Confirmation/exterior characteristics of the Arabian Breed
In spite of differing types and breeding lines, an (ideal) ‘standard type’ is generally considered to offer identity to the breed. If a horse comes up to these standard characteristics, it is labelled as having ‘a great deal of “type”’.
The most obvious characteristics which make the Arabian horse recognizable and distinctive from other breeds are:
HEAD: the Arabian’s head shows the most typical features of the breed:
The head should be refined, short and wedgeshaped, often with a ‘dished’ or concave profile. The forehead should be broad and slightly convex or bulged (the so-called “jibbah”), with wide-set prominent eyes full of expression. The small and refined muzzle has large flaring nostrils, giving the excited horse a marvellous expression. The rounded jaw is wide between the branches.
The small ears are close-set. Often they are short and curved at the tip.
- NECK – SHOULDER: The long neck is arched, with a large, well-set windpipe set on a fine, clean throatlatch. (This structure of the poll and throatlatch was called the ‘mitbah’ by the Bedouins, and in the best Arabians is long and somewhat straight, allowing flexibility in the bridle and room for the windpipe).
Shoulders should be long and sloping/well laid-back.
- TOP and BODYLINE: the Arabian has a compact frame with a short straight back and a flat and long croup. The withers are pronounced and long.. The back should be well-covered in muscle. It’s interesting to note that Arabians have 17 (well-sprung) pairs of ribs, 5 lumbar vertebrae and 16 tail bones, which is different from other breeds, which have an 18-6-18 configuration. It gives the Arabian’s hindquarters a unique shape accented by a high tail carriage.
The chest is well-developed, muscular, deep and broad.
The underline is long.
Quality Arabians have a deep, well-angled hip.
LEGS: The legs are long and muscular, with broad strong joints, and they have a ‘dry’ quality (the tendons are clearly defined). Large, flat knees and strong hocks as well as short canons are desirable. Feet are proportionately sized, wide at the heels, with very sound horn and hoof walls.
- SKIN: Its skin (which is invariably black) is thin and marked by noticeable veining and fine, silky hair. The fine hair of mane and tail are full.
- COLOURING: Coat colours include varying shades of bay, chestnut, grey and (quite rare) black.
(Although many Arabians appear ‘white’, this is the natural action of the grey gene. Grey horses are born bay, black or chestnut, then get progressively lighter as they age, until their coat eventually turns pure white or becomes ‘flea-bitten’. Their skin is black and remains so throughout their lives. Therefore, all ‘white’ Arabians are actually greys.)
White markings on the face and legs are common.
SIZE: The average height is 1m50 (59 in).
Recently Arabians have been bred for increased height.
Apart from these external features the Arabian horse possesses some other (physiological) qualities for which it is highly valued:
a sound digestive system
° it is a sober feeder
° great stamina/endurance
° quick recuperation/recovery after big efforts
° high fertility
° long breeding and usage span. The Arabian is reputed to consistently outlive other breeds. Many live well past 30!
° fast and free action. The movements give an impression of lightness, agility and grace.
° free flowing, fluid gaits
° natural self-carriage