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Dahman Shahwan

I love you, O Dahmah

As if you were part of me

And my family

And though there may be horses many

You are more to me

Than all the others.


(from the poem of Shahwan about his mare al Dahmah, from Judith Forbis / Gulsun Sherif, The Abbas Pasha Manuscript)

The Dahman strain and its substrains belong to the best regarded strains among the Bedouins. They originate with Shahwan, a famous horse breeder and poet of the Qahtan/Katan tribe. In the Abbas Pasha Manuscript we read: "Al Dahmah belongs to Shahwan, and she is from the horses that belonged to our Lord Suleiman (King Solomon), peace be upon him! And the Kuhaylah was called Al Dahmah because of her dark color. And the eyes of the Kuhaylah were as if rimmed with kohl." The Qahtan tribe is regarded as one of the oldest of all Arabian people and many other tribes have sprung off it, for example the Shammar. Thus the Dahman Shahwan strain was regarded as a very old one.


According to Al Dahdah Shahwan´s full name is: Shahwan ibn Mansur ibn Daygham al-Qahtani, leader of the ´Abidah tribe of Qahtan when they were in Wadi Tathlith, in todays South West Saudi Arabia, before they migrated north into Nejd. In a book by Mamluck-era chronicler Abu al-Mahasin al-Yamani (1281-1343 AD) called “Bajhat al-Zaman fi Tarikh al-Yaman”, a chronicle of historical events in Yemen, Sahwan ibn Mansur al-´Abidah is mentioned as one of two Sheykhs leading two hundred horsemen from the horsemen of the Arab nomads in a battle on the side of king Muzaffar, second king of the Rasulid dynasty of Yemen, there he took over Dhofar, Hadramaut and the city of Shibam, in the year 678 Hijri (1279 AD). “This makes the strain of Dahman Shahwan that is known after Shahwan, the oldest attested Arabian horse strain by far” (Al-Dahdah). 

Bukra (Shahloul/Bint Sabah) at El Zahraa (photo Ekkehard Frielinghaus) is regarded one of the most famous mares of the Dahman Shahwan strain of all times.


Tamria II (Ansata Halim Shah/211 Zohair) and her daughter Tabanya by Hamasa Nabih.

The Dahman Shahwan strain had died out in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as well. Therefore horses of this lineage had to be imported from the West, like A.AS Sawannah (AAS El Hezzez/DB Jasida).

Burckhardt was the first to mention this strain in western literature, and reports, that the Dahmah breeds were much esteemed in Nejd at the beginning of the 19th century.


From Dahman Shahwan the two substrains Dahman Kunayhir (after Kunayhir al Hobaysh of al Ajman) and Dahman al Najib (after Al Nejib of the Beni Huseyn) developed (APSM, Blunt) . Abbas Pasha acquired his Dahmah mares from Faisal Ibn Turki al Saud and Mohamed al Khalifah and others. Also Lady Blunt narrates the history of the Dahman horses, namely the substrain of Dahman Nejib. She tells us a second explanation for the name Dahmah (the dark one), that is also narrated in the Abbas Pasha Manuscript. And also in her accounts this strain came from Shahwan. It is a rather complicated story with three different but very similar versions. "...and when Ibn Fursan died she foaled a filly in the possession of the widow and children, that she (the mare) died and the filly was suckled by a black ass (donkey) belonging to the widow and because of the black ass she was called Dahmah...". As synthesis we see both Lady Blunt and the Abbas Pasha Manuscript agreeing on the following: The Dahman strain was in very high regard (it even was Abbas Pasha´s most favored strain). Horses of this strain were acquired by many influential and mighty persons of the Qahtan/Kahtan, Ajman, Mutair, Beni Huseyn, Harb and other tribes. One example: A man called Al Nejib of the Beni Huseyn founded an own marbat, Dahman Nejib, and from him Abdallah Ibn Khalifah, ruler of Bahrain, bought a mare on shares and bred on. Turki Ibn Saud also bought a mare on shares from Al Nejib but had no luck and did not get offspring. So his son Feysul gave that grey old Dahmah mare to the sheikh of the Ajman, Bedaa El Jays (Jey in the Abbas Pahsa Manuscript?) And the mare´s daughters went to other breeders, also back to the Quatan tribe. But the most fortunate was Ibn Khalifah: "and they multiplied". So later quite a few Dahman horses came from Bahrain to Egypt, namely to Abbas Pasha and Lady Blunt (Bint El Bahreyn). But in their homeland Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain the Dahman strain died out in its original form during the last decades. It was reintroduced in "pure Saudi form" through a mare going back to Sawannah from Bahrain, exported to America, going back to a mare from Al Jiluwi, governor of al-Hasa province in Saudi Arabia, who maintained a large stud-farm at Hufhuf.

Ibn Nura (Sotamm/Bint Nura) was bred by Ali Pasha Sherif in Egypt (left). Right: El Sareei (Shahloul/Zareefa) at El Zahraa is from the Bint El Bahreyn line (photo Ekkehard Frielinghaus).

Today the Dahman Shahwan strain is one of largest or maybe the largest asil strain worldwide thanks to the Egyptian lines. Some of the most influential horses belong to this strain. In Egyptian breeding two root mares are of the Dahmah heritage: El Dahmah (c. 1880) of Ali Pasha Sherif and Bint El Bahreyn 1898, bred by Al Khalifah on the island of Bahrain and owned by Lady Blunt. El Dahmah is by far the more important of those two. Nearly nothing is known about her, except that she was in the possession of Ali Pasha Sherif. Edouard Al Dahdah and others have put information from the Sheykh Obeyd Herdbook and Lady Anne´s Journals together and gained the hypothesis, that El Dahmah was the mare Meshura of Khedive Abbas Pasha Hilmi II and thus dam or more probably the granddam of Mezna 1903. El Dahmah had two daughters that bred on: Nadra El Kebira 1891 by Nader El Kebir and Obeya 1894 by Koheilan El Mossen. Thus two branches developed:


1. Nadra El Saghira c.1910 (Samhan X Nadra el Kebira/ El Dahmah) dam of Farida. The Farida branch through Nadra El Kebira 1891 by Nader El Kebir- Nadra El Saghira c.1910 by Samhan - Farida 1921 by Saklawi II (doubling El Dahmah!)


2. Bint Obeya ( El Halabi X Obeya/ El Dahmah), dam of Sabah. The Sabah branch through Obeya 1894 by Koheilan El Mossen- Bint Obeya 1921 by El Halabi - Sabah 1920 by Mabrouk Manial, son of Saklawi II and grandson of El Dahmah, thus also doubling El Dahmah. Also many influential stallions of the Dahman strain have made a lasting impression in Egypt and beyond: Ibn Nura 1876, Shahwan 1887, Dahman El Azrak c.1890, Saklawi II c.1900, Sahab 1903, Balance 1928, Sheikh El Arab 1933, Sid Abouhom 1936, Ansata Ibn Halima 1958, Ghazal 1953, El Sareei 1942, Gassir 1941, Madkour 1964 and Ansata Halim Shah 1980 and many others.

Madkour (Morafic/Maisa) and Authentic Ibn Nawaal (Maysoun/AK Nawaal) in Germany.

It is noteworthy to remember that the Dahman Shahwan horses have only ties to tribes in the Nejd and not to the Anaza tribes in the north. Also, according to the Abbas Pasha Manuscript, the Dahman Amir /Amr/Omm Amr horses that can be found with the Anaza tribes and Shammar of the North until the beginning 21st century, have no known connection with the Dahman Shahwan strain. In Turkey the family of Neame 1925 exists, bred by King Faisal of Iraq, a granddaughter of Dahma 1876, imported by the Blunts to Crabbet Park, from the Gomussa S´bah Anaza Bedouins. In Australia this Dahma has established a family through her daughter Dahna by Kars. The Al Deri family of the Baqqara tribe also bred Dahman Amir horses.

Dahmeh (photo Dana Al Khalifa) and Dhahmaan Hoobeishi (Kuheilaan Umm Zorayr Al Dheleem/Dhamah Umm Wajnah), the last representative of his strain in Bahrain

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