Al Khamsa - Strains of the Purebred Arabian Horse
by Kim Bjorgo

The purpose of this article is to give a brief account of the family lines or strains formely found in the Arabian breed. In this day and age the Arabian is probably more popular then ever. Many people are active in the breed association, called "The Registry", although today's Arabian fancier is not the student of pedigrees as were her forbears. In the not-so-distant past, anyone interested in pure desert-bred or mid-eastern-bred Arabians was deeply involved in pedigree research. One reason for this is that the desert tribe valued their mares and closely guarded their herds to protect their purity. Several people made forays into the desert and Egypt to procure these purest of the pure Arabian horses, notably the Blunts, Mr. Wilfrid S. and Lady Anne; Mr. Roger Upton, Homer Davenport, and Henry Babson to name a few. All did not fail to notice the sanctity with which these pure-blood horses were treated. To the desert breeder, the mare's pedigree was highly prized. Owning a mare meant protection; the mare would not neigh when stalking an enemy. The prophet Mohammet even prohibited the sale of mares to foreigners in the Koran. All pedigrees were tracked through the female line. The purity of the breed was maintained in five choice families or strains known as Al Khamsa, The Five. A purebred animal was Kehilian (also Kehiliet); this denoting the best, pure Arabian blood. An animal of mixed blood was Kadish and looked down upon. No tribe kept Kadish horses for breeding purposes.

Lady Anne Blunt's work "Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates" described the important strains and assigned them a "type", color, temperament, ect. Later Lady Blunt saw this was a great error on her part as a strain rarely held to any given type. She was greatly criticized for this later on, as Arabian breeders of that day boiled the breed down into three strains alone. In 1940 the Arabian Horse Club Registry of America discontinued the listings of strains as it was deemed archaic. One of their reasons was that listing a strain for a horse was really no indication of its breeding; the strain often indicated the tail female of that line and none of the breeding in between. To further complicate matters, breeders started referring horses as of a given strain type, with no regard to what the actual strain of the horse was. So, if you are wondering we don't see strain types today, that is why. Older pedigrees often contain strain references, so the following listing of strains will be of some assistance to the pedigree assigner.

The Al Khamsa -- for all Kehlian (pure-blood) Arabian horses:

  1. Ajuz
  2. Manakhi (Maneghi)
  3. Jeffon (Jiffan)
  4. Hamdani (Homdani)
  5. Habdan

The characterization of the Al Khamsa is based on Borden 1924; Reese 1960 gives the Al Khamsa as Kehilian, Seglawi, Abeyan, Hamdani, and Hadban. Three of the strains are similar; he considers the Seglawi and the Abeyan to full strains and not substrains. The Maynesboro Arabian Stud catalog for 1972 admits some authorities prefer listing Maneghi and Jilfan. In this article I will stick with Borden 1924. Admittedly, te are some families that I had difficult placing; these I included in the strain I thought the author intended.

The Al Khamsa strain name was the first half of a two-part strain designation. In order for a strain name to be valid, it had to be followed by a suffix that deonated the owner, breeder, a character, or a family from which the horse originated. Quite often the tail female was the suffix. The following is an outline of the five major strains and their sub-families. It is always important to remember that a Kehilian horse was that of the highest caste of Arabian horses. The Ajuz and the Manakhi were considered the "creme de la creme" of Arabians. In this outline I will list a few "famous" names (in italics) from various sources:

1. Kehilian Ajuz (most numerous of Al Khamsa)
    -Family Rodania (listed Maynesboro 1927)
    A. Substrain Seglawi (the choicest of the substrains) (BINT ROGA, DALAL)
        a. Seglawi-Jedran (or Jidran) (ZOBEYNI)
          -subfamily Helwa (GULASTRA by MESAOUD out of GULNARE out of GHAZALA)
          -subfamilies of Basilisk, Ibn Sbeni, Ibn ed Derri, and Anazeh
          -subfamily Seglawi Jedran of Ibn Sudan (*BINT SERRA by SOTAMN out of SERRA, *BINT SAADA by IBN SAMHAN out of SAADA)
        b. Seglawi-Obeiri
        c. Seglawi-al-Abd
    B. Substrain Abeyan (7 secondary families)
        a. Family Sherrak
    C. Substrain Dalman (also called Dahman, Dajania, Dakhman) (4 secondary families)
        a. Family Sanwan (also called Shawan) (*BINT BINT SABBAH by BAYYAD out of BINT SABBAH, *BINT BINT DURRA by IBN RABDAN x BINT DURRA)
        b. Family Nejib
    D. Substrain Abu-Arkab (3 secondary families)
The following substrains are considered as part of the Kehilian Ajuz by Borden 1924:
    E. Rishon (2 secondary families)
    F. Radban (2 secondary families)
    G. Twaissan (2 secondary families)
    H. Millah (3 secondary families)
    I. Kuhalayan/Kuhaylah Jellabu/Jellabiyah (a family I think may belong to the Ajuz strain) (*MAAROUFA, *FADL)

2. Manakhi (also Maneghi) (The Darley Arabian)
    A. Substrain Hedruj (also Hedrug)
        a. Family Haidee (MAITH by SARGON out of DJEMEL out of NAZLET)
          -subfamily Naomi (KHALED by *NIMR out of NAOMI out of HAIDEE)
        b. Family Ibn Sbeyel

3. Jeffon (also called Jiffan) (The Godolphin Arabian)

4. Hamdani
    A. Subfamily Simri
        a. Family Sobha (SIMAWA by RUSTEM out of SARAMA out of SIWA)

5. Hadban
    A. Substrain Enhezi

I've tried to flesh this out as best I can with real animals to go with the strain names. Even a dedicated Arab fancier would have a hard time making heads or tails of the strains. Regrettably I was not able to find a horse to go with each strain, or more then even one family to go with a strain. As a result, the above is intended as a rough guide and I would welcome revisions or corrections! (Kim Bjorgo, PO Box 431978, Big Pine Key, FL 33043)


Borden, S. 1924. Arab Horses and the Crabbet Stud. Caballus Publishers reprint 1973.

Edwards, G.B. 1977. Know the Arabian Horse. Farnam Horse Library.

Forbis, J. and W. Schimanski, 1976. The Royal Arabians of Egypt and the Sud of Henry B. Babson. Thoth Publishers, Waco TX.

Maynesboro Arabian Stud. 1927. Purebred Arabian horses at stud/for sale catalog. Maynesboro Stud, Pub., Berlin NH.

Reese, H.M. 1960. Arabian Horse Breeding. Borden Pub. Co. Los Angeles, CA.

Reese, H.H. and G.B. Edwards. 1970. The Kellogg Arabians - Their Background and Influence. Borden Pub. Co, Alhambra CA.

(Note From Lesli Kathman: Most of these books are out of print, but for those attending BreyerFestm the KHP Library has copies of most of them.)

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