Meet the Arabian Horse

The World's Oldest Breed

An Arabian Horse in native costume. Image: Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

The Arabian horse is one of the world's oldest breeds. It also has the oldest official breed registry. Arabian horses haves influenced every light horse, and many pony and warmblood breeds throughout history. It is one of the most popular breeds as well. 

Body Type of the Arabian Horse:

Arabian horses have lithe, compact bodies that suggest strength and speed. Their backs are short, and ideally, they have well sloping shoulders and powerful hindquarters.

Arabian horses often have elegantly arched necks, fine silky manes and tails and a refined head. The Arabian horse's physical presence suggests refinement, power, agility, and elegance.

Average Size of the Arabian Horse:

Arabians are small in stature compared to many riding horses. Most Arabian horses are between 14 hands and 15.2 hands (56 inches to 62 inches at the top of the shoulder). They are fine to medium boned and weigh from 800lbs to 1000lbs. Some Arabian horses of Polish bloodlines exceed 15.3 (63 inches) hands high. Selective breeding means that certain bloodlines retain the size or type they were selected for. So some are quite fine boned, while others are more robustly built. 

Uses of the Arabian Horse:

Arabians excel in almost every horse sport. They are the horses of choice for long distance trail competitions. They are very hardy and capable of traveling long distances over challenging terrain and in intense heat.

They make elegant dressage horses, provide thrills comparable to any Thoroughbred on the racetrack, and are impressive in the show ring in pleasure classes, over jumps or providing a spectacle in native Arabian costume classes. Arabian horses can be affectionate companions and many older Arabians make wonderful family and beginner horses whether ridden or driven in harness.

They tend to be more people-oriented than some other breeds. Where a purebred Arabian may not be suitable, crossbreds can be found, such as the Anglo-Arabian, Shagyar Arabian, ArabxQHs and American Show Horses and many other breeds. 

Color and Markings of the Arabian Horse:

Arabians come in almost every color including gray and roan. Arabians can have all manner of white facial markings, and white socks or stockings on their legs.Some bloodlines are known for their specific color or markings, like the high white socks and white faces of the Crabbet bloodlines. 

History and Origins of the Arabian Horse:

While the very beginnings of the Arabian horse are hidden in the desert sands most experts agree Arabians originated in the vicinity of the Arabian Peninsula. The Bedouin tribes trace their common history with Arab horses back to 3000 BC and keep meticulous ancestral records or ‘pedigrees’. The Bedus used the horses for beasts-of-burden and war mounts. The Arab’s hardiness is a result of the harsh desert climate and terrain they evolved in. 

Unique Characteristics of the Arabian Horse:

  • A delicately dished face with wide intelligent eyes and arching neck are hallmarks of the purebred Arabian.
  • Arabians have a high tail carriage and floating ‘gaits’ (forward movement).
  • Arabians are quick learners, alert, and sensitive.
  • Arabians are the ancestors of many modern day horses from the tall Trakehner to the diminutive Fallabella.
  • Arabian horses have one less vertebra than other breeds of horses.
  • Meticulous care is taken to keep the bloodlines of Arabian horses 100% pure. No horse with any blood of another breed is can be registered as an Arabian, no matter how small the dilution. 


Arabian Horse Champions and Celebrities:

  • Marengo: Favored mount of Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Skowronek: One the outstanding sires from the Crabbet Arabian Stud Farm in Britain who has passed down his blood to generations of North American Arabs.
  • Cass Ole: The star of the 1979 movie The Black Stallion starring Mickey Rooney and based on the novel written by Walter Farley.


    What's Special About Arabian Horses?:

    Horse enthusiasts around the world have much to thank the Arabian breed for. Arabs have contributed their elegance, spirit, and intelligence to almost every light horse breed that exists. They have carried kings and pashas into war and taught many youngsters about the joys and responsibilities of horse ownership. Their gaits are ground covering and smooth to ride despite their relatively small size. Arabians are very long-lived and hardy. An older Arabian makes the perfect first-time horse or backyard family horse. Many Purebred Arabian names begin with ‘Bint’ or “Ibn”. These prefixes are rough translations for the Bedouin words for ‘daughter of’ or ‘son of’.