How to Read a Pedigree
by Arlene Magid

For many people the study of Arabian pedigrees is an endless source of fascination, and for serious breeders it is a requirement. Still, terminology remains puzzling. When asked about the dam line of a mare, this writer has heard owners reply "oh, she's out of Khemosabi". Actually, if Khemosabi is her maternal grandsire, the correct way to describe the pedigree is to say that the mare's dam is by Khemosabi (out of is a term reserved to describe what mares have produced). Also, since Khemosabi is a stallion, he cannot be the "dam line" of the mare--the dam line is the females listed descending from the mother of the mare herself. Her "dam line" would trace to a mare like Bint Sahara, for example.

By the time one tries to learn all the correct words for pedigree analysis, one's head can be spinning. Taproot mares, family strains, plus symbols before and after names--it seems to be a foreign language, and one that one cannot buy a translation dictionary for in a local bookstore! For our example of a pedigree we will use that of the late, great Huckleberry Bey, who was been the leading halter and performance sire at the National shows for a number of years.
To view Huckleberry Bey's Pedigree, click here.

The top part of the pedigree tracing through the sire, to his sire, and so forth is termed the "sire line". This ends in the foundation sire, who is the penultimate source to whom the sire line traces. In Arabian pedigrees, this is always a horse bred in the desert whose parents are not named. For Huckleberry Bey, it is *Mirage, a grey stallion imported to America in 1928 by Roger Selby, who had bought him from Lady Wentworth of England. Since *Mirage left no registered get in England, his sire line appears in pedigrees today only through American sources. Had Sheila Varian not used the *Mirage great-great grandson Bay Abi as the foundation sire for her breeding program, the sire line might well be extinct today. Examples Huckleberry Beyof some other foundation sires are: Ibrahim (Poland), founder of the Skowronek sire line, Kuhailan Haifi (Poland), from which *Bask descends, and Saklawi I (Egypt), from whom Nazeer descends. The sons of a foundation sire form the branches of the sire line (think of a tree with branches extending from its central trunk). The sire line of Huckleberry Bey is marked in red on the six-generation pedigree chart that accompanies this article.

Sometimes a sire line does not survive in direct male descent (as was nearly the case with *Mirage, whose sons were excellent broodmare sires). In such a case, it is a sire line that is said to exist "through the middle of the pedigree" as it is found only in females. Of course, this means that it is extinct as a sire line per se. There is such a horse in Huckleberry Bey's pedigree--Karnak, the sire of Reina Regente. Karnak sired eight daughters and five sons. Of his sons. three left no get at all, one sired one daughter, and the fifth sired two daughters and a son who was gelded, thus rendering the sire line from Karnak defunct. However, Karnak's daughters were highly prolific broodmares and through them he is found in many pedigrees today.

Many of the winners at the 1998 U.S. Nationals were from sire lines commonly found today, such as those of Kuhailan Haifi, *Mirage (through Bay Abi) and Saklawi I(through various sources including Aswan, the Nazeer son who had so much influence on the Russian breeding program). However, other sire lines are still showing influence, including that of Seanderich, a desertbred stallion used at stud in Spain at the beginning of this century. 1998 U.S National Champions of this sire line include National Champion Western Pleasure C A Hermoso, National Champion Western Pleasure AOTR 40 and Over WN Knight Rider, National Champion Hunter *Betys, National Champion Show Hack Venus Del Nilo, and U.S. National Champion First Level Dressage Silversun De Nilo (a Half-Arabian).

In Arabians, the tail female line is also called the dam line or family. It was especially prized by the Bedouins. The tail female descends through the dam (mother of the horse), her dam (the granddam), and so on to the taproot mare, who is always a desertbred. Examples of some prominent taproot mares include the Blunt's Rodania (who is the taproot mare for Huckleberry Bey and whose line originates from her foals in England), the Davenport import *Urfah, and Mlecha from Poland (from whom the breed's all time leading sire of champions, *Bask, descends). Breeders often make reference to "numbered" dams (third, fourth, etc.). The numbers indicate how many generations back they are from the horse whose pedigree is being read. Huckleberry Bey's dam line is marked in blue on the pedigree chart. His dam is Taffona, his second dam is Waneta, his third dam is Rhadna, his fourth dam is Reina Regente, and his fifth dam is Rabbani. Huckleberry Bey is 11 generations removed from the foundation mare of his dam line, Rodania.

The noted equine geneticist Michael Bowling found in an unpublished study of every 20th horse registered in Volume 72 of the American stud book (most of these were foals of 1996) a sampling which provided information on the most frequently found dam lines in modern stock. Of the top ten, four came through the Crabbet Stud (those of Rodania, Ghazieh, Basilisk and Ferida). Rodania was the dam line found most often in the horses studied--of the 500 horses in the group, she was the taproot ancestress of 69 of them (13.8%). Three of the top ten are from the 1906 Davenport importation (*Abeyah, *Urfah, the second most common, and *Wadduda, to whom Bint Sahara, Ferzon and Khemosabi trace, among others). One mare, El Dahma, founded her family in Egypt, and the Zulima tail female is found through Spanish pedigrees. Some of the less numerous dam lines have also produced important horses. The Polish dam line of Ukrainka is found today in tail female only through Forta, but she founded a dynasty of successful race and show horses. One of the rarest female families is that of Wild Thyme, whom the Blunts brought to England's Crabbet stud in one of their early importations. U.S. National Champion Stallion Arn Ett Perlane traces to her in tail female. Another infrequently found line is that of Dafina, a desertbred mare brought to England in 1927. She had a daughter who went to Russia in the 1936 exportation from the Crabbet Stud, and from that daughter descends U.S. Reserve National Champion Stallion and National Champion sire Padrons Psyche so there is a refreshed presence of the Dafina line in current Arabian breeding.

One other term from the dam's portion of the pedigree is important. This is "broodmare sire", the maternal grandsire. Huckleberry Bey's broodmare sire is Raffon, noted for his excellent daughters. Certain stallions are famed for their production of exceptional mares, so the broodmare sire position in a pedigree is one to evaluate with care. Many significant breeding stallions are the grandsons of important broodmare sires. The complete female side of the pedigree (including the broomare sire, the dam, granddam and tail female line plus all the sires of those mares) is called the distaff side of the pedigree.

Linebreeding refers to the occurence of the same horse multiple times in the pedigree. In Huckleberry Bey's pedigree, there is linebreeding to *Mirage and *Kareyma (Arabi Kabir and Ibn Mirage are 3/4 brothers), to Skowronek through his sons *Raffles, *Raseyn and Naseem, and to Indraff, the son of *Raffles who is the maternal grandsire of Gazon and the sire of Vadraff. (Raffon, who is by Gazon out of Vadraff, can be considered inbred to Indraff). Horses who occur multiple times in the pedigree are marked in yellow.

Many very successful Arabian breeding programs have been based on linebreeding and/or inbreeding. Bazy Tankersley of Al-Marah Arabians has linebred and inbred to her foundation sire Indraff since she purchased him in the 1940s. Alice Payne, the final owner of *Raffles, developed an inbreeding program around him so intense that she produced Celeste, who was 87 1/2% *Raffles (she was sired by him, out of a daughter of his who was also his granddaughter!). By the time Payne died in 1969, her younger horses had as many as 11 lines to *Raffles in the first six generations of their pedigrees. Henry Babson of the Babson Stud concentrated his efforts on the stallion *Fadl, who he imported in 1932. Some breeders have linebred to mares--the McCoy program was founded on offspring of Bint Sahara and later linebreeding to her. It is important to understand that the terms "linebreeding" and "inbreeding" are used somewhat differently in the Arabian community than they are in some other breeds. In Thoroughbreds, who have less occurence of linebreeding than Arabians, horses are said to be "inbred on a coefficient" if the same animal appears several times in the pedigree. "Inbred 2:3" means that the same horse appears once in the second and third generations. For Arabians, the term inbred would refer to a horse who is incest bred, the product of a mother/son, father/daughter, or sibling mating, or a horse who had more than 2 lines to a particular ancestor in the first few generations of the pedigree.

The concept of family strains can be difficult to grasp, as it is based in both legend and reality. Family strain designation among the Bedouins came from the dam line as a way to identify the tribe which had bred a particular horse. Family strain is passed from generation to generation through the dam line, never through the sire line.
The legendary origin of strains is based on the story of "Al Khamsa" (the five), who were the mares of the Prophet Mohammed. After being denied water for some time, they were allowed to drink, but turned back from the waterhole when a horn was blown indicating an impending battle. Since they were the true "war mares", they became the foundresses of the five main strains of Arabians: the Kehilan. Seqlawi, Muniqi, Dahman and Hadban. There are variant spelling for these--Kehilan can be spelled Kuhaylan, or Koheilan. These are the masculine version of the strain names--the feminine ones have different forms. A horse who is of the Seqlawi Jedran of Ibn Sudan strain has a taproot mare bred by a tribe different than one of the Seqlawi al Abd strain. Since horses were exported from the desert to various countries, one finds the Seqlawi al Abd strain in America through the 1906 Davenport import *Wadduda, and the same strain in Spain through Zulima, who was brought from the desert in 1905.

With the passing of time other strains came into being, including the Abeyan, Jilfan, Shueyman, and Wadnan. The latter three are thinly represented in modern breeding, with the Shueyman known through one taproot mare in Poland (though that mare, Cherifa, founded the dam line that includes U.S. National Champion Stallion *Elkin and Swedish National Champion Stallion *Exelsjor, found close up in the pedigree of World Champion Stallion *Gazal Al Shaqab). The Abeyan strain has a rare substrain--Umm Jaras--found in Egyptian horses today through the taproot mare El Obeya Om Grees. From this line descend the excellent sire *Ibn Hafiza as well as Nabiel and Ruminaja Ali! There are also many substrains of each of the major ones, some of which exist in modern breeding and some of which do not. Researching strains can be a difficult task. In the first four volumes of the American stud book family strains were recorded for each horse, but the information was dropped from subsequent volumes. To trace all of the strains in a pedigree with many different origins, many reference sources must be used (the Arabian Datasource online unfortunately does not record family strains). Our sample horse, Huckleberry Bey, is of the Kehilan Ajuz of Ibn Rodan strain. He is actually pure-in-strain Kehilan Ajuz, as his sire Bay El Bey is of the Kehilan Ajuz strain through the Polish taproot mare Gazella. The Bedouins prized horses who were closely bred within the strain as they believed this set desirable traits and made them more consistent breeding stock.

The significance of family strains has been the subject of much dispute over the years. The writer Carl Raswan felt that the horses of the late-developed Muniqi strain were less pure, and therefore undesirable, though Wilfrid Blunt of the Crabbet Stud highly prized this strain for its racing abilities (one of the founders of the Thoroughbred, the Darley Arabian, was reputed to be a Muniqi). Raswan believed there were three basic strains that were also accompanied by a distinct physical type of horse. Kehilans were heavier in muscling, wide- chested and masculine of appearance, appearing more like a Morgan or even a Quarter Horse (this included the mares). His concept for the Seqlawi was a slimmer, more elegant horse with a narrower head, which he later compared to be more like an American Saddlebred. His description of a typical horse of the Maneghi strain was a taller animal, coarser in appearance, resembling the Thoroughbred in looks and speed.

Arabian horse pedigrees often have symbols that puzzle the reader. On the registration papers and the pedigrees on the AHA Datasource online (or the old Arabian Horse Registry Bookshelf CD ROMs, last issued in 2001), three or four letter abbreviations often accompany the registration numbers following the horses' names. These are codes for the registry of origin of a particular horse. In Huckleberry Bey's pedigree, AHR represents the American registry and PASB is the Polish stud book, while SBFAR is the French Stud Book. Such designations can give clues to the national origins of horses in the pedigree, but must be used with care in determining whether a horse represents a certain bloodline group. For instance, Bay El Bey's dam *Naganka was bred in Poland but her maternal granddam Bad was bred in France. Some other common abbreviations for foreign stud book origins are : AHSA (Australia), AHSB(Great Britain, though some horses up to 1964 were registered with both the Arab Horse Society stud books and the GSB, the General Stud Book), AVS (the Netherlands), CAHR (Canada), DAV (Old German stud book), EAO (Egypt), GASB(Germany), RASB (Russia), SAHR (Sweden), and SSB (Spain).

Another area of confusion is the use of asterisks before the name of the horses, as with *Naganka and a number of other horses in Huckleberry Bey's pedigree. The asterisk indicates that the horse was imported to America. This symbol was used by the Arabian Horse Registry of America until the early 1980s, when their computer system was altered so that the asterisk became a function key. Now imported horses are registered with the stud book of origin following their names. Poland's Bandos became Bandos PASB in America after his 1982 importation. However, he is often mentioned as *Bandos, which is also correct usage since he was imported (there is also an American born Bandos foaled in 1940). An example of incorrect usage of the asterisk is often seen in horses who have been exported and then reimported, as was U.S. National Champion Stallion Ali Jamaal, whose correct designation is Ali Jamaal, not *Ali Jamaal--since he was foaled in America the asterisk should not be used. Generally, if a horse is imported the asterisk should still be used in front of its name, even if it is not used in its registration name due to the technical requirements of the Arabian Registry.
Due to litigation between the US Arabian Registry and South American registries, certain Arabians bred in South America and not previously accepted in the US Registry as purebred have now been given a # designation after their names. An example is *JJ Apharina#, named a 2005 U.S. Top Ten Junior Mare. This designation is designed to assist people concerned with pedigree purity.

Plus (+) and slash (/) symbols after the name of a horse indicate that it is the recipient of an Arabian Horse Association merit award. The program was initiated in 1965 to recognize horses who performed well in the show ring, but now racing, eventing, dressage, distance riding also earn points for these awards. The designations are: Legion of Honor (+), Legion of Supreme Honor (+/). Legion of Merit (++), Legion of Excellence (+//), Legion of Supreme Merit (+++), and Legion of Masters (++++). There are also combinations of awards including Legion of Supreme Honor/Merit (++/), Legion of Supreme Honor/Supreme Merit (+++/), Legion of Merit/Excellence (++//), Legion of Supreme Merit/Excellence (+++//), Legion of Masters/Supreme Honor (++++/), and Legion of Masters/Excellence (++++//). Horses earning awards in the honor, supreme honor and excellence divisions have won points in halter and/or performance. The merit, supreme merit, and masters awards are given to horses who have earned a certain number of points in both halter and performance events--Huckleberry Bey, his sire Bay El Bey, and grandsires Raffon and Bay Abi are all recipients of the Legion of Merit award.












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