What to Know About Arabian Horses

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on December 06, 2022
4 min read

The Arabian horse is one of the oldest and most popular equine breeds worldwide. Purebred Arabians are highly valued for their physical beauty, intelligence, and friendly nature. Currently, there are more than one million Arabian horses around the world, half of which are in the U.S. alone. Learn more about this ancient breed, including its characteristics, its personality, and how to care for an Arabian horse.

The Arabian horse is different from many other breeds, since its roots go back thousands of years. This breed traces its origins back to the deserts of the Middle East around 5000 B.C., where it was the companion horse of the Bedouin people. This tribe, from the Arabian Peninsula, is believed to be the first people to befriend and domesticate this breed.

The Bedouins believed that this horse was a gift directly from Allah, so it was revered and respected. It helped the Bedouins to survive the harsh desert climate and their nomadic lifestyle, since it could carry heavy loads and didn’t need much water. They continued to breed this horse, being careful not to mix it with horses from surrounding tribes and people. The result was a horse that was Asil, or pure.

Arabian horse size and attributes. The Arabian has contributed several of its coveted qualities to many of the modern light breeds of horses today. It’s a compact breed that has only 23 vertebrae while most others have 24. It stands 15 hands tall, or 60 inches, and weighs between 800 and 1,000 pounds. It has strong, muscular legs that give the Arabian great speed and stamina. One of its defining features is its small, concave head that has big eyes and wide nostrils.

Purebred Arabians can be any of these colors:

  • Gray
  • Chestnut
  • Black
  • Bay
  • Roan

The most common color for Arabians is gray; the least common is black. Arabians that appear white are actually gray; white Arabians are quite rare.

With proper care, the average Arabian horse's lifespan is between 25 and 30 years, However, since Arabians tend to be healthy, it’s not unusual for them to live past 30.

The Arabian horse comes from the Arabian Peninsula. The earliest ancestor of the horse lived in the lush oasis along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is present-day Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Here, they had access to water and grass in an otherwise dry and harsh climate.

Over time, Europeans became interested in these small horses that were known for their strength, speed, and jumping ability. Traders in the Middle East began sending Arabian horses to other parts through both trade and war. The result is that most riding horses today have some Arabian in their bloodlines.

You need good nutrition to feel your best, and your Arabian horse is no different. The first thing you should do when you get an Arabian horse is to talk with a vet or equine nutritionist for advice about what and when to feed your horse. Your horse’s nutritional needs will depend on several factors, including its:

  • Age
  • Level of activity
  • Size
  • Environment
  • Metabolism

The basis of every horse’s diet is hay and eating grass in the pasture. However, you can supplement your horse’s diet with grains like oats, corn, or barley. Each day, your horse will need to eat between 1% to 1.5% of its body weight, but very active horses may need to eat more for energy.

If you supplement your horse’s diet, you should add grains gradually, preferably whole grains, not ground. If you need to increase the amount of feed, that too should be gradual so that your horse can adapt. When you give your horse new food or make any changes to its diet, monitor your horse carefully to see how it handles the changes.

The Arabian horse has several personality traits that make it a great equine companion. Many think that it’s the most intelligent of all horse breeds because it has a good memory and learns quickly. Arabians are also alert and inquisitive. Since they’ve been domesticated for thousands of years, these horses are very friendly with people and love to please their owners. Your Arabian will be loyal to you and a good companion.

Arabians are so friendly and used to humans that foals aren’t startled by sudden noises like many other breeds. They aren’t afraid of humans even from a young age and are gentle with people. This adds courage and bravery to the breed’s reputation, as Arabians aren’t normally as skittish when compared to other breeds.

Are you thinking about getting an Arabian horse? You’re in good company! The Arabian was the preferred horse for many historical figures, including George Washington, Alexander the Great, and Napoleon Bonaparte due to its unique skills.

Arabian horse facts. Today, people train Arabians for showing or to have as riding companions. In shows, these horses compete in a number of events but have particular skills when it comes to endurance and competitive trail, thanks to speed, agility, and soundness. They’re also successful in dressage, reining, and driving.

If you have an Arabian, you can keep it in a pen, barn, or pasture. The pasture is the cheapest option, but your horse shouldn’t be left unsupervised for long periods. A barn is normally the most expensive option, as you need to pay for things like board, feed, and bedding. A pen, or run, can provide a little of both since it provides shelter but gives your horse access to the pasture.

Your Arabian needs regular vet care to prevent illness and injuries, or simply to check its health. Your horse will need vaccinations, dental care, and deworming, as well as other preventative measures against parasites and illnesses. Hoof care is also important. Trim your Arabian’s hooves every two months and make sure it has proper shoes. Your horse’s hoof care will change with its age, season, and nutrition.