10 Fascinating Facts about Arabian Horses

The Arabian horse, also known as the Arab, is one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world, and its history goes back over 4,000 years. It’s an incredibly athletic horse that has great endurance, speed, and agility — but its most stunning feature might be its luxurious mane and tail that can reach over 4 feet long! Here are 10 fascinating facts about the Arabian horse to help you appreciate these beautiful creatures even more!

1) They have been around for thousands of years

Some people believe that Arabian horses have been around for 6,000 years, while others say they have only been here for 4,000. No matter what you believe, though, it’s clear that these beautiful animals have become a vital part of human history. If you’re looking to breed your own Arabians or learn more about them, check out more info here. Their coat comes in all sorts of colors: While most Arabian horses are chestnut brown or black in color, some can come in blue roan and grey as well.

2) They are from the desert

Arabian horses originated in desert conditions, and some researchers believe that their speed and endurance has to do with their need to outrun predators. Bred for centuries by Bedouin tribes, Arabian horses have incredible stamina; they can gallop for miles without tiring. As one of history’s most revered breeds, Arabian horses have been part of royalty from ancient Egypt and Persia to today’s sheiks. In fact, a purebred Arabian horse is worth more than its weight in gold. But if you ever get to see an Arabian horse up close and personal, you won’t be looking at its price tag—you’ll be marveling at how beautiful these animals are.

3) The DNA matches an ancient mare

She could be 30,000 years old. But we have no way of knowing for sure, said Dr. Laurent Frantz, an ancient DNA expert at Oxford University in England who led a study confirming that a 4,000-year-old mare was one of earliest known examples of Arabian horses. We estimate that around 50 percent of all domestic horses alive today descend from her and other mares like her who lived on or near a place called Botai in what is now northern Kazakhstan. We believe people took their animals with them as they migrated across Europe and Asia thousands of years ago — and those animals were then domesticated into modern-day horses.

4) Bred for the Bedouins, who were nomads

Most horses were bred for tasks specific to their region. Arabian horses, while they could be used as cavalry or pack animals, were primarily bred by desert-dwelling Bedouins who needed them as riding animals. This is why Arabian horses are so suited to long journeys through harsh terrain. The earliest written records of Arabian horses point to that specific purpose—the ancient Romans prized them highly and often offered them in tribute to their gods, so it’s clear that Arabian horses had value beyond earthly affairs even then. The Bedouins bred these tough little beauties until they became a nearly uniform species with almost no genetic variations; there are very few purebred Arabians in existence today.

5) They have been used in movies and TV shows

Most Arabians today do not look like they did 10,000 years ago when they were first domesticated. But sometimes these horses play an important role in popular media. In TV shows and movies, they are frequently used as a stand-in for American Quarter Horses because of their similar stature and coloring. The horse in The Big Valley (1966-69) was an Arabian while there were two arabian stallions playing Morgan horses on Little House on the Prairie (1974-1981). Similarly, Wind Dancer (1992) made use of both Arabian and half-Arabian stallions to portray its titular character. In Gone with the Wind (1939), however, Clark Gable's Rhett Butler rode a quarter horse through town.

6) The whole family gets involved with horses

Arabians are a family affair. Arabian horses are more than just a pet—they’re an integral part of Arab culture. Historically, families would raise Arabian horses and then sell them off at market, as opposed to Western cultures where families would keep their horses for several generations before reselling. Today, most Arabians live on farms or in stalls instead of being used for working purposes. Still, it’s not uncommon for entire extended families to be involved with Arabians; adults might breed them while children ride and train them together. A study by Texas Tech University found that children between ages 6 and 13 who take horseback riding lessons have higher levels of self-esteem than their peers who don’t participate in equestrian activities.

7) Arabian horses are expensive

It costs upwards of $25,000 for a high-quality Arabian horse. One of their more unique characteristics is that many of them are born white and then gain color as they age. They can travel long distances at a fast pace, sometimes up to 40 miles in one day. The United States is home to roughly 7,000 Arabians. Arabian horses have been featured in many Hollywood movies throughout history, such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Ben Hur (1959). In 2014 it was reported that there were only 1,700 purebred Arabian horses left in Australia.

8) Arabian horses are raised in North America

It may seem surprising, but Arabian horses are raised on farms in North America. Over 4,000 purebred Arabian horses were registered with the Arabian Horse Association in North America as of 2004. In addition to these purebreds, over 20,000 Arabians were registered with non-Arabian registries in North America. (Of course, many of these horses could be crossbreeds.) Arabian horses have been reared in North America since 1880 and today Arabians are used for pleasure riding and other activities rather than racing. An American breeder holds titles for both World's Champion Racehorse and World's Champion Halter Horse; an Australian breeder has a record for World's Champion Show Hunter.

9) Don’t let their looks fool you. They can be hot tempered.

Arabian horses can be hot tempered, especially stallions. It’s not uncommon for them to bite a person or another horse during a training session. When it comes to living with an Arabian horse, only experienced owners should handle these breeds because of their innate wild nature. The breeding process has turned many Arabian horses into domesticated animals, but there is still something inherently wild within them that doesn’t go away quickly.

10) Middle Eastern horses are also known as Arabian Horses

These horses originated in Arabia, but they’re also known as Arabian horses. It’s a confusing name, given that they have nothing to do with Arabia. The original Arabs did ride them, though—the Bedouin people used their lighter-boned horses for racing and their heavier-boned horses for carrying things. It makes sense that those types would be lumped together now: one of today’s most popular horse shows is The Arabian Horse Association World Cup Championships at Madison Square Garden, which uses both types of Arabian horse to compete. Arabian horses are very distinctive looking: They have slim necks, high-set tails, large eyes and intelligent faces.

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