Arabian Horse Types: Comprehensive Guide for Enthusiasts

Are you a fan of Arabian horses? If so, you’ll love this comprehensive guide to Arabian Horse Types! From the elegant and graceful Asil to the powerful and athletic Modern Arabian, we’ll explore the various breeds that make up this iconic group of horses. Whether you’re a breeder, trainer, or simply an enthusiast, this post will give you an in-depth understanding of the different Arabian horse types and their unique characteristics. So, let’s saddle up and take a ride through the world of Arabian horses!

Arabian Horse History

Morgan Arabian cross horse standing

The Arabian horse has a rich and storied past, with its origins dating back thousands of years. This breed was developed in the Arabian Peninsula by desert tribes, specifically the Bedouins, who prized these horses for their speed, stamina, intelligence, and beauty ( Used primarily as war mounts, Arabians were known for their ability to handle long treks and quick forays into enemy territory.

Over time, Arabian horses spread across the globe, both through war and trade (Wikipedia). They were often utilized to improve other breeds by adding desirable traits, such as speed, refinement, and endurance. As a result, Arabian bloodlines can now be found in nearly every modern riding horse breed.

Among the countries that embraced the Arabian horse, Egypt played a significant role in preserving and promoting the breed. Egyptian rulers, including Muhammad Ali, imported purebred Arabian stock from the Arabian Peninsula and Palestine, resulting in the development of the exquisite Egyptian Arabian subtype (Horsevills).

As the Arabian horse breed spread and adapted to different environments worldwide, distinct regional subtypes emerged, eventually giving rise to six primary types of Arabian horses. These beautiful and versatile horses continue to be admired and cherished by equestrians and horse enthusiasts everywhere, a testament to their enduring legacy.

Anatomy and Characteristics

young black arabian horse stallion

Physical Attributes

Arabian horses are known for their compact, relatively small size and unique anatomical features. They typically possess a small head with a distinctive concave, or “dished” profile, characterized by a broad forehead, large eyes, large nostrils, and a small muzzle[source]. These horses often have marked withers, a short back, and a high-carried tail, giving them a sleek and agile appearance. Interestingly, they usually have 23 vertebrae, one fewer than most other horse breeds[source].


The Arabian horse breed is known for its strong, cooperative relationships with humans, which is a testament to their careful breeding over generations[source]. These horses tend to be intelligent, spirited, and friendly, making them popular for various equestrian disciplines, such as endurance racing, dressage, and showmanship.

Arabian horses are usually categorized into six types of purebreds, each with its own history and unique characteristics[source]. Some of these types include the Polish Arabian, the Egyptian, the Russian, the Crabbet, the Spanish, and the Shagya Arabians. Each type may exhibit slightly different physical and temperamental qualities, all while maintaining the core characteristics that define this esteemed breed.

Arabian Horse Types

Bay purebred show type arabian stallion

Arabian horses are renowned for their unique traits and rich ancestry. Let’s explore the four main types:

Straight Egyptian

The Straight Egyptian Arabian horse is a purebred type with origins in Egypt. These horses are known for their refined wedge-shaped heads, large eyes, and expressive faces. Their physical appearance exudes nobility and grace, making them a popular choice among Arabian horse breeders and enthusiasts.

Polish Arabian

The Polish Arabian horse has a rich history in Poland, where they have been bred for centuries. Known for their athleticism, these horses are well-suited for various equestrian sports, including endurance racing and dressage. They possess a harmonious physique, while their strong legs and muscular build contribute to their impressive performance ability.

Crabbet Arabian

Originating from the prestigious Crabbet Stud in England, the Crabbet Arabian horse is recognized for its solid structure and substantial bone. These horses display a more substantial conformation than other Arabian types, making them well-suited for long-distance riding and competitive sports. They maintain the classic elegance of the Arabian breed while exhibiting a strong and capable physique.

Spanish Arabian

The Spanish Arabian horse reflects the influence of Arabian bloodlines on the Iberian Peninsula. These horses are known for their smooth, elastic movement, making them a popular choice for dressage and other equestrian disciplines. They possess a distinct, chiseled profile, expressing an air of grace and nobility synonymous with the Arabian breed.

Breeding and Genetics of Arabian Horses

Chestnut arabian breed horse

Arabian horses are an ancient breed known for their natural beauty, graceful movements, and athletic endurance, making them suitable for a variety of competitions and mounted sports, such as long-distance endurance racing and show competitions, where they are judged on conformation and movement (Nature). Over time, Arabian horses have been bred for specific types, resulting in a diverse range of individuals with different characteristics and abilities.

A study of Arabian horses from 12 countries discovered that some populations have maintained a larger degree of genetic diversity than others (Cornell University). This genetic diversity suggests that breeding practices have played a significant role in shaping the modern Arabian horse. Interestingly, the study also found that contrary to popular belief, Arabian horses did not contribute genetically to the modern-day Thoroughbred.

Historically, Arabian horses were bred in their native region based on maternal strains, but selective breeding outside the Middle East has become more focused on sire lines (NCBI). Y-chromosomal lineage tracing in Arabian horses has provided valuable insights into the breeding history and sire line genealogies of the breed, shedding light on the origin and influence of paternal lineages in various populations (ResearchGate).

As a result of these findings, it is crucial to consider the genetic diversity and breeding history of Arabian horses when selecting individuals for specific purposes or breeding programs. This knowledge can help breeders make informed decisions and ensure the preservation of the unique characteristics that make Arabian horses such a distinct and cherished breed.

Disciplines and Uses

Arabian horses are known for their versatility and adaptability in various equine disciplines. This section explores the primary uses of Arabian horses, offering insights into their performance in the show ring, endurance racing, and recreational riding.

Show Ring

In the show ring, Arabian horses excel in a variety of activities due to their remarkable athleticism, balance, and beautiful appearance. They are highly trainable, which makes them popular for performing in disciplines like dressage, show jumping, and Western riding. Their agility and elegance, along with their strong bond with their handlers, make them stand out in competitions.

Endurance Racing

Arabian horses are well-renowned for their endurance and stamina. These attributes can be traced back to their historical use as warhorses in harsh desert conditions. Over the years, the breed has maintained its ability to perform in long-distance races and difficult terrain. They often participate in and dominate in endurance racing events that test their durability and athleticism over extended periods of time.

Recreational Riding

Aside from competitive uses, Arabian horses are also popular choices for recreational riding. Their intelligence and gentle nature make them great companions for those seeking pleasure riding or casual trail riding experiences. Moreover, their loyalty and strong bond with their owners make Arabian horses suitable for riders of all ages and skill levels.

Preservation and Conservation

Pure black Arabian stallion running

The Arabian Horse has a rich heritage around the world, with different types and lineages representing its versatility and beauty. To protect this valuable breed, preservation and conservation efforts have been put into place to maintain their unique qualities.

Responsible breeding practices are essential in conserving the various types of Arabian horses, such as Egyptian, Russian, Polish, Crabbet, Spanish, and Shagya. By focusing on preserving these distinct lineages, the breed maintains its diverse characteristics and historical significance (Deep Hollow Ranch).

Breed preservation groups, like The Pyramid Society, work diligently to promote the conservation of the Egyptian Arabian horse lineage in particular. They provide resources and support to breeders, thereby ensuring the genetic integrity and continuation of this remarkable breed.

Conservation efforts also emphasize embracing the original cultural principles behind the Arabian horse. According to the Arabian Horse Manifesto, it is important to accept the different selective types or “looks” that the Arabian horse may display, rather than imposing a single appearance standard on the breed. This approach ensures that the Arabian horse maintains its diversity and stays true to its origins.

By employing these preservation and conservation measures, enthusiasts and breeders can continue to celebrate and maintain the mesmerizing beauty, rich history, and unique characteristics of the Arabian horse for generations to come.


The Arabian horse breed is a fascinating blend of history and diversity. From the Arabian Desert emerged a breed that has evolved into six distinct types. Each type is distinguished by its unique traits and lineage, which have been shaped by selective breeding and geographical location. Despite their shared origin, these horses have developed into distinct and remarkable breeds.

Arabian horses are admired for their unrivaled beauty, intelligence, and athleticism. As a result, they have heavily influenced the characteristics of many modern light horse breeds. It is important to appreciate the uniqueness of each Arabian horse type and their contributions to equestrian history.

Whether seeking a horse for competitive sports, recreational riding, or simply admiring their majestic appearance, Arabian horses continue to capture the hearts of horse enthusiasts around the world. Their enduring legacy reflects the passion and dedication of breeders who have preserved and enhanced the individuality and appeal of each Arabian horse type.