The Authentic Asil Arabian | Bedouin Tradition: Challenge and Obligation

An Endangered Arabian Cultural Heritage!

"The Asil Arabian can be called a wonder of the world created by the Bedouin."

Frederik Bakels

International Arabian horse breeding has reached a high quality. Famous studs vouch for this quality with their names. The WAHO (World Arabian Horse Organization) has earned great merit by uniting the national breeding associations, thus providing for a uniform system and promoting the exchange of interests and understanding among the members. However, Waho is denied one thing: to be able to consistently hold on to "asil" breeding and ensure that its members adhere to the Bedouin tradition.

In the interests of Arabian horse breeding, it is necessary to preserve the gene pool of the Asil Arabian, as Arabian horse breeding around the world is indebted to Asil Arabians for the qualities of Arabian horses today (one of the best examples is the success, at Tersk state stud, of the Asil Arabian stallion Aswan (Nazeer - Yosreia) bred at El Zahraa, Egypt). All breeding associations and breeders of Arabian horses should therefore support endeavours to preserve and foster the valuable gene pool of the Asil Arabian horse. If that were the case, there would be no need to attempt now to secure the status of "World Natural Heritage" for the Asil Arabian in order to preserve it for future generations.

After all, the Asil Arabian horse is a great cultural asset. In the best interests of Arabian horse breeding in the world, the Asil Club e.V. has taken on this great task. As:

The Bedouin tradition required strict asil breeding. It was a matter of honour and conviction in consideration of the unbelievable strength of character and performance capacity of asil horses. Occasionally, this tradition is ignored because of lack of knowledge. There is a risk that the authentic Asil Arabian will be lost for posterity.

The Asil Arabian horse is a valuable cultural treasure, a diamond without inclusions.

  • The truth is: There are about 500,000 Arabian horses in the world which are recognised by the national stud books and the WAHO (World Arabian Horse Organization) as pure-bred.
  • The truth is: Of these about 500,000 horses, at most 2 per cent can be considered "asil", i.e. they were bred according to the Bedouin tradition, and it can be proved that all others, the remaining 98 per cent, have non-asil ancestors with a more or less high proportion of non-Arabian blood, as WAHO itself admits (WAHO publication, 21 January 1998: "Is Purity the Issue?").
  • The truth is: Even in the countries of Arabia Deserta, non-asil Arabians with foreign blood have been imported, usually under the assumption that they were authentic Asil Arabians due to their having been recognised as pure-bred by the WAHO, and the word pure-bred translates as "asil" into Arabic. Also, the certificates with the proofs of descent list a large number of generations, thus inspiring trust and suggesting asil descent. However, any expert on descent can see at once where the non-asil ancestors are concealed in the background.
  • However, the irresponsible truth is also: Even on the Arabian Peninsula, non-asil stallions occasionally cover the authentic asil mares, thus destroying the valuable asil stock.

What has been the Cause of this Alarming Situation? 

Until the 1970s, in the national stud books for pure-bred Arabians world-wide, the definition of a pure-bred Arabian used to read as follows: It must be possible to trace all ancestral generations of a pure-bred Arabian back to the Bedouin breeding of the Arabian Peninsula. If a descent including non-asil blood was detected in the pedigree, the horse in question and its progeny was eliminated from the stud book completely.

When, in 1968, the scientific pedigree analysis by U. Guttmann - F. B. Klynstra, The Lineage of the Polish Arabian Horses (Marbach 1968) proved that the influential Polish Arabians exported all over the world in fact had a large number of non-Arabian ancestors, the definition in the individual stud books was changed, often after a long delay, to: A pure-bred Arabian is a horse listed in a stud book for Arabian pure-breds which has been recognised by the WAHO.

(Just one example here: according to the analyses of Guttmann and Klynstra, the Polish Arabian stallion Skowronek, probably the most influential Polish stallion, was tainted by 13 mares of Polish regional breed, 5 English Thoroughbreds and 1 Turkmenian).*

Even the WAHO finally had to change its definition with regard to the purity of the blood, confessing that only 2 per cent of the horses listed internationally as pure-bred Arabians can be traced back exclusively to Bedouin breeding (WAHO publication, 21 January 1998: "Is Purity the Issue?").

The Danger is Clear to See ... 

In the discussions within the national associations, asil breeders were in a hopeless minority after being confronted with the crushing facts. They were not able to induce the great majority to stick to their own earlier breeding principles. A sublist for Asil Arabians would have been necessary in the stud books; there would be no need then for the endeavours of the Asil Club.

The Founding of the Asil Club

In this situation, some conscientious breeders in Germany decided in 1974 to devote themselves to the urgent task of preserving the low stocks of asil horses and, by founding the Asil Club, to work internationally for the Asil Arabian via appropriate activities. The first priority was that an asil mare must only be covered by an asil stallion.

Many People could be Convinced By

  • the documentations ASIL ARABIANS, The Noble Arabian Horses, Volumes 1 to 5, and
  • the ASIL CUP INTERNATIONAL events, the show and performance meetings of the Asil Club in the years 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997 as well as with the H. H. SHEIKH ZAYED ASIL WORLD CUP which took place in the Royal Gardens at Herrenhausen on the occasion of EXPO 2000 in Hanover, Germany.
  • the writing of the director of the Institute of Domestic Animal Genetics, Munich, Prof.ÊDr.ÊDr.ÊF.ÊBakels, "The Asil Arabian in the Light of New Genetic Knowledge", Hildesheim 1980. In this article, the importance of asil breeding is proved by means of compelling arguments presented from the point of view of an active researcher in the field of animal breeding, and the obligation to preserve this invaluable gene pool is emphasized.

In this way, many breeders and friends were won as supporters of strict asil breeding. The covering of asil mares by non-asil stallions has been lessened around the world. Today the Asil Club has members from 39 nations, including almost all important royal stables, equestrian clubs, state and private studs of the Arab countries, Europe and America.

Allies of the Asil Club in the USA include associations such as Al Khamsa, Inc. and The Pyramid Society, who are also convinced supporters of asil breeding. In addition, the Club counts many outstanding public figures as breeder or promotive members (comp. Asil Arabians, vol. V).

The Danger is Still Not Dispelled!

The evidence is crushing: in spite of constant efforts, especially on the part of the board of the Asil Club, again and again non-asil Arabians have been imported to the country of origin on the Arabian Peninsula during the past years.

The Asil Club has constantly fought to ensure that the valuable stocks of native Asil Arabians are preserved in the original breeding area, even independently of asil imports, and to promote that true-to-type Asil Arabian horses of the best possible blood lines, no matter from which country they come, find their way to the country of origin. Together with the existing desert-bred horses, these horses should help to form a new basis for the improvement of international Arabian horse breeding in the world.

After all, the desert-bred Asil Arabian embodies the best hereditary qualities imaginable, especially if it is of the desired type.

Why strict asil breeding? Wouldn't it suffice to obtain attractive or fast Arabian horses regardless of any pedigree problems there might be? Or are there additional reasons to continue a tradition which was followed resolutely by the Bedouin for generations?

The Asil Club likes to stress the following:

  • Hereditary Power. The Asil Arabian has the highest impact in heredity, as has been shown in animal breeding as a whole: the pure-bred animal passes on its qualities much more reliably.
  • Resistance to Inbreeding. Systematic pure breeding over many generations ensures an increased resistance to inbreeding. (As late as the 1950s, white mice had been bred by the Institute of Biology at which Dr. Klynstra worked. During the first 10 to 15 generations defects because of inbreeding occurred again and again. They were systematically eradicated. At that time Klynstra stated: "We are now in the 80th generation. For 65 generations there have been no inbreeding defects. But, whenever an outside mouse is bred in, the whole process starts all over again."*)
  • Performance Capacity. The Asil Arabian has the best character imaginable due to centuries of integration into the life of the Arabian Bedouin. These character qualities are responsible for good riding behaviour and willingness to perform, which in turn are the requirements for the corresponding performance. This performance was a necessity under the unspeakably hard conditions of life in the desert. The Asil Club found this confirmed in an analysis of stallion performance tests carried out in Germany with the participation of over 221 pure-bred Arabians over 15 years, of which only one-third was asil. However, this third provided two-thirds of the winners and of those best in training. This means that the Bedouin knew of the inestimable value of their asil breeding out of their own experience and thanks to the traditional commandments (comp. chapter Stallion Performance Test, Asil Arabians, vol. V, pp. 772). 

Conclusions

The Asil Club demands:

Asil mares must only be covered by asil stallions.

The Asil Club recommends:

Asil horses should be marked in the stud books for Arabian horses recognised by the WAHO, so the preservation of the asil stocks will be adequately ensured.

Before Arabian horses are acquired, those willing to buy should inform themselves, for example by consulting the Asil Club office.

This document is intended to contribute towards ensuring that everyone knows what he is acquiring in the future. After all, even those who breed asil horses have occasionally acquired non-asil pure-bred Arabians, aware, as they were, of the qualities of other Arabian blood lines but still adhering to strict asil breeding with their asil stocks.

This document is intended to encourage all concerned to become acquainted with our documentations and to get to know and appreciate the value of the Asil Arabian.

ASIL ARABIANS, The Noble Arabian Horses, Volume V, with 1000 pages and over 500 illustrations, includes all important arguments from the literature of the past centuries and especially of the last few years, with chapters on performance with regard to endurance and short-distance races, on mounted games, the life of the Bedouin, chapters on the significance of the original Arabian in the area of origin, on the genetic knowledge prevalent in pure breeding and on the statements made by experts on the camel, the saluki and falconry. It also includes the stud book with 300 photographs of outstanding Asil Arabians, a discussion of the argumentation of the WAHO etc.

The Asil Club appeals to its Arab friends:

As descendants of the Bedouin, the knights of the desert and the fathers of the authentic Asil Arabian, you should give yourself the utmost in satisfaction and bring your Asil Arabians to the fore in comparison with the other horses at long-distance rides and short-distance flat races after the appropriate selection and breeding. In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to bring out the high predisposition of the Asil Arabian for performance with the necessary intensity, with full knowledge of the qualities slumbering in every Asil Arabian horse, and with confidence in the genetic potential created by the ancestors.

It has been proved:

Many breeds have benefited from the talents of the Asil Arabian. There is no full-blooded or warm-blooded horse breed which has not been influenced or improved to a greater or lesser degree by the Asil Arabian. It is an often-forgotten fact that the Asil Arabian is responsible for the wide variety of Arabian breeds, no matter whether they are bred in Poland, Russia, Spain, England, France or anywhere else.

The Asil Club appeals to its Arab friends:

Breed asil horses, breed high-performance true-to-type original Arabians! Horses bred in the region of origin are needed for the breeding of Arabians as a whole and are constantly required for horse breeding world-wide for the improvement of the stocks. To promote asil breeding in the original breeding area is a matter of utmost honour as well as being of great economic importance. The hippologists of the world will be extremely grateful.

The Asil Club appeals to all:

Breed asil horses, follow the tradition, as emphasized in the ASIL CLUB DOCUMENTATION, become members of the Asil Club and improve your breeds one day by using high-performance, true-to-type Asil Arabians from the original breeding area.

Asil Club e.V.

Hildesheim, Germany

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