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 for which a translation dictionary cannot be bought in a local bookstore! For our example of a pedigree we will use that of the late, great Huckleberry Bey++, who was the leading halter and performance sire at the National shows for a number of years and whose sire line is still prominent today through his sons who have been leading sires as well, most notably Afire Bey V, the breed’s all time leading sire of champions.

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 final source to whom the sire line traces. In Arabian pedigrees. the foundation sire 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. Huckleberry Bey++ is 6 generations away from *Mirage in sire line. Examples of some other prominent foundation sires are: Ibrahim (Poland), founder of the Skowronek sire line, Kuhailan Haifi (Poland), from whom *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). For example, the highly successful Shaikh Al Badi branch of the Saklawi I sire line has produced the World Champions *Gazal Al Shaqab and *Marwan Al Shaqab and National Champions Ruminaja Ali, Ali Jamaal and Thee Desperado, but the foundation sire of this line is not Shaikh Al Badi, but Saklawi I. 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 2011 National Champion shows in North America were from sire lines commonly found today, such as those of Kuhailan Haifi, *Mirage (through Bay-++) 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 Dahman Amirch, a desertbred stallion whose Polish born son Ursus has had worldwide influence through the get he sired in Spain. 2011 U.S. National Champion Three Year old Filly *Abha Raipur, PA Sebastion (who won 3 Canadian National Championships as a hunter and jumper), Sur Teddys Magna++// (who won 5 Canadian National Championships in hunter over fences and sport horse under saddle), and VLQ Friendly Fire+// (who won 3 National Championships in 2011 in reining) are of this sire line. Another influential sire line is that of Seanderich, a desertbred stallion used at stud in Spain at the beginning of the twentieth century. 2011 U.S. Reserve National Champion Futurity Filly Raherra, U.S. National Champion Two Year Old Sport Horse Filly Al-Marah Amelius, U.S. National Champion Sport Horse Yearling Filly Al-Marah Jessica, Canadian Reserve National Champion Hunt Pleasure AATR 40 and Over C A Ultimo+//, and U.S. Reserve National Champion Training Level Dressage ATR Xxtra Cool+ are of this sire line. The sire line of Mahruss, a stallion bred in Egypt and used by England’s Crabbet stud produced the 2011 U.S. National Champion Hunt Pleasure AOTR 36-54 winner WMJ Contribution and U.S. Reserve National Champion Sport Horse Carriage Driving Turnout Canadian Justina, who descend from the Rissalix branch of that sire line. Another prominent source of the Mahruss sire line today is through the stallion Aurab, a line noted for producing winning working western and sport horses. 2011 U.S. Reserve National Champion Trail Futurity Robbyn Ribbons, U.S. National Champion Trail JOTR 14-17 Serannada+//, and 2011 U.S. National Champion Training Level Dressage Junior Horse Aul Turbo Charged, are from the Aurab branch of the Mahruss sire line Another sire line prominent at England’s Crabbet stud was that of Zobeyni through the noted stallion Mesaoud. 2011 Canadian Reserve National Champion Western Pleasure AOTR 18-39 and Western Pleasure AATR 18-39 Koweta Phoenix+/ traces in sire line to Zobeyni. A less common Egyptian sire line is that of Jamil El Kebir, found through the Rabdan branch. This is the sire line of Babson Egyptian Arabians, of National Champion sire Hallany Mistanny and also of multi-National Champion Fadjur. 2011 North American National Champions representative of this line include U.S. National Champion Third Level Dressage KS Fadls Phoenix, U.S. Reserve National Champion Working Cow Horse Futurity CJ Shadow Dance and multi-National Champion Sport Horse Carriage Driving VPF Nite Reign. The Bairactar sire line, which has branches in Poland and Russia, is the sire line of 2011 Canadian multi-National Champion Reining Navajo Joe BPF and U.S. Reserve National Champion Reining JTR 14-17 Bay Emotion. The Ilderim sire line, which originates in Poland, is responsible for great horses of the past such as U.S. National Champion Stallion *Elkin++ and U.S. National Champion Mare *Elkana++, as well as modern show winners such as 2011 U.S. National Champion Grand Prix Dressage HS Pageno+// and 2011 U.S. National Champion Fourth Level Dressage and Canadian National Champion Sport Horse Stallion HSA Haleys Comet, who has more National titles than any other purebred 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 *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 Rodania, the taproot mare of his dam line.

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 (U.S. National Champion Stallion Fame VF+ is also out of a Raffon++ daughter). 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 broodmare 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). There is also linebreeding to the Polish horses Gazella II and Bakszysz. Horses who occur multiple times in the pedigree are marked in yellow on Huckleberry Bey++’s pedigree chart.

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. Dan Gainey of Gainey Arabians inbred Skowronek through his stallion Ferzon (who was a double grandson of the Skowronek grandson Ferseyn) and Azraff, a son of the inbred Skowronek son *Raffles. Some breeders have linebred to mares--the McCoy program was founded on offspring of Bint Sahara and later linebreeding to her. More recently breeders have been linebreeding and inbreeding to Padrons Psyche and Huckleberry Bey++. Linebreeding and inbreeding can be utilized effectively to replicate desirable traits of an ancestor in descendants, but one must always bear in mind that when doing so less desirable recessive traits may present as well (see my article on “The Importance Of The Pedigree”.

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 imports *Wadduda and *Urfah, and the same strain in Spain through Zulima, who was brought from the desert in 1905. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) research has also determined errors in historic family strains. When originally registered in America, *Urfah was said to be of the Seqlawi Jedran family strain, but modern research has proven that she is of the same strain as *Wadduda. Another significant family strain change determined by mtDNA research is that of the full siblings *Fadl and *Maaroufa of the Babson importation from Egypt. For many years their strain was believed to be Kehilan Jallabi, however recent research has reassigned their strain to be Seqlawi Jedran, tracing to the taproot mare Ghazieh instead of Jellabiet Feysul.

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 National Champions and National Champion sires 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, and it was to find horses of this strain to improve the modern Thoroughbred that sent the Blunts to the desert in search of Arabian breeding stock). 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 of 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), BAPS (Belgium), BRSB (Brazil), CAHR (Canada), CHAV (Switzerland), DAV (Old German stud book), EAO (Egypt), GASB(Germany), ITSB (Italy), KSB (Kuwait), QASB (Qatar), RASB (Russia), RJSB (Jordan), SAHR (Sweden), SBA (Argentina) 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 re-imported, 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 American Arabian Registry.

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.