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November 30, 2015     
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is "type" and how can I identify good conformation for an Arabian?

Arabian Type, Color and Conformation

The Arabian's conformation and "type" have been selectively bred for longer than any other breed. Records reflecting desert-bred animals still connect today's Arabian horse's traits with particular traits prized many hundreds of years past. Such documentation makes it possible to retrospectively study heredity, to then predict what good and bad characteristics will be likely to pass from a given stallion and mare into the next generation.

The Bedouins of the Arabian desert were dependent for survival on their Arabian horses. While they valued the beauty of their horses, they were equally adamant that their horses were strong, with deep chests, straight legs, large joints and good lungs to carry them across large stretches of their desert homeland.

The Arabian's distinctly eloquent head has been represented artistically for literally thousands of years, to this day appearing in nearly all horse related advertisements for every conceivable equine related commodity. Referred to as "type," defined, described, and judged for centuries, the shape and beauty of the Arabian head remains its most distinctive and sought after quality.

In general, Arabians have a short, straight back (usually 23 vertebra as compared to 24 with most other equine breeds), perfect balance and symmetry, a deep chest, well-sprung ribs, deep girth and strong legs of thick density. An Arabian can most readily be identified by its finely chiseled head with a dished face, long arching neck, and high tail carriage.

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Although no individual animal will possess all of the qualities described below, the composite, nevertheless, epitomizes the finest specimens observed:

  • His skeleton is characterized by a relative shortness of skull, a slenderness of the lower jaw, a larger size of brain case. Also to be noted are fewer vertebrae in the back and tail, and more horizontal pelvic bone position.
  • The Arabian's head is a real thing of beauty, the upper half being larger in proportion to the whole size of the horse, especially in the depth across the jowls.
  • The head has a triangular shape which diminishes rapidly to a small and fine muzzle, which is so small that it can be enclosed in the palm of the hand. The lips are fine and thin. The nostrils are long, thin, delicately curled, running upward, and projecting outward. In action or when the horse is excited, the nostrils may become greatly dilated.
  • The eyes are set far apart and are large, lustrous, and , when aroused, extremely attentive. They are set more nearly in the middle of the head.
  • It is interesting to note that the distance from the top of the head to the top of the eyes is often within one inch of the distance from the lower eyelid to the top of the nostril. The overall appearance of the Arabian head is frequently enhanced by a slight protrusion over the forehead and extending to just below the eyes, called the "Jibbah" by the Arabs, and greatly prized.
  • The cheek bones spread wide apart at the throat, often between five or six inches, enabling the muzzle to be drawn in without compressing the windpipe, and permitting the animal to breathe easily when running.
  • The ears, smaller in stallions and of good size in mares, are pointed, set evenly together in an upright position, and of great flexibility.
  • Generally speaking, the head should be lean, somewhat well chiseled, and showing energy, intelligence, courage, and nobility. The neck is long and arched, set on high, and run well back into the withers.
  • In height, the Arabian horse generally measures 14.1 to 15.1 hands at the withers, although there are horses which measure above or below this height.
  • The animal's coat is thick, close, fine, soft, and silky. The mane and tail are long, and very fine in texture.
  • In weight, the Arab may be from 800 to 1,100 pounds, according to his size, but there are individuals who exceed this weight occasionally.
  • In color, Arabians are bay, gray, chestnut and black, with an occasional roan. Common markings are stars, strips or blaze faces, as are also snip noses, a white foot or more, or white stockings.
  • Arabians that appear white are actually gray, since white looking Arabians have black skin. White hair on horses grows out of pink skin as can be found under an Arabian's white markings. Click here to learn about Color & Markings.

The Arabian Horse Association verifies breed purity through blood typing and pedigree for every foal registered from pure-bred Arabian mating. The Association makes this information available as a service-an invaluable tool for the serious horseperson in breeding selection.

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10.Chin groove
11.Branches of jaw
13.Occipital crest
17.Throat latch
18.Jugular groove
19.Point of shoulder
22.Upper arm
26.Fetlock joint
33.Point of hip
40.Thigh, haunch
42.Point of buttock
46.Suspensory ligament
53.Cannon-splint bone area

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