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What is an Arabian Horse?

By Katharine Swan
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Arabian horse is one of the best known and highest esteemed breeds. Out of all the breeds of horses we have today, the Arabian is among the oldest, meaning that it was one of the first modern breeds to come into existence. These horses come from the Arabian Peninsula, which is where they got their name.

Arabians are very graceful and unique looking horses, making them easy for even beginning horse people to recognize. The Arabian horse typically has a very slender, delicately boned head and face. The narrow nose, flared nostrils, and aristocratic concave profile are extremely recognizable. Arabians also tend to be smaller than many other breeds, averaging about 14 or 15 hands when measured at the withers, the bony ridge along the horse’s backbone where the mane ends. A hand equals four inches, so the average Arabian is no more than five feet tall at the withers.

Although the Arabian horse is on the small side, it is also known for its speed, agility, and endurance. Because Arabians are hot-blooded horses, meaning that they are smaller and more lightly muscled than cold-blooded horses such as draft horses, their muscles are able to cool faster. As a result, Arabians get fatigued less easily and are often raced over very long distances. This quality has caused this horse to become a very popular choice for experienced horse people.

Another quality that contributes to the Arabian’s popularity is its personality. Although Arabians are often known as high-strung horses, they are also kind and intelligent. Their intelligence makes them easy to train, while their gentle, personable natures make them bond more easily with their owners and handlers. The result is a horse that learns quickly and is eager to please.

The star of Walter Farley’s book The Black Stallion is probably the best-known Arabian horse in popular culture. The Black Stallion is a children’s novel about a boy who is stranded on a desert island where he befriends a wild Arabian stallion, and when he is rescued, brings the horse home with him. The book became wildly popular after it was published in 1941, and inspired an entire series of books about this popular Arabian and his progeny.

The Arabian horse has been so influential on the breeding of horses over the centuries that many other breeds, such as the Thoroughbred and the Missouri Fox Trotter, were created by mixing Arabians with other breeds. To this day, the Arabian horse remains many horse people’s favorite breed of horse.

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Discussion Comments
By anon303078 — On Nov 13, 2012

I actually know a lot of men that show Arabian horses and do extremely well at Nationals and World. They're not as fragile as they seem and are some of the most loving horses I have ever had. After owning Arabians, I would not own any other breed.

They do not cost a lot unless you're getting ripped. If you want a DA Valentino baby, then yeah, you're going to pay upwards of $75,000. If you can breed the filly or sell breedings from a stud, you can get your money back out of it. My baby is out of Aladdin and cost about $5,000. It's not a lot of money if you're serious about what you're doing.

By lluviaporos — On Apr 16, 2012

@Mor - I can see your point about the size of the breed, but otherwise I'm not sure there's a need to mix the Arabian breed with other horses in order to get some kind of hybrid.

Arabian horse trainers can tell you that as long as they are treated well, they aren't as highly strung as their reputation makes them sound. I think that just comes from people treating them the wrong way, letting them get stroppy and out of control.

They are an intelligent horse and often people will get them just because they look pretty, rather than because they really want to train them properly and exercise them and stimulate them as much as they need.

You can't expect any horse to remain happy under those conditions. Horses are not pets, they should only be bought by people who are serious about keeping them and have the experience to treat them properly.

By Mor — On Apr 16, 2012

@croydon - Well, even if the breed is quite widely spread, it is still very popular and so the price is driven up that way.

Also it depends on what kind of horse you want. Purebreds are more or less expensive depending on the bloodline. Obviously if there are champions in the line it's going to be more expensive.

And so many horses have got only some Arabian blood in them. I mean, entire breeds have been formed from Arabian stock, like the thoroughbred horse that's used for racing.

But people might prefer a mixed horse that has some of the good features that Arabian horse breeders go for and some of the features that other horses have, like strength or size or a calmer temperament.

An Arabian horse might be too small for many men to ride comfortably after all. The horse was bred hundreds of years ago when men were much smaller and it was just the right size. But today a man might need a larger horse in order to get anywhere.

By croydon — On Apr 16, 2012

Arabian horses are very pretty. Often if a person is drawing a horse or a unicorn, they use the Arabian horse as the inspiration, as they have that kind of long delicate nose that most other horses lack.

They also have those beautiful tails which are how I imagine a unicorn tail to look, which are often held up high and look a bit like a banner in the wind.

It's a shame that Arabian horses can be so expensive. I know that Arabian horse breeding can be difficult as they are so highly strung, but you would think since the horse was so popular and widespread that it would become cheaper rather than more expensive.

But a purebred Arabian horse will still set you back a lot of money, even today.

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