THE ANNOTATED QUEST. Starting from the above mentioned Homer Davenport book, MY QUEST OF THE ARABIAN HORSE, the Cravers have carefully and thoughtfully annotated this text with many pertinent facts and photos detailing the information about the horses and related aspects of this intriguing expedtion. Includes color photo section of Davenport related stock and an ancestral index.

DICKSON, H. R. P.: THE ARAB OF THE DESERT, 1949 (1st Edition by George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., London; reprinted 1951; reprinted by MacMillan, NY). Mr. Dickson was British Political Agent to Kuwait for many years and a scholar regarding that part of the world. This very interesting book gives a close insight into bedouin life in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It has only one chapter on the Arabian horse, but that chapter is excellent. A fascinating, worthwhile volume.

FORBIS, Judith: THE CLASSIC ARABIAN HORSE, 1976, Liveright, New York. Mrs. Forbis traces Arabian horse history from 1580 BC to the present. Photographs of ancient and modern art depict horses of past and present, the conditions under which they were kept, how they were trained, and how the strains were developed. Emphasis is on the Egyptian Arabian horse.

FORBIS, Judith & SCHIMANSKI, Walter: THE ROYAL ARABIANS OF EGYPT AND THE STUD OF HENRY B. BABSON, 1976, Thoth Publishers, Lufkin TX. A history of the stud founded by Mr. Babson in 1932 from Egyptian stock, with extensive research of the entire bloodline deriving from this importation, including the sources in Egypt. Numerous photos including many never before published.

FORBIS, Judith: AUTHENTIC ARABIAN BLOODSTOCK, 1990, 2nd edition available from Ansata Publications, Rt. 2, Box 312-A Mena, AR 71953. An extensive anthology of 30 years of the Forbises writings, life experience and knowledge gained concerning Arabian horses while travelling and living in the Middle East. Includes chapters on Prince Mohammed Ali, Dr. Branch, the Inshass Stud, Strains, extensive Racing Statistics, and much more. Includes many, many photos of horses from turn of the century to present making this one of the most pictorial records of the ancestors of Egyptian Arabians.

FORBIS, Judith & SHERIF, Gulsun, THE ABBAS PASHA MANUSCRIPT, Ansata Publications 1993. A magnificent art book of 743 pages in the style of an old manuscript. Divided into four parts including 19th century Arabian horse hist ory in Europe and the Middle East. Part 3 contains an english translation of the bedouin testimonies of the ancestry of the Arabian horses in the collection of 19th century Egyptian Viceroy Abbas Pasha. 743 pages.

GREELY, Margaret: ARABIAN EXODUS, 1975, J. A. Allen Ltd., London. A record of the Arabian horse from biblical times to the present day with emphasis on England, especially the Crabbet Stud and its influence throughout the world. The historical material -- photographs and excerpts from Blunt papers -- is of special importance.

GUTTMANN, Ursula: THE LINEAGE OF THE POLISH ARABIAN HORSE, 1968, Ernst Holder, Marbach/Lauter, Germany; translation by Erika Schiele, discussion by Dr. F. B. Klynstra. For those interested in exploring the background of Polish breeding, this is an excellent reference. The many large pedigree forms have made this a costly book and examination before purchase is recommended.

HARRIS, Albert: THE BLOOD OF THE ARAB, 1941, privately printed by the Arabian Horse Club, Chicago IL. A standard work on the origins of Arabian breeding in America by one of the breeders who was there at the beginning.

OTT, Miss Jane Llewellyn: THE BLUE ARABIAN HORSE CATALOG, 1961, Pine Hill Farm, Newport VT. Based on the Author's research this is an informative cataloging of those horses imported to the U.S. and their ancestors, which trace entirely to the bedouin tribes and are suitable for reproduction of bedouin type. This was the first cataloging of its kind in America and a significant influence on preserving bedouin oriented bloodlines. The last supplements to the Catalog were dated 1969 and the book has been out of print for a long time but there are still a few copies available from the author. For more information about THE BLUE ARABIAN HORSE CATALOG, write to: Miss Jane Ott, Rt. 1, Box 980, Tappahannock, Virginia 22560.

RASWAN, Carl: BLACK TENTS OF ARABIA, 1935 (1st Edition, London, with 97 photos, is now out of print; multiple reissues in England, the US, and Germany, but not containing the complete set of photographs and appendices of the original) and DRINKERS OF THE WIND, 1942 (1st Edition, New York; earlier 1940 version, London, more complete but not available; reissued in several languages, the latest in English in 1971, which is abbreviated from the first edition). Both of these books are romantic accounts of Raswan's life in desert Arabia, with accounts of daily life in the bedouin tribes and their usage of Arabian horses.

RASWAN, Carl: THE ARAB AND HIS HORSE, 1955, privately published. The best simple discussion of worldwide Arabian breeding in combination with a presentation of the essentials of Raswan's understanding of the principles according to which horses were bred in desert Arabia. Considerable discussion is given to the principles of strain breeding.

RASWAN, Carl: THE RASWAN INDEX, 1st Edition of 7 volumes printed over several years in Mexico, now a collector's item. The Index is arranged like a dictionary of Arabian horses, with material gathered from thousands of notes, cards, and photographs accumulated in over thirty years of travel. It can be used to trace the pedigrees of many Arabian horses beyond American stud books to Europe and the desert. This is not a simple source, but it is well worthwhile to own and study it. A recent complete edition is now available only from Mrs. Carl Raswan, 3221 Calle Noguera, Santa Barbara, California 93105. It is more than 1400 pages, two volumes, on acid free stock.

SCHIELE, Erika: THE ARAB HORSE IN EUROPE, 1970, Borden Publishing Co., Alhambra, California, translated by Anthony Dent. A survey of the use of Arabian blood in the many countries of Europe and the British Isles. A beautifully produced book, full of Mrs. Schiele's marvelous photography.

TWEEDIE, Major-General W. : THE ARAB HORSE HIS COUNTRY & PEOPLE, 1894, 1st Edition in England, U.S. Edition published by Borden Publishing Co. Los Angeles, 1961. Major-General Tweedie had extensive experience in the British Diplomatic service in the Middle East. His book is handsome and one of the most scholarly accounts of the Arabian horse in its native land in English by any author having first-hand knowledge of the subject.

~ by Joe Ferriss