I have been fortunate to have a creative career that provides many incredible opportunities for discovery. In fact, the following photos are from a recent trip to Lexington, Kentucky for the "discovery" phase of a new website we will be creating for the Pyramid Society for the breeders of Egyptian Arabian horses. The Egyptian Event is held each year in June as an international specialty show dedicated to this stunning breed of horses. I could not have imagined a better way to learn about this rare breed and its people than total immersion during this event. A brief history of the Egyptian horse follows, although I now know how much debate persists about both the past and the future course of the breed. Everyone, however, will agree that they are stunningly beautiful and noble creatures.
|The Beloved Stick Horse|
|Guido the Italian|
Historically, Egyptian breeders imported horses bred in the deserts of Palestine and the Arabian peninsula as the source of their foundation bloodstock. By the time that the Ottoman Empire dominated Egypt, the political elites of the region still recognized the need for quality bloodstock for both war and for horse racing, and some continued to return to the deserts to obtain pure-blooded Arabians. One of the most famous was Muhammad Ali of Egypt, also known as Muhammad Ali Pasha, who established an extensive stud farm in the 19th century. After his death, some of his stock was bred on by Abbas I of Egypt, also known as Abbas Pasha. However, after Abbas Pasha was assassinated in 1854, his heir, El Hami Pasha, sold most of his horses, often for crossbreeding, and gave away many others as diplomatic gifts. A remnant of the herd was obtained by Ali Pasha Sherif, who then went back to the desert to bring in new bloodstock. At its peak, the stud of Ali Pasha Sherif had over 400 purebred Arabians. Late in his life, he sold several horses to Wilfred and Lady Anne Blunt, who exported them to Crabbet Park Stud in England. After his death, Lady Anne was also able to gather many remaining horses at her Sheykh Obeyd stud.
Meanwhile, the passion brought by the Blunts to saving the pure horse of the desert helped Egyptian horse breeders to convince their government of the need to preserve the best of their own remaining pure Arabian bloodstock that descended from the horses collected over the previous century by Muhammad Ali Pasha, Abbas Pasha and Ali Pasha Sherif. The government of Egypt formed the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) in 1908. RAS representatives traveled to England during the 1920s and purchased eighteen descendants of the original Blunt exports from Lady Wentworth at Crabbet Park, and returned these bloodlines to Egypt in order to restore bloodlines had been lost. Other than several horses purchased by Henry Babson for importation to the United States in the 1930s, and one other small group exported to the USA in 1947, relatively few Egyptian-bred Arabian horses were exported until the overthrow of King Farouk I in 1952. Many of the private stud farms of the princes were then confiscated and the animals taken over by the EAO. In the 1960s and 1970s, as oil development brought more foreign investors to Egypt, some of whom were horse fanciers, Arabians were exported to Germany and to the United States, as well as to the former Soviet Union. Today, the designation "Straight Egyptian" or "Egyptian Arabian" is popular with some Arabian breeders, and the modern Egyptian-bred Arabian is an outcross used to add refinement in some breeding programs.