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The following pages attempt to give a survey of the horse-breeding Bedouin tribes of Arabia, mainly of the last two hundred years, placing some important foundation horses of the western world and their breeders into the great cultural and political context of the Bedouin way of life. We will find a great number of different Bedouin tribes. This should show us breeders in the West that our horses are influenced from many different sources and this fact will be obvious to any breeder in his daily work. Accordingly, it should not be our aim to breed a standard Arabian of one particular type. Such a standard type has never existed. Let us take the excursion into the past as an incentive for the present and the future of our Arabian horses, in that we handle the heritage entrusted to us with responsibility.

Syrian ethnologist Jibrail Jabbur states: ”The Arab Bedouin is Semitic in origin. According to the traditional view of Arab historians the Bedouin traces his descent from southern and northern Arabia, hence the practice of genealogists generally to trace descent back to two origins, northern and southern, or Adnani and Qahtani.”

Anaza – the great Nomad people of Northern Arabia

The Anaza were the largest tribal group in Arabia. They are among the oldest of the tribes and belong to the Northern Arabs (Rabi´a). The Anaza were the largest tribe in Nejd. Around 1700 the most important event in the newer history of the Bedouin took place. The Anaza, originally from the Harra of Chaibar, a lava region north of Medina, penetrated into the richer grazing grounds beyond the great sand desert Nafud, into the “promised land” of the Bedouin. The entire migration took about one hundred years, and another wave followed after 1790 with the Wahhabites. The Anaza became the great nomad people of the north.

The Anaza are divided into two large and opposing groups (ashab), Dana Bishr and Dana Muslem, which in turn are divided into three large tribes (qabila) each:

Anaza:   Dana Bishr:         Fed´an    Sba´ah      Amarat

              Dana Muslem:   Hsana      Weld Ali   Rwala

The Anaza were major nomads and camel breeders, only the Hsana bred mainly sheep (at the end of the 19th century). During the summer they were found in the cultivated areas of Syria and Mesopotamia, where their animals grazed on the harvested fields in the cultivated areas of the farmers. In winter, following the first rains, they crossed through the steppes and desert towards their ancient homeland.  To acquire winter provisions such as grain and dates, they traded at the markets of nearby towns. Their main source of income, besides livestock, was the extorsion of protection fees from Syrian shepherd families and semi settlers, and the toil money from caravans passing through their territories (including the pilgrims to Mecca).  Shammar and Anaza were hereditary enemies. In the South, the Rwala and Shammar of Nejd fought over the wells and pastures of the Nafud. In the North,  Fed´an and Shammar of Mesopotamia opposed each other.

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Mlolshaan Wesam in Bahrain

Al-Weld Ali

The Weld Ali from Dana Muslem were among the first tribes to come north. They had their summer pastures in the plain of Hauran, in winter they crossed through the Syrian Desert, and before their former homeland in the Hedjaz.  In the mid 19th century they were beaten by the Rwala, which resulted in a partial abandoning of camel breeding during the 1870s and the beginning of agriculture in the 1890s. Also they began to march behind the Rwala during migration in search of pasturage. According to Lady Blunt they still owned many camels and mares at that time. Back in the beginning 19th century Rzewuski states that they had superb and very fine horses. Their sheikh family was al-Tayyar and their tents counted to 7,000. Today the Weld Ali are split between Syria and Saudi Arabia. Many of their horses were exported to Babolna, but also to Russia (Count Stroganoff). The famous stallion Kuhailan Zaid, bred by the Rwala, was purchased from the Weld Ali for Babolna in 1931 by Raswan and von Zietarski.

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At the Royal Stables Bahrain


The tribe of Hsana was an important tribe originally. Among the first to move to Syria, they ruled the Palmyrene, the steppe and desert around Palmyra, at the beginning of the 19th century.  Sheikh Mehanna Abu Nasser became known as the one Lady Hester Stanhope payed her visit when traveling to Palmyra. Also Emir Rzewuski was a good friend of him. He reports that they numbered 3,000 tents and had excellent horses. The Hsana were the first Anaza tribe to become semi-nomads, under the pressure of Weld Ali, Fed´an and Sba´ah. So later they only had 600 tents. In the summer they were found near Homs, in the winter in the Hamad. They were allied with Rwala and Weld Ali.

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Kuhaylaan Aladiyad Dami, Bahrain


The tribe of the Rwala was the biggest and wealthiest Bedouin tribe in Arabia, judged on the numbers of people and livestock. At the same time it was the most warlike tribe. In 1818 the number of their tents was 18,000 (Rzewuski). Lady Blunt gives us the number of 20,000 tents in 1879. Lancaster estimated for the early 1960s about 360,000 Rwala or 72,000 tents (both in Syria and Saudi Arabia). The Rwala originally came from the Chaibar, later their main base of operation was the northern edge of the Nafud, including Wadi Sirhan and the Southern Syrian Desert. Because of the Wahhabite wars they continued to travel north. Since the best pastures there were already taken, a war broke out between Rwala and Weld Ali. Until 1921 there were additional bloody conflicts in the South with the Shammar kingdom of the Ibn Rasheeds and after that, with the Ibn Sauds. The Rwala are divided into five tribal sections: al-Murath (with the Sha´lan family), al-Dogman, al-Ga´adza, al-Freje (the largest section), and al-Kwatzbe.

Their annual migrations were very slow and took a long time, due to the immense number of men and animals. They shared the summer pastures with the Weld Ali, which were located in what is today Jordan, Syrian and Lebanon, where they sometimes reached as far as the Bekaa plain. The Rwala owned 150,000 camels and each year sold up to 35,000 camels in the markets. Burckhardt mentions that there were more horses in Rwala possession than among other tribes of Anaza. But by the end of the 19th century they had only few mares left – many had gone to Abbas Pasha, who had been on friendly terms with Sheikh Faisal Ibn Sha´lan, and second because the Rwala were the first tribe to abandon lances in favor of firearms, which made war mares superfluous. Also, only when the Rwala joined his campaign against the Turks, did Lawrence of Arabia know that it will be successful. The ruling sheikh family was al-Sha´lan. After World War I, sheikh Nuri al-Sha´lan enjoyed such standing among the mandatory powers and among the sheikhs of the other tribes that it practically made him the unrivaled leader among the Bedouin sheikhs.

During most of his time in Arabia, Carl Raswan, and also Musil, lived with the Rwala. The Rwala were an important source of Arabian horses. Stock acquired from them included the stallion Saklawi I, through Nazeer founder of the most significant sire line in the world, and the mare Rodania, whose descendents were sold from Crabbet Park throughout the entire world, including Egypt. Ghazieh, an Abbas Pasha mare from the Rwala, established another influential female line, giving significant sires like Shahloul or Hamdan in Egypt. The stallion Kuhailan Haifi was the most important contribution of the imports of Raswan/Zietarski for Poland between the two World Wars. Musil records that the Rwala “raise for the most part mares of the following breeds:  1. khejle, 2. saklawije zudranije, 3. dhama, 4. ma´nakije, 5. gilfe. However the following are also recognized as thoroughbreds: 6. hamdanije, 7. obejjet ummu greijs, 8. swetijie, and 9. amm ´arkub.”

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Musannan Al Sabah


A larger part of the Bischr-Anaza Bedouin, the Sba´ah, bred excellent camels and horses, but had no political influence. They left Nejd only about 1800 to 1805. Among the Arabs they are known as Humul al-Khayl – “people of horses”. According to Lady Anne Blunt their horses were known as the best in the Syrian Desert. Also Rzewuski observed that the Sba´ahs had perfect horses and records their tents numbering 5,600. Until the middle of the 20th century they owned about 20,000 camels and about 30,000 sheep and many horses. During winter they migrated through the Syrian Desert, in summer they were found in the area around Hamah. Most of the Sba´ah Bedouin left Syria in 1958 and 1963 and the decade that followed because of political reasons and came to the north-eastern part of Saudi Arabia. Thus, in the Syrian studbook nearly no horses bred by the Sba´ahs can be found today.

The Sba´ahs are divided into several subgroups, including several clans known for their horses: Gomoussa, Ibn Shutaywi, Resalin, El Deree, Ibn Huded, and Ibn Muwayni. The following strains were and are bred: Ma´naghi Sbayli, Kuhaylan al-Kharas, Kuhaylan al-Nawwaq, Kuhaylan Abu Junnub, Ubayyan Sharrak, Saqlawi  Jedran of Ibn ad-Derri, Saqlawi Jedran of Ibn Sudan, Kuhaylan al-Mimrah. Many of the Blunt´s original horses came from the Sba´ah: Queen of Sheba, Azrek, Pharaoh, Basilisk, Dajania, Meshura, and Hagar, also Major Upton´s Haidee, Kesia I and Yataghan. Babolna imported many horses, for instance the mare 60-Adjuze, and some horses left for France as well. Homer Davenport bought the following horses from stock from the Sba´ah: Houran, Gomussa, Farha, Werdi, and Haleb. Turkey´s foundation sire Baba Kurus/Krush Halba was another important contribution of the Sba´ah tribe.

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Dhahmaan Hoobeishi in Bahrain


The Fed´an were the political most significant Bishr-Anaza Bedouin. Lady Blunt called them the most warlike tribe in the desert, although possessing only a small number of broodmares. The Fed´an were the sworn enemies of the Rwala, which whom they were at war from 1877 to 1900. Rzewuski gives the number of tents with ten thousand and reports of an excellent quality of their horses. Today the Fed´an can be found in Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Their two main groups were al-Wlada and al-Krasa, both with about 4,000 tents. The number of their camels was estimated with 20,000 and their sheep with 60,000. Al-Krasa crossed the Euphrates from 1860, the al-Wlada only after 1900. Their summer pastures were located east of Aleppo and Hamah. Their winter pastures were the Syrian Desert. The highest family of sheikhs of the Wlada-Fed´an was Ibn Muhayd, of the al-Krasa Ibn Ku´eshish. The Sbeyni family of the Muhayd was famous for their Saqlawis. The stallion Zobeyni at the stud of Abbas Pasha was named, as it was often the case, after his breeder. Through his grandson Messaoud he gained worldwide influence. The marbat of Ibn Subayni/Zobeyni exists in Syria until today. Also the strain of Saqlawi Sheifi originated with the Fed´an.  Among the Davenport imports some horses from this tribe can be found: Wadduda, a Saqlawiah al Abd, a great war mare of Ibn Muhayd, and Reshan, a Kuhaylah Haifiah, and Azra, a Saqlawi Ubayri stallion from the al-Krasa section.

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Ma´anaghy in Bahrain

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The Amarat is the only Anaza tribe that belonged to the Iraqi Desert, to the back country of Hit and Kerbela. There is little known of them as foreign travelers did not visit them. They had come from the lands east of Jebel Shammar and eastern Nejd (Qassim) and started to move north at the end of the 18th century. As part of the Bishr-Anaza they were allies with as-Sba´ah and Fed´an. They were in conflict with the Rwala and the Shammar of Ibn Rasheed at Hail. In winter their pastures lay on the eastern slopes of the Syrian Desert plateau (El Wudjan), and in spring further north at El Ka´ara. In late summer they moved beyond the Euphrates between Felludje and Baghdad. A major part of the Amarat has remained in their home country, the Qassim. The sheikh family is Ibn Haddal. Today the Amarat are found in Saudi Arabia and Syria. The house of Khalifah in Bahrain is of Amarat origin.

The Amarat had more than 3,500 tents and owned about 20,000 camels and many horses. From the Hudruj/Hadraj clan of al-Amarat the strain Ma´naghi Hadraji originates. There were two subtribes, al-Dahamsha and Arab al-Jabal with Sekur and Selka, with both 4,000 tents each.


Suwaity Mamdooh in Bahrain

The House of al-Khalifah on the Island of Bahrain

Bahrain is ruled by the house of al-Khalifah since 1783, a clan from the Selka/Salqa section of al-Amarat. The al-Khalifah family has maintained many old strains of Arabia and has also acquired horses from the Ibn Jalawi and Ibn Saud families. Abbas Pasha obtained some of his horses from Bahrain. The rasan of Kuhaylan  Jellabi has been famous for a long time in Bahrain, as well as the Dahman strain. The mare Bint El Bahreyn has founded a large dam-line in Egyptian breeding. The stallion Koheilan Afas was imported into Poland by Raswan and Zietarski. To Britain the mare Nuhra, a Wadhnan Kushan, was imported in 1938.


Musannah Bint El Bahrain

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The Shammar, the second largest Bedouin group of Arabia, are Southern Arabs (Tai) with roots in Yemen. They were first mentioned in the 14th century. Their home was the Jebel Shammar in northern Saudi Arabia for a long time. Like the Anaza, a large part of the Shammar migrated towards the North in the 17th century under the leadership of al-Jerba, but first only as far as today´s southern Iraq. They were forced to cross the Euphrates in 1800 by the Wahhabite attacks, and their sheik Fares, founder of the house of al-Jerba, could win influence with the Ottoman Wali in Bagdhad and became their Bab Al Arab.  At the same time he beat the ruling tribe of the Jezireh, the Obed, and forced them to retreat and fall into oblivion. With a new Wali, the mighty Muntafiq tribe was preferred by the government after 1813. Thus the Shammar became feared opponents of the Turks. Later they became allies of the Ottoman again and could soon be found as far north as Mossul. The Northern Shammar ruled the Jezireh, the land between Euphrates and Tigris, during most of the 19th century, and were divided between the East-Shammar around Ferhan and the West-Shammar around Faris. Later the Northern Shammar in Iraq were also called Shammar al-Jerba. After the Ottoman era, the British and French and the newly established frontiers led to a further division of the Shammar in an Iraqi (Shammar Khorsa) and a Syrian part (Shammar az-Zor).

From the Shammar that remained in the South, the Emirate of Ibn Rasheed at Hail emerged (1838-1921).  In 1920 the southern Shammar were estimated to have 4,000 tents or 150,000-200,000 people which constituted the Shammar qabila. According to their own genealogies they are divided into four tribal sections called ashair (singular ashira): Aslam (1,200 tents), Sinjara (1,000 tents), Abde (1,500 tents) and Tuman (300 tents). Until 1836 the Shammar tribe had no single chief or head, after this date the Ibn Rasheeds from the Abde branch took lead. Today Shammar people can be found in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

In the 18th century the nearest markets were in Iraq or on the Persian Gulf (for export to India), because the Anaza blocked the way to Syria. This may explain why not many Shammar-bred horses are found among the ancestors of our horses in the West, although the Shammar were renowned horse breeders. Oppenheim writes: “The sale of horses – in the 1840s to Egypt, later to India – was a big source of income.” Guarmani reports that in the pastures at Jebel Shammar near Hail in 1863 500 mares were grazing under the protection of 300 slaves. Only two foundation horses in Egyptian breeding came directly from the Shammar, one of them influential Venus who founded the Hadban Enzahi line which produced Nazeer. Her name is derived from her breeder, the Yunis (venus) clan of the Zauba-Shammar. Mashaan, a desert bred racing stallion, is said to come from the Shammar at Deyr az-Zor. On the other hand, six of the horses imported to America for Davenport came from the Shammar: Hadbah, Jedah, Urfah, Hamrah, Haffia, and Abeyah. According to Edouard Al-Dahdah, the house of Jarba had at least four contemporary sheikhs in the 20th century. Each of them was famous for one strain: Mayzar Abd al-Mushin al-Jarba bred the marbat of Kuhaylan Krush. Mahaal Pasha, son of Faris al-Jarba and head of the Shammar az-Zor in Syria, had Shuwayman Sabba. And Dham al-Hadi, leader of the Iraqi Shammar, a descendant of Farhan, was renowned for Hadban Enzahi. Ajil al-Yawir al-Jarba, who followed Dham al-Hadi after his expulsion from Iraq, was famous for his Saqlawi Jadran strain.

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The Tai tribe in today Syria and Iraq is the remaining population of one of the oldest Arabian people from which the Shammar and numerous other tribes, like the Dawasir in Saudi Arabia, but also the Fadl and Muhanna (two important tribes of the Middle Ages in Northern Arabia) are descendend from. One of their ancestors is Hatem Tai, an Arabic “national” hero and poet living at the turn of the 6th century AD. Their origin is Southern Arabia from where they migrated north, first to Jebel Shammar, at those times called Jebel Tai. Many of the Tai clans have later merged into other tribes. Only the Mesopotamian Tai retained their original name. Rzewuski gives 10,000 tents for the Beni Tai tribe under its sheikh Tamer Salum (1819). He also incorporated a drawing of a horse of the Tai into his famous manuscript. At the beginning of the 19th century the Tai were split into two parts by the invading Shammar. One part remained in the area of Sinjar, the other crossed the Tigris and settled near Erbil to live a half nomadic life. Later the Tai were closely connected with the Shammar through marriage between the sheikh families. Regarding Arabian horses none was exported to the West to the author´s knowledge. Nevertheless the Tai are among the horse breeding tribes in modern Syria and had a high reputation for their asil horses in the years before the civil war.


The Jiburi belong to the smaller tribes of Mesopotamia. Like a large part of the Bedouin population of Mesopotamia and the neighboring North Syrian and Iraqi areas, the Jiburi were part of the Zubed, who originated from the Southern Arabian Zubed and had come to the North as early as 1200. (Jiburi, Dulaym, Janabi, and ´Ubadi federations are subgroups of the Zubaydi tribe originating in Yemen.) The Jiburi immigrated during the 14th century and moved even further during the great Bedouin migrations of the 18th century and early 19th century, until some of them found a new home on the Chabur, a tributary river of the Euphrates, near Deyr az-Zor, and others on the Tigris north of Tikrit. The first group were warlike semi-nomads who moved to the Syrian steppes in winter. They were not subject to the Shammar, whom they had defeated in battle in 1913. 


The Aqaydad were a small warlike tribe in Syria and their winter quarters lay west of Deyr az-Zor, where they had come around 1860 after splitting from the Aqaydad of the Euphrates. By the 1930s about two third of them had settled down. The nomadic part accompanied the Mawali on their winter migrations. According to Lady Blunt they were not well regarded, but owned a few good mares which they had from the Anaza, and they were enthusiastic breeders. From this tribe we have an exact account of their livestock as of 1934: 100-150 camels, 4,000 sheep, 30 horses, 100 mules, and 200 donkeys. From the Al Agidad tribe the stallion Nabras, a Hadban Enzahi comes, a race horse in Egypt used by the RAS.

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Tribes that are called Baqqara can be found today in Syria, Iraq, Israel, and also Sudan. Baqqara can be translated “cattle herdsman”. But only the Baqqara of Syria near Deyr az-Zor were and are horse breeders. They are the largest tribal group of this area today, numbering some 1.2 million people. Tradition has it that their ancestor came from Hedjaz. They were divided into two groups, the Baqqara al-Djebel and the Baqqara ez-Zor, the latter with the main sheik from the family of al- Besheer. The Baqqara lived in harmony with most of their neighbors and even a part of the tribe had themselves connected to the Jiburi or Milli tribes. Also the Aqaydad lived in the same area. The Anaza on the other hand were enemies and ghazus were performed until the beginning 20th century. Most of the Baqqara had to pay a small khuwa to the Shammar. They still are breeders of Arabian horses today. The stallion El Deree was bred by Cheder al-Deri, a race horse in Lebanon and Egypt before he became one of the leading sires at Inshass.

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El Deree, main stallion at Inshass and sire of Sid Abouhom.

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The Muntafiq were one of the most important tribes in Iraq and lived along the lower Euphrates. For a long time they controlled the lower Euphrates and Tigris down to the Shatt al-Arab. They emerged at the beginning 19th century when Bedouin tribes in that area concluded a truce amongst themselves and united under the name of al-Muntafiq. They were very warlike and famous as horse breeders. The leading family was al-Sa´dun. The stallion Saadun of Lady Blunt at Sheikh Obeyd, Egypt, was bred by Sheikh Messhara Ibn Sa´dun. The Muntafiq are divided in three main branches: Bani Malik, al-Ajwad and Bani Sa´id. They were close allies of the Turks during Ottoman era and had a bitter rivalry with the Shammar. In the second half of the 19th century most of the tribe settled into sedentary life and took up agriculture. During World War I the Muntafiq fought with the Turks against the British. In the battle of Sche´be in April 1915, almost the entire army, including the horses, was cut down by the British cannons and machine guns. Most of Turkey´s foundation horses came from al-Muntafiq, but also the ruler of Bahrain and al-Saud received gift horses from the Muntafiq sheiks.


Bani Sakhr

The tribe of Bani Sakhr is the largest former camel herding tribe in today Jordan. The tribe lived in the Hedjaz since the beginning Middle Ages. They began to move north in about the 16th century, around the same time as the Anaza did: the Bani Sakhr in the west and the Anaza in the eastern deserts. By the second half of the 18th century they finally established themselves in the Jordanian Desert in the regions that used to control the pilgrimage route, coming in conflict with the predominant Sardije tribe, the former masters of the Jordanian Desert. In summer they crossed the Jordan and in winter they went down south as far as the Tubaiq. At the end of the 18th century, after attacking the pilgrims and plundering them, the amir al hadj, the Pasha of Damascus, could hardly escape. The Ottomans intervened. The amir of Gaza mounted a campaign against the Bani Sakhr and killed many of them, seized their camels and horses, so they returned to the Balqa. Later the Bani  Sakhr fought the Anaza when they emerged from Nejd. In their best times, the Bani Sakhr were said to be able to set out for battle with 3,000 armed warriors. Rzewuski gives 5,800 tents and Mutlaq Ibn Selameh as sheikh. Later, from the beginning 19th century, the Bani Sahkr came close to monopoly in selling camels for the haj, and also collected khuwa from the pilgrims for some years. They were allied with the Sirhan, their enemies were the Weld Ali of Anaza and many wars were fought until the Rwala took over and the Anaza prevailed.

Löffler reports from his journey with Oberst Brudermann in 1856/57 that the Bani  Sakhr had good mares. Some horses of this tribe have been exported to the west. Most notably is the stallion Shagya, a Jilfan Stam Bulad, imported to Babolna in 1836, who became the name giving for the partbred Shagya Arabians. Also some mares came to Babolna and one to Weil, Germany. Other horses went to Poland, Russia, Spain, Egypt and quite a lot to France. The stallion Tabeeb, most influential race horse sire in Iraq of the 1930s and 1940s was also bred by the Bani Sakhr.

Smaller horse breeding tribes in what is today Jordan were the Daaja, the Majali, the Adwan, and the Howeitat.

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Larger Tribes in Saudi Arabia


The Mutair are today´s largest Bedouin tribe in Saudi Arabia with an estimated number of 1.2 million members in Nejd. Also many small families live in the Gulf States. In the 14th and 15th century the Mutair became a strong tribe in the Hedjaz and started to move to Nejd where they had battles with such tribes as Anaza, Dhafeer, al-Fodool and Qahtan. In the 17th and 18th century they became the dominant tribe in Nejd. In 1818 the Mutair beat the Bani Khalid, the ruling tribe of the eastern part of Arabia, and as a result moved north-east from Nejd, so that they can be found between Riyadh and Kuwait until today. Palgrave gives a population of 6,000 for 1863. The Mutair are divided in three major groups: Elwa, Beni Abdellah, and Buraih. The leading family was al-Duwish (plural al-Dushan) and belongs to Elwa. They were famous as breeders of the Krush horses, but they also had Dahmans and some found their way to Abbas Pasha. According to Lady Blunt the Mutair were in the most repute as breeders of horses. They could turn 400 horsemen and their best breeds have been Koheilan Ajuz, Koheilan el-Krush, Abayan Sherrak, Muniqui Haduji and Rabda Keshylan, but they did not have any Saqlawis at all. They have also been famous for their black camels and they had a special habit: they let some of those black camels loose to run ahead of the main troops in battle. Lady Blunt´s stud master at Sheikh Obeyd was Mutlak Ibn Batal al-Mutairi and with his help she received some horses of his tribe into Egypt.

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Krushiah mare at Nejd Stud of Prince Turky


The Utaybah lived around Taif in Hedjaz in past times and had been in war with the Harb in the 18th century.  So during that time they extended to Nejd, taking over the grazing lands of the Qahtan tribe in western Nejd, pushing them east and south. They are one of the largest Bedouin tribes in Arabia with branches to Northern Africa (up to 5 million persons today). In 1863 Palgrave gives an estimation of 12,000 persons in Nejd and today in about 50,000 live in Saudi Arabia. From the Hedjaz they moved to the Qassim and to the southern Harra at the foot of the Tuwaiq, where the best pastures of the Arabian Peninsula were located. According to Oppenheim they had a great wealth of camels and horses. Also Burckhardt gives this information as far back as the beginning 19th century: because of good pasture grounds they had an abundance of camels, sheep and also horses. Guarmani, an Italian traveler and horse buyer joined the marching tribe of Utaybah in 1863. They were at war with Faisal al-Saud and Guarmani witnessed a raid of his son Abdullah together with al-Qahtan against al-Utaybah, who had 200 horsemen and 700 shooters on camel. In this battle the Utaybah lost all their herds, 60 persons were killed and 200 wounded. But war still went on. With 400 horsemen and 5,000 archers on dromedary they could win over the enemy only by betrayal and made a slaughter among them. As a result of Guarmani´s help in treating the wounded, he was presented with a magnificent horse from the spoil and could buy three more stallions.

There are three major branches of al-Utaybah: Barga, Rwog, and Banu Saad. They were enemies of the Ibn Rasheeds and made many forays into the north. They were allied to the Mutair, but enemies to the Qahtan in the south and the Harb in the west. The stallion Hadban, a Hadban Enzahi, purchased by the Blunts in India, comes from the tribe of al-Utaybah. Also Abbas Pasha had stock from them.

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Kuhaila´t Umm Zorayr Alia in Bahrain



The Qahtan are today a major tribe in the central part of southern Nejd. They  exist since the beginning of the history of the Arabs and are regarded as a very noble tribe, from which many others have derived. They had their home in the eastern and southern Asir and are not related to the Kahtan of Southern Arabia. They were one of the strongest tribes in middle Arabia (6,000 persons according to Palgrave) and divided into three groups: Abide, al-Muhammad and al-Djimel.  Al-Qahtan is the origin of the Dahman Shahwan strain. According to Raswan the most important foundation mare of this strain in Egypt, El Dahmah, came from them. Also the Krush strain originated with them. Burckhardt writes: “The Beni Kahtan have been famous from the most remote antiquity. … They possess a good breed of horses and their camel riders are the best soldiers of the southern plains.”

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In Petra

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The Dhafeer tribe is of Southern Arabian origin and is derived from the Tai in the northern Hedjaz. They lived in south-eastern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and also some in Syria, that is in the desert south of the lower Euphrates. They were a rather heterogenic tribe and were allied with the Shammar and Muntafiq. In 1922 they were made Iraqi citizen by decree, but some of them returned to the Nejd. There are two main groups, the Semede and the Butun, including the Banu Husayn, who bred two Egyptian foundation mares of the Dahman Shahwan strain. Fom the Suwayt ruling clan of al-Dhafeer a mare, Kuhaylat al-Maryum, came to the sheikh family of the Sba´ah tribe. Such the strain of Koheilan Mimrah came into being.


The Ajman came from the eastern Asir mountains bordering on the Hedjaz mountains in the south. They later moved to Eastern Arabia. Palgrave gives their population as 6,000 in 1863. Several Dahman Shahwan horses bred by the Ibn Hithlayn family, who were among the sheiks of al-Ajman, were influential in Egyptian breeding, for example Talqa/Faras Naqadan.


The Dawasir tribe (singular Dossary) originated in Wadi Dawasir in southern Nejd. From there they spread in various parts of the Middle East including Bahrain and Kuwait. Also the important city of Dammam was founded by them. Some influential and wealthy families come from the Dawasir. Two branches exist: al-Zaid with the ruling family of Robia bin Zid, and Taghlib. The Beni Dowasir had been famous for their horses in the most remote antiquity together with the Beni Kahtan (Burckhardt). They numbered an estimated 5,000 persons in 1863 (Palgrave). Furtha Dhelall, was exported to America, a Hamdani.

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Historic photo from the library of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, Riad

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Harb – the Masters of Hedjaz

The Harb are a large tribe from the Hedjaz around Mecca and Medina. The name Harb means “war”. Part of them have been nomads and breeding camels, part of them were settled. According to Burckhardt only those subtribes east of Medina had horses: The Mezeyne could muster 4 to 5 hundred horsemen and the Bani Safar and Bani Ammer 300. They have been feared for many centuries because they made attacks on the pilgrim´s caravans, even when the surra had been paid to them. Some of the Harb have moved as far as the extreme north of Syria or Iraq. Palgrave gives their population with 14,000 in 1863. In the revolt of the desert against the Turks only part of the Harb fought at the side of Sherif Hussein. Most of them stood against Ibn Saud in 1924 when he took the Hedjaz. From the marbat of Muhsin al Farm, sheikh of the Beni Ali section of the Harb, the strain Suwayti al-Firm originates. The foundation stallion of the modern Saudi desert horses was bred by the Harb: Al-Harqan, a gift from al-Fadliyah from his famous Koheilan Harqan marbat. From the same strain the stallion Harqan of Ali Pasha Sherif comes, a son of Zobeyni out of Harka, a mare bred by the Rwala.

Other principle Tribes of Saudi Arabia

Other major tribes of Saudi Arabia are Anaza (from them the house of al-Saud comes), Bani Khalid, Shammar (the southern Shammar with the house of al-Rasheed), and Murrah. The latter lived near the Empty Quarter, the Rub al-Khali, where they could retreat and could not be bothered by anybody. Additional 15 minor tribes exist in Saudi Arabia, including the predominantly urban Quraysh, from which the prophet Muhammad comes.

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