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History and Legends

Al Khamsa ­ The Five

"Al Khamsa" is an Arabic term roughly translated as "the five." Early occidental travelers to the extended Arabian peninsula frequently reported that the term "al khamsa" (el Khamsa, el Khoms, etc.) was used to designate the five best or favorite "breeds," strains or families, of the unique and ancient breed of horses of the native Bedouin. These travelers indicated that there were many strains and that the list of "the five" varied from tribe to tribe or from sheykh to sheykh.
One variation of the story of "Al Khamsa" refers to the five favorite horses of the prophet Muhammad (AD 570-632). According to this legend, a tribe of Bedouin, after a long journey in the desert, released their mares to run to a watering hole to quench their thirst. As a test of their loyalty the mares were called back to their masters before reaching the water, and of the many mares, only five returned faithfully without drinking. These became the five original favorite mares of the Bedouin, and each was given a strain name which would carry on with its descendants. Just which strains these were depended on the teller of the tale as there are actually more than five strains and all are related and of equal importance. 

The term "Al Khamsa" signified purity of bloodlines to the Bedouin, as it does today to supporters of Al Khamsa.

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Al Khamsa by Karen Kasper

Gabril and the Wind-Spout
Khamsat V19N4

The Arabs have a very beautiful story-some may call it a legend- concerning the origin of the KUHAYLAH, the first Arabian horse that appeared among them. It may merit some study and disclose the Bedouin ideas on INCEST-breeding, which they claim were a revelation of God to their chieftain Ishmael and shows the connection between their religion and the breeding of horses preserved to this day. 

It is said that ISHMAEL, son of Abraham, was a great herdsman and hunter. He is even credited with inventing the bow and arrow. It was ISHMAEL who built the Ark of the Desert, the "Camel-throne" of Arabia, or as it is also called "The FATHER OF AGES." It was a "PALAQUIN" made of acacia wood and decorated with the plumes of the wild ostrich. It was Ishmael to whom JIBRAIL (the Angel Gabriel) was directed by God to give the first Desert horse. In the poetic tradition of the Pre-Islamic Bedouin, it is reported, that Gabriel descended from space to earth while ISHMAEL was asleep, but the man of the wilderness woke, when a "wind-spout" (a wind-devil) whirled toward him, scorching the red sand with its feet, scattering the dust with the blasts of its nostrils and screaming with ferocity. Gabriel stayed the thunder-cloud with his commanding voice, and as the fullness of the wild element gathered before him it began to condense under his up- lifted arms, and out of the obscure mass emerged one of the most hand- some creatures man had ever seen, prancing and running and caprioling about, it seemed to swallow the ground with it's (sic) thundering feet. 

This is the gist of the story as told by father to son in the black tents of Arabia and this is probably the reason why the affectionate name "Drinkers of the Wind" was bestowed by the tribesmen on their steeds of the Desert. 

Note: Capitalization and punctuation are as displayed in the original text. Carl Raswan, The Raswan Index and Handbook for Arabian Breeders: 
“The Kuhaylat,”  page 6. Volume 1, 1990 Edition. The William Byrd Press, Richmond, VA. 1967, 1969, 1990.