What is an Arabian Horse: Comprehensive Guide to the Breed

Have you ever wondered what makes an Arabian horse so special? Look no further! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll answer the question on every horse enthusiast’s mind: “What is an Arabian horse?” From their rich history to their unique physical characteristics, we’ll delve into all the details that make this breed so beloved. So, let’s gallop into the world of Arabian horses and discover what makes them truly one-of-a-kind!

Origins and History

White horse Running in a field

The Arabian horse is a remarkable breed with a rich, diverse history tracing back thousands of years. An ancient breed native to the Arabian Peninsula, these horses are highly valued for their speed, stamina, beauty, intelligence, and gentleness. As one of the oldest and most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world, their influence on various light horse breeds is widespread and undeniable.

Ancient Arabian Peninsula

The origins of the Arabian horse are deeply rooted in the sands of the Arabian Peninsula. Evidence suggests that the relationship between the Bedouin tribes and these horses dates back as far as 3000 B.C. The Bedouin people have long kept meticulous ancestral records, known as pedigrees, to ensure the purity of their horses’ bloodlines.

While the exact beginnings of the Arabian horse remain hidden, it is evident that these horses have played a critical role in the daily life of the desert-dwelling people. Their endurance and adaptability to the harsh desert conditions, along with their incredible beauty, have made them highly sought after for centuries.

Role in History

Throughout history, the Arabian horse has played a significant role in various cultures and regions. These horses were imported and highly sought after for their qualities and were instrumental in the development of other breeds, such as the Thoroughbred, the Orlov Trotter, and the American Quarter Horse. In fact, the Arabian horse has contributed its qualities to most of the modern breeds of light horses.

In addition, the Arabian horse shaped the course of history in several ways. Renowned for their speed and endurance, these horses were used in wars, enabling their riders to cover vast distances quickly. The Moors, who invaded and occupied Iberia, were among the first to show interest in the Arabian horse. The establishment of the first registry for Arabian horses in Spain in 1847 demonstrates the long-lasting influence and demand for this exceptional breed.

In more recent times, the Arabian horse has thrived in various equestrian disciplines such as endurance racing, dressage, and jumping. Additionally, their unique traits continue to captivate horse enthusiasts around the world. From their arching necks and wedge-shaped heads to their high tail carriage, the Arabian horse remains a symbol of strength, beauty, and endurance.

Physical Characteristics

A beautiful white arabian horse

Head and Neck

Arabian horses have a distinct head and neck, which contributes to their overall elegance and beauty. The head is wedge-shaped with a refined, slightly dished profile. Large, expressive eyes are set wide apart, while the small ears are often curved inward at the tips. The nostrils are wide and flared, allowing for excellent air intake during physical exertion. The neck is long and gracefully arched, creating a distinctive silhouette that sets the Arabian horse apart from other breeds.

Body and Legs

Arabian horses possess a compact, muscular body with a relatively short but strong back. Their bodies are well-proportioned, with a deep chest and a sloping croup to the tail, which gives them exceptional balance and agility. The legs are long and strong, with little musculature below the knee or hock, which combined with strong, solid hooves, enables Arabians to cover great distances at speed without tiring. The height of these horses ranges from about 14 to 16 hands (56 to 64 inches), while their weight varies from 800 to 1000 pounds (360 to 450 kg).

Mane and Tail

One of the most attractive features of the Arabian horse is its fine, silky mane and tail. The mane is often long, flowing, and easy to maintain, while the tail is carried high and elegantly when the horse is in motion. The hair on both the mane and tail is often quite soft and luxurious, contributing to the overall grace of the breed. Arabians come in a variety of coat colors, including gray, white, black, brown, roan, and tobiano, further enhancing their beauty and unique appearance.

Arabian horses are known for their distinctive physical features that make them both a versatile and visually appealing breed. Their elegant head and neck, well-proportioned body, and fine, silky mane and tail are all hallmarks of this ancient and cherished breed.


The Arabian horse being showcased

Arabian horses are renowned for their well-rounded personalities and unique temperament which make them ideal companions for various riding styles and equestrian disciplines. Their strong, cooperative relationships with people and gentle disposition make them a popular choice among horse enthusiasts.

Arabians are known to be intelligent, quick to learn, and eager to please their riders. This combination of traits allows them to excel in different disciplines, from dressage to endurance riding. Their downright good nature and affectionate personalities make them a favorite for riders of all ages and skill levels, as well as for therapeutic riding programs. Holistapet highlights the Arabian horse’s extreme intelligence, while Simple Horse Life emphasizes their calm, agreeable nature.

However, it is important to remember that an Arabian horse’s temperament is not just shaped by its genetics, but also by the way it is treated and trained. Some may exhibit a more spirited and high-strung demeanor, while others display a calmer attitude. As mentioned on Horsy Planet, their personality largely depends on how they are treated.

Here are some key traits often associated with Arabian horses:

  • Friendly and sociable, easily forming bonds with their human counterparts.
  • Highly intelligent and quick to learn new skills.
  • Affectionate, gentle, and nurturing, making them suitable for riders of all ages.
  • Hard-working and adaptable to various riding disciplines.
  • Possess natural grace and elegance, which makes them stand out among other breeds.

In conclusion, the Arabian horse’s temperament makes them a versatile and desirable breed for equestrians across the globe. Their intelligence, adaptability, and gentle nature contribute to their popularity and success in various equine disciplines and activities.

Gaits and Movement

The Arabian horse is known for its beautiful and efficient movements, which are key characteristics of this breed. These horses possess a natural grace and athleticism that enable them to excel in numerous equestrian disciplines.

One of the most notable aspects of the Arabian horse’s movement is its versatility. It can perform a variety of gaits, including the walk, trot, canter, and gallop, which are all necessary for different speeds and situations (AMNH). The walk is a four-beat gait, during which the horse moves each leg individually, providing a smooth and steady pace. The trot is a two-beat gait with a diagonal pattern, which is faster than the walk and requires more balance and coordination from both the horse and rider.

Arabian horses are also known for their smooth and comfortable canter, a three-beat gait that is somewhere between the trot and gallop in terms of speed. This breed’s canter is usually well-balanced and collected, making it a pleasure for the rider. The gallop, on the other hand, is the fastest gait and is characterized by a four-beat movement. To gallop successfully, the rider needs full control of the horse while maintaining balance (Pet Keen).

In a ranch riding setting, the ideal Arabian horse should exhibit forward movement, an obvious lengthening of stride at extended gaits, and a soft and cadenced demeanor (ArabianHorses.org). Due to their athleticism, Arabian horses excel in various disciplines, from dressage and show jumping to endurance and pleasure riding. Their movement is consistently praised for its beauty and efficiency, making Arabians a popular choice among equestrians at all skill levels.

Types and Strains

An Arabian Stallion in motion in desert dust

The Arabian horse is a unique and easily recognizable breed that originated in the Arabian Peninsula. They are known for their distinctive head shape, high tail carriage, and compact size with a small head, wide nostrils, marked withers, and a short back (Britannica) . This breed is also one of the oldest, with archaeological evidence dating back to the Middle East (Wikipedia).

There are several types and strains of Arabian horses that have been developed over time, each with their unique characteristics and ancestry. The prominent types of Arabian horses include:

  • Egyptian Arabians
  • Polish Arabians
  • Spanish Arabians
  • Russian Arabians
  • Crabbet Arabians
  • Domestic Arabians

The Arabian horse strains, which refer to a smaller group of horses within a breed originating from a common ancestor, include:

  • Keheilan
  • Abeyan
  • Hadban
  • Seglawi
  • Hamdani

Each type and strain of Arabian horse varies in terms of history, physicality, and traits. For instance, Egyptian Arabians are known for their elegance and refined features, while Russian Arabians combine speed and endurance, making them successful in various equestrian sports (Deep Hollow Ranch). Polish Arabians, on the other hand, exhibit exceptional athleticism with a versatile ability for both racing and show (Horsy Planet).

In conclusion, understanding the various types and strains of Arabian horses is crucial when seeking to appreciate the unique qualities and diverse abilities of this ancient and remarkable breed.

Uses and Disciplines

Arabian stallion in an open house in Dubai

Arabian horses are versatile and excel in a range of disciplines due to their intelligence, stamina, and agility. In this section, we will explore their roles in endurance riding, show ring events, and recreational riding.

Endurance Riding

One of the primary disciplines that Arabian horses are known for is endurance riding. Their exceptional stamina and resilience make them a popular choice for long-distance endurance races. In fact, these horses have historically been used for traveling across deserts, navigating harsh climates, and demonstrating their adaptability in various terrains (source).

Today, endurance riders continue to rely on the Arabian horse’s strength and natural ability to conserve energy during long rides. Their endurance capabilities have earned them recognition in both national and international endurance competitions.

Show Ring

Arabian horses are visually stunning and possess a captivating presence, which makes them ideal for show ring events. Their unique features, such as a distinctive dished face, large expressive eyes, and overall elegance, draw attention and admiration from the audience. Show ring events include dressage, jumping, and western pleasure, among others (source).

Besides their aesthetic appeal, Arabian horses are intelligent and trainable, making them successful in various show events. Their attentiveness and responsiveness to their rider’s cues contribute to their prowess in the show ring.

Recreational Riding

Arabian horses can also be found in recreationally-oriented equestrian settings. With their friendly and gentle dispositions, they make excellent companions for riders of different experience levels (source).

These horses have a natural ability to form strong bonds with their human counterparts, which makes them suitable for pleasure riding, trail riding, and even therapeutic riding programs.

In conclusion, Arabian horses are well-suited for various disciplines, ranging from endurance riding to show ring events and recreational riding. Their impressive capabilities are a true testament to their versatility and their longstanding reputation as one of the world’s most admired horse breeds.

Breeding and Preservation

An Arabian mare and foal

The Arabian horse is known for its unique and distinct characteristics that have been maintained through careful breeding practices. These horses were originally bred by nomadic Bedouin tribes in the desert lands of what is now Saudi Arabia, and they were highly valued for their versatile abilities and strong cooperative relationships with humans (Britannica) (Holistapet).

Throughout history, the Arabian horse has been carefully selected for specific traits that make this breed stand out among other horse breeds. Their intelligence, speed, endurance, and stunning beauty are all factors that have been maintained and enhanced by breeders for centuries (Equus Magazine). They are particularly known for their large eyes, wide nostrils, a small head, and marked withers, which differentiate them from other breeds (Britannica).

Efforts in the preservation of the Arabian horse’s pure bloodlines have been of great importance to breeders and enthusiasts alike.

In order to preserve the true Arabian horse bloodlines, many breeders have taken care to import foundation stock from the breed’s original homeland, ensuring the continued purity and authenticity of the breed (Equus Magazine). This dedication to preservation, coupled with responsible breeding practices, has allowed the Arabian horse breed to retain its unique characteristics and maintain its position as one of the most prized and respected horse breeds in the world.


In conclusion, the Arabian horse is a remarkable breed known for its speed, stamina, beauty, intelligence, and gentle nature. Originating from the Arabian Peninsula, this breed has played a significant role in the evolution of many modern light horse breeds (Britannica). Arabian horses typically stand 15 hands tall, or 60 inches, and weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds, with strong, muscular legs that contribute to their incredible speed and endurance (pets.webmd.com).

Throughout history, the Arabian horse has had a profound impact on various cultures and empires, such as Egypt, and has been used in warfare, for transportation, and for leisure (Horse Illustrated). These horses have several unique characteristics, including their slow-twitch muscle fibers and larger lung capacity, which give them a remarkable ability to sustain speed over long distances and adapt well to various environments (itsanimal.com).

Arabian horses continue to captivate people worldwide with their elegance and versatility. Their distinctive qualities have solidified their place as an enduring and invaluable breed throughout history, and they remain a symbol of strength, beauty, and grace.