Al Khamsa Arabians are defined as those horses in North America that can reasonable be assumed to descend entirely from asil bedouin Arabian horses bred by the horse-breeding bedouin tribes of the deserts of the Arabian peninsula, without admixture from sources unacceptable to Al Khamsa.
It is this definition which sets Al Khamsa Arabians apart from all others and which make these horses a cohesive group, even though there are individual modern breeding programs.
The key to the Al Khamsa concept lies with the bedouin tribes as the original source of the foundation horses without regard to any intermediary country, person or studfarm which may have acquired, or bred from descendants of these foundation horses.
Who were these horse-breeding bedouin tribes?
Since Biblical times the bedouins have wandered in the deserts of the extended Arabian peninsula. Tribal units were bound together by blood ties and relationships. Theirs was an uncomplicated life of survival of the fittest in a harsh, dry climate, a life which of necessity dealt with open spaces and movement in search of grazing lands for their camels, sheep and horses. The annual migrations of the tribes were not haphazard. Each tribe tended to remain within specific areas, except in times of extreme drought, or during tribal wars when the migratory areas might be considerably extended.
Caravan routes spanned the huge peninsula from city to oasis to city across the vast emptiness of the desert. They were fair game for the marauding bedouins who exacted tribute and taxes from them, as well as subsidies from local governments which paid the bedouins to let the caravans pass unmolested. Pilgrims to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina followed the caravan routes, and were a source of income to the governments.
Although the camel was the primary means of transportation, the Arabian horses was essential to the bedouins, particularly in raids or wars, both of which were frequent events. According to eyewitness accounts, none of the tribes possessed horses in great numbers. There are undoubtedly more living registered Arabians in the USA today than ever existed in the desert at one time.
The bedouins used only their mares for raids or wars. Very few stallions were kept, most of the colts being sold by the time they were old enough to become a nuisance in camp. Mares were frequently stolen during raids or changed ownership through sale or as gifts from one sheikh to another. It was part of the bedouin code of honor to provide the new owner with strain and breeding information, even for mares taken in raids or wars. They had long since discovered that the asil, pure Arabian was the best possible horse for their purposes. Their success at out maneuvering and out distancing the "common" horses ridden by governmental troops or townsmen of the area provided ample proof that the asil Arabian needed no improvement from inferior horses! It was a matter of practicality that even though a mare should go from tribe, her pedigree information must go with her so that she would always be honored and bred only to asil stallions. Only in this way could the bedouins be assured that succeeding genererations of mares that they might acquire would be the real thing.
Until after World War I, the Ottoman Empire ruled by the Sultan of Turkey, encompassed the Northern section of the Arabian peninsula, including the modern nations Syria, Iraq, Jordan, etc., The entire eastern coast of the peninsula and the western coast as far as Hofuf was part of the Ottoman Empire. Egypt too was part of the Ottoman Empire, although it was occupied by the British from 1882 until it became an independent monarchy in 1922 with Ahmed Fouad as king. Fouad was heir to the Viceroys, Pashas and Khedives who had governed Egypt, first under the Sultan of Turkey, and then under the British. From 1902 until approximately 1930, the central and coastal portions of the Arabian peninsula were in a state of upheaval as Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud waged intermittent war with the various local tribes and cities in his effort to create a unified kingdom. Saudi Arabia was recognized as an independent nation in 1932, prior to which time there was no overall government.
National boundaries, by definition, delineate territory, restrict and confine people. The migrating Bedouins recognized no national or governmental boundaries. The Ottoman Turks had long attempted to confine, or at least control these nomads. What the Turks failed to achieve was accomplished by the introduction of the automobile, automatic weapons, radios, railroads and airplanes. The northern tribes were apparently the first to give up their horses in favor of the jeep; but even the tribes of Saudi Arabia have, for the most part, become settled in villages or cities where they have become oil drillers instead of camel herders.
The Tribes: Breeders of Our Foundation Horses
The tribes can be roughly divided into four major groups and/or areas as follows:
A) The Anazeh confederation consisting of the Amarat, Fid'an, Ruala, Saba, Wuld Ali and Wuld Sulayman. These tribes were located in Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Northern Saudi Arabia:
B) The Shammar with a Northern branch were located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Northeast Syria and North-east Iraq, and southern branch located near Hail in Saudi Arabia;
C) The Muntifiq and Dhafir which were located in Iraq where the Tigris and Euphrates river join the Persian Gulf.
D) The tribes of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait consisting of the Ajman, Atayban, Banu Hajr, Banu Khalid, Dawasir, Muteyr and Qahtan.
Although the tribes were separate entities, each owned many strains of horses, and horses changed ownership from one tribe to another. A Saqlawi owned by the Saba may have been bred by the Ruala, and have had a foal while in the possession of the Ajman.
...Layard relates how, in 1850, west of Mosul, on chancing to drop on an encampment of the Tai Arabs, he found them much cast down after a beating from the Sham-mar, in which forty of their mares had been captured. While their Shekh was deep in gloomy consultation with his warriors over their misfortune, an emissary from the victorious Sham-mar, wrapped in his ragged cloak, sat listlessly among them, waiting to be informed of the pedigrees of the mares which he and his people had taken from them. Such a message, Sir Henry Layard continues, 'might appear to those ignorant of the customs of the Arab one of insult and defiance. But he was on a common errand; and although there was blood between the tribes, his person is as sacred as that of an ambassador in any civilized community. Whenever a horse falls into the hands of an Arab, his first thought is how to ascertain its descent.'
~ From: Sir Henry Layard, quoted in The Arabian Horse His Country and People, Major-General W. Tweedie, England 1894
Tribal Sources of Al Khamsa Foundation Horses
Author's Note: 1) the masculine form of the strain names is used herein for both sexes; and 2) not all Al Khamsa Foundation Horses are included in the following survey, the purpose of which is to show the tribal relationships of horses obtained by a cross section of exporter-breeders.
Several generations of the Ibn Mhayd family of the Fid'an supplied horses to Abbas Pasha of Egypt, Wilfrid and Lady Blunt of England, Homer Davenport of the USA, and possibly to the Ottoman Sultan.
Abbas Pasha of Egypt, prior to 1855 obtained SAMHA and ZOBEYNI, both of the Saqlawi Jedran strain of Ibn Subeyni of the Mhayd-Fid'an. About 20 years later the Blunts acquired KARS, an 1874 Saqlawi Jedran of Ibn Subeyni of the Mhayd Fid'an. The 1873 Saqlawi Jedran stallion, *LEOPARD was a gift from the Sultan of Turkey to President U.S. Grant. According to Randolph Huntington (who used him in his breeding program) and to Raswan, *Leopard was bred by Jid'an Ibn Mhayd who gave him to the Sultan. If so, he could have been an older brother of Kars.
A little more than 50 eyars after Abbas Pasha got horses of Ibn Mhayd's breeding, Davenport acquired as a gift, the 1899 mare, *WADDUDA a Saqlawi Al-Abd. She had been Hashem Bey Ibn Mhayd's favorite war mare.
Some of the other Al Khamsa Foundation horses from the Fid'an include the Blunt's Muniqi-Hadruj mare, JERBOA and the Davenport horses, *AZRA (Saqlawi Ubayran), and *RESHAN a Kuhailan Haifi whose sire, however, was owned by the Saba tribe.
The Gomussa branch of the Saba has provided many Al Khamsa foundation horses such as HAIDEE, a Muniqi Hadruj and YATAGHAN, Kuhailan Juraban (or Muniqi Hadruj according to Huntington and Raswan). They were imported to England in 1874 for a Mr. Sandeman, and their daughter. *Naomi was imported to the USA by Huntington. In 1875, Roger Upton imported KESIA I and KESIA II (both Kuhailan Nauwaq) to England. Between 1878 and 1887 the Blunts acquired BASILISK (Saqlawi Jedran), QUEEN OF SHEBA (Abayyan Sharrak) and AZREK (Saqlawi Jedran), all from the Gomussa. In 1906, Davenport got *FARHA (Muniqi Sbaili) and *HALEB (Muniqi Sbaili) and *WERDI (Kuhailan Kurush) from the Gomussa Saba.
Additional Al Khamsa foundation horses come from other branches of the Saba, including DONIA, a Kuhaylan Mimri, imported to Egypt around 1900 for Prince Ahmed Pasha Kemal. *MIRAGE, a Saqlawi Jedran (Dal'ah) stallion, bred by the Saba was owned by King Feisal of Iraq, prior to being sent to England, where he was owned but never used by Lady Wentworth. He was imported to the USA in 1930 by R. Selby.
Abbas Pasha of Egypt got GHAZIA and SUEYD, both Saqlawi Jedrans of Ibn Sudan and WADIHAH, a Shuwayman Sabbah from the Ruala tribe sometime prior to 1855, while Prince Ahmed Pasha Kemel acquired MAANAGIA HADRAGIA, a Muniqi Hadruj, in 1885. In 1881 the Blunts imported the Kuhaylan Ajuz of Ibn Rodan mare, RODANIA to England. They had gotten her from the Roala. In 1906, Davenport imported *MUSON, a Kuhaylan Abu Muhsin, bred by the Ruala.
Official information of the Davenport mare *URFAH and her son *HAMRAH, both Saqlawi Jedrans of Ibn Zedan Al Awaj only indicated that they were bred by the Anazeh, but Raswan says the Ibn Zadan (Badan) El Awaj was a member of the Wuld Sulayman. *TAAMRI, an Abayyan stallion, bred by the Wuld Sulayman was foaled at the Sa'ud Royal stud in Saudi Arabia and was imported to the USA in 1960 by DJ Roach. The Sa'ud royal family was originally derived from the Wuld Sulayman tribe of the Anazeh.
From the Muntifiq tribe Abbas Pasha got QUMIZ, a Samhan-Hafi, while Ali Pasha Sherif got MAHROUSA (APS), a Wadnan Khursan. The stallion, *KISMET, a Muniqi-Hadruj was imported into England in 1884 and may have been from the Muntifiq since he was described as a "Keheilan-Muntifik". The Blunt's Abayyan Sharrak stallion, SAADUN was also bred by the Muntifiq.
Egypt's Khedive Abbas II foundation mare, VENUS a Hadban Inzihi foaled around 1890, was bred by the Shammar as was *HADBA, also a Hadban Inzihi born in 1900 and imported by Davenport to the USA. Davenport's mare, *ABEYAH (Abayyan Sharrak) was also bred by the Shammar as was the Blunt's FERIDA, a Muniqi Sbaili. In 1925, Charles Crane imported the Shammar bred Muniqi Sbaili stallion, *MOHALHIL, to the USA. (This Al Khamsa foundation horse is on the "endangered bloodline" list as he has only 3 or 4 living Al Khamsa descendants.) The Kuhaylan Ajuz stallion, MASHAAN, who came from the El Jibur tribe of the Shammar, was imported to Egypt around 1929 and, according to an article by Judith Forbis, he eventually went to the stud of Prince Faisal in Saudi Arabia.
The Blunts purchased the stallion HADBAN, a Hadban Inzahi, in India where he had been taken for racing purposes. Hadban was bred by the Ateyban tribe. According to the Amiri Arabian Stud book of Bahrain the ruling Al Khalifa family got their Kuhaylan-Jellibiet foundation horses from the Ateyban tribe.
Abbas Pasha got the mare SHALFA, Dahman Shawan, from the Banu Hajr tribe. He got the stallion RA'IS, also a Dahman Shawan, from the Ibn Khalifa of Bahrain who apparently got him from the Banu Hajr.
In 1782 the Al Khalifa family, who were drived from a branch of the Anazeh, settled on the island of Bahrain. They brought some horses with them and over the past two hundred years have acquired many more from the various tribes. There has also been an extensive interchange of horses with members of the extended Sa'ud family. (Horses coming from the Al Khalifas have been counted as Al Khamsa Foundation horses, as are those from the Sa'ud and Jiluwi families, even though these families are not "tribes", nor migratory. JELLABEIT FEYSUL, a Kuhaylan Jellabiet was imported into Egypt or Abbas Pasha in about 1846. She was acquired from Feysul Ibn Turki As-Sa'ud (grandfather of the first king of Saudi Arabia), who had obtained her from Muhammed Ibn Al Khalifa, who may have bred her or obtained her from the Atayban tribe. (Lady Anne Blunt and Raswan both thought she originated with the Ajman tribe.) Other Egyptian foundation horses from the Al Khalifas of Bahrain include JATHEMA and MISKAH, both also Kuhaylan Jellabiets for Abbas Pasha. BINT EL BAHRAIN, a Dahman Shahwan was imported for Khedive Abbas, II in 1903. The mare *SAWANNAH, a Dahamn, was obtained from the Al Khalifa stud and imported to the U.S.A. by K.M. Kelly in 1954.
Members of the Sa'ud family, including their cousins, the Ibn Jiluwis have provided a large number of Al Khamsa foundation horses in addition to Jellabiet Feysul mentioned above. During the period when Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud was fighting to establish his kingdom, he fought with or against all the tribes in central Arabia. No doubt he obtained many horses during this period. He had family relationships with the Anezeh, from whom he also received horses. One of the King's many wives was of the Ibn Rashid family of the Shammar and at least one other wife was from the Ruala tribe. He and his sons established a number of stud farms in Saudi Arabia in Riyadh and Al Khormah and at other locations. The Ibn Jiluwi stud farm was located in Hassa.
Albert Harris imported 4 mares which he obtained from Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud in 1931 including *NUFOUD (Kuhaylan Ajuz) and *SAMIRAH (Hamdani Simri). *TURFA, who apparently was a Kuhaylan Ajuz Al Khormah although Raswan believed her to be an Abayyan Al Hurmah, was a gift to the royal family of England and was imported to the US in 1941 by Henry Babson.
In 1927, Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud presented King Fouad of Egypt with the mare EL KAHILA, a Kuhailan Kurush. In 1945 Fouad's son, King Farouk received the Saqlawi mares, HIND, and MABROUKA, and the Kuhaylan mare, NAFAA, as gifts from Ibn Sa'ud. All of these were incorporated into the Inshass Stud of Egypt.
During the oil years, Americans working in connection with ARAMCO acquired a large number of horses from the Saud royal studs, including *AL-OBAYYAH, an Abayyan, imported in 1962 by D Chastain. S Roach imported *AMIRAA and *RUDANN, both Hamdanis in 1960 along with *TAAMRI mentioned above under the Wuld Sulayman.
*SINDIDAH, a Hamdani from the Saud Royal stud, was imported 1966 by M Johnson, and later was owned by C Cobb who also imported *JALAM AL UBAYAN, and Abayyan bred by Ibn Jiluwi. (*MUHRAA, another Abayyan from Ibn Jiluwi was imported 1950 by Esther Ames.)
*MUNIFAN and *MUNIFEH (both Kuhaylans) were imported in 1947 by G O'Brien. These two were bred by the members of the Sa'ud family but were obtained by O'Brien from Ibn Jiluwi.
As can be seen by the foregoing survey of Al Khamsa Foundation Horses, no major breeder or exporter got all their horse from one tribe, and all tribes had representatives of all the major strains. Today, Al Khamsa Arabians are often described, and divided in terms of modern breeding programs, yet it appears that they have more in common with each other in terms of tribal origins than they have differences. The Al Khamsa Arabians of today and tomorrow are infinitely lovely mosaics derived from the numerous tribal sources of yesteryear.
~ From The Khamsat Anthology by Carol Lyons, originally printed: KHAMSAT, Volume 7, Number 2, 1990