New? Start here


Whether you are seeking information about Arabian horses or the specific work of the Institute for the Desert Arabian Horse, you’ve come to the right place.

What is a Desert Arabian Horse?

The original Arabian horses were bred for millennia by semi-nomadic Bedouin clans. The horses were treasured for their utility in war and raiding, and they were integral to the culture of the Bedouins who survived in the harsh desert environment. The horse-breeding Bedouin clans migrated in the areas that now comprise much of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Yeman, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar.

Over time, the Desert Arabian horse spread throughout the world, founding virtually all modern light breeds of horse, including the modern Arabian breed. Meanwhile, the Desert Arabian became increasingly scarce in its original homeland. A few breeding programs in the West and in the Middle East have perpetuated the original Desert Arabian, but their numbers have declined, especially during the past 25 years.

Why is it Disappearing?

The Bedouin had strict rules about breeding. They focused on horses whose purity and authenticity could be established according to their cultural norms. Such horses were considered “asil” – a term roughly translated as “purebred.” When Arabian horses were taken out of the desert by Western people, these standards were not followed, because most Westerners wanted to use the Arabian to improve local horses. Very few “asil” horses were bred together. Meanwhile, the Bedouin culture was affected by war and changing geopolitical events, and much of the tradition (and need) for breeding horses has passed into history. Today, fewer than 10 percent of the horses that are considered “Arabian” are believed to descend entirely from original Bedouin “asil” horses.

What Makes the Desert Arabian Horse Special?

The Desert Arabian horse has its own value as a riding and pleasure horse, reflecting the original Bedouin values of good temperament, hardy constitution, ability to survive on little food and in harsh conditions. In addition, these horses comprise a unique gene pool that may be useful for future breeding into the general “Arabian” breed.

Join us in a journey of discovery, appreciation, and activism as we secure this precious heritage now and for generations to come. Only a concerted international effort can salvage the precious genetic stock of the original Desert Arabian horse for the future.

Looking for more?

Read more about the Desert Arabian horse.

Find ways to get involved.

Learn more about the work of the Institute.