History of the PSE

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A short historical background

The sense and purpose of the Pyramid Society is the purebred preservation and promotion of Egyptian Arabian horses, known in the English language under the name “Straight Egyptians”. These horses have a historical and breeding background of hundreds of years.

The Pyramid Society does not say that “straight Egyptian” Arabians are better than other ones. However, they go back to best, strongly selected desert horses and have very desirable qualities as vitality, pride, beauty and nobility.
The prophet Mohammed recognized the great importance of the easily satisfied, efficient, strong, noble and medium-sized horses of the desert of Nejd on the Arabian peninsula. These horses form the actual basis for the contemporary present purebred “Straight Egyptians” were brought to Egypt after 1811 by the sovereigns Mohammed Ali (1769 – 1848), Ibrahim Pasha (1789 – 1848) and Abbas Pasha (1813 – 1854) or they were bred from these three men. The Viceroy Mohamed Ali captered many horses during the Wahhabite war, later the royal family spent immense sums of money to get the very best horses out of the desert. Mohammed Ali, who started breeding with his horses in his stud of Shoubra near Cairo, was a lover and connoisseur of the noble horses from the desert, this was also his successor Ibrahim Pasha. Under his statement the studgrooms started to register the pedigrees, their importance and meanings.


“Abbas Pasha and his entourage”
Painting by G.H. La Porte, owned by Douglas B. Marshall

It was, however, the grandson Mohammed Ali’s, Abbas Pasha, who placed the actual foundation for the future. He was pure-blood fanatic! His stud in Heliopolis near Cairo housed horses of his grandfather and his uncle. A great part was in addition bought also by himself from Bedouins. He was also the leader of all other studs of the family of the Viceroy, because he did not have only a great love of the horses but also great knowledge about horsebreeding and managing. Because of his interest in the genealogical origin of horses he instructed persons of his confidence with the task to collect all information about his Arabian horses in the origin field at the Bedouins. The results of these enquiries were adhered from Ali Gamal al Din el Shamashirgi Bey (called “Al Lallah”) in the ‘Abbas Pasha Manuscript’ for all times. Gulsuen Sherif translated this manuscript into the English and published it with the aid of the known American breeder Judith Forbis. The extensive work gives to the breeders of “Straight Egyptians” a background knowledge about the Bedouins, their horses in general and in particular about the ones of Abbas Pasha. The preservation of these unique inheriting-measures, this valuable gene pool’s, we owe to the continuing breeding of the desert horses on the pure Bedouin basis until into our time.
In the following time the Egyptian breeders were particularly the royal family, among others Ali Pasha Sherif, Khedive Abbas Hilmi, Prince Ahmed Kemal, Prince Mohammed Ali and Prince Kemal el Din. The horses were collected to a great part in the Royal Inshass-Stud. In 1908 the “Royal Agricultural Society” (RAS) was founded, which controlled the horse-registration. She was renamed later in the “Egyptian Agricultural Organization” (EAO) and maintains the state stud “El Zahraa” which is still existing and flourishing today in Heliopolis / Cairo with approx. 300 horses.

Photo: Boiselle Mourad, former head stallion of El Zahraa

Also Lady Anne Blunt who maintained a stud in Egypt and England must not be forgotten. She gave essential impulses to the “Straight Egyptians” and to the worldwide population of Arabian horses.
From the EAO outstanding horses were bred through intensive selection at the stud of “El Zahraa”, due to purposeful breedingpolicy and outstanding knowledge of the stud managers, particularly in the time of the great horse-breeder Tibor von Pettko-Szandtner. This provided, to find the best and most typey Arabian horses of the world only in Egypt that all connoisseurs thought unanimously. The royal stud of Wuerttemberg (now Marbach) imported 1852 and 1860/61 Egyptian Arabians from the stud of Abbas Pasha, then, in the year 1930, again from Prince Mohammed Ali.

Photo: Dömken

Photo: Dömken
Ghazal (Nazeer x Bukra)

In the year 1955 further top animals were bought in “El Zahraa”: Hadban Enzahi (Nazeer x Kamla) and his half-sister Nadja (Nazeer x Nefisa). The Prince Knyphausen acquired at the same time Ghazal (Nazeer x Bukra) and Moheba (Sid Abouhom x Halima).
They all made history and formed the basis of the “Straight Egyptians” in Germany.
The American Henry Babson was one of the most farsighted breeders which bought already 1932 Egyptians from the stud of the Prince Mohammed Ali and bred already 1932 these Egyptians in a straight line. Judith Forbis came with her husband Donald on recommendation of Carl Raswan to Egypt after they had searched for the classical Arabian horse in the whole Arabian desert. In the stud of the EAO they found the long searched, noble Arabians for their stud. They received the stallion Ibn Halima (also by the ‘century stallion’ Nazeer out of Halima) and bought several top mares.

Photo: Knoll
Morafic (Nazeer x Mabrouka) and Tom McNair

After that, certainly thanks to the numerous newspaper articles written by Judith Forbis on the subject of Egyptian Arabians, a regular hunt onto the typey and noble Egyptians started in the USA. Led by the dollar multi Douglas B. Marshall, who fetched against the fantastic offer of the Russians the unforgotten Morafic (Nazeer x Mabrouka) for America, the “Straight Egyptian” population expanded. Most Egyptians were sold in that time into the USA. At second place of the importing countries Germany followed. Here Dr. Hans-Joachim Nagel was in the late sixties-and early seventies one of the first private breeders who achieved particularly noble horses from El Zahraa and started with these a stud in Europe. Through this a strong increase of the “Straight Egyptians” followed in many countries. Under these conditions it was obvious to from a union that supported the pure breeding of Egyptian Arabians.
Already 1969 North American breeders joined and “The Pyramid Society” was set up. Douglas B. Marshall became their first president and supported “The Pyramid Society” particularly financially. Further members of the first executive board were James Kline (Vize-President), Judith Forbis (Secretary) and Willis H. Flick (Treasurer). In the year 1976 this organization published the second volume (the first is not available anymore) of the ‘Reference Handbook of Straight Egyptian Horses’, in which approx. 500 horses were registered.
In the year 2000 volume XI was published. In Germany the first Egyptian horses were registered in the ‘Asil Araber’-book 1977 with approx. 60 horses. It was handed over by the Asil Club. In this organization are included horses which were bought direct from the Bedouins in the Arabian desert.
In 1987 finally the ‘Pyramid Society Europe’ was set up. This association published in the year 1990 their own book, the Almanach I, a list of the members and their approx. 450 “Straight Egyptian” horses. The name “Straight Egyptian” became in the meantime a term in the entire world.
The “Pyramid Society Europe” wants to give support to the breeders of these horses. Before years for example the hypothesis was set up, that the linebred Egyptian Arabians needs desert Arabian blood for cross-breeding to avoid degeneration. This completely is ad absurdum through the development of the last years. With worldwide exchange of high quality breeding animals and a mare basis of more than a thousand, degeneration or inbreeding depression also in future are not to be expected. Of course one must select also with the Egyptians. Here is a main point for the work of the “Pyramid Society Europe”. Only the best, most typey and healthiest horses are suitable for breeding. Through membership and collaboration with the “Pyramid Society Europe” all owners of “Straight Egyptian” Arabian horses should contribute with their knowledge and spent money for this purpose. Only with a large group we can effectively support this valuable culture and preserve it for our coming generations. This is our duty and should be the fundamental basis which we owe to the famous breeders Abbas Pasha, von Pettko-Szandtner and Judith Forbis.

Siegfried Paufler

(Prof. Dr. Siegfried Paufler – Honorary President of Pyramid Society Europe e.V.)