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book reviews

Anne Brown

Every so often, a scholarly book comes along that takes your breath away by the depth of its research and the breadth of its knowledge.

“Bedouin Heritage” by Dr Matthias Oster is such a book. In 270 well-illustrated pages, it looks at the world of the Arabian horse in the context of its homeland and the life of the desert nomad. While the camel was the backbone of the pastoral Bedouin life, and essential to survival, the Arab horse was the gift from Allah and the pride of its master.

Dr Oster takes us on an inspired journey, first through the harsh habitat of the desert, then the history of the tribes who roamed it, from pre-biblical times, through the rise of Islam, to the Abbasids, the Mamluks and the Ottomans. The modern era has seen the virtual disappearance of the nomadic way of life, but the culture and the love of the horse remain. This fascinating insight in Bedouin society, the family order, the laws of hospitality, the role of the sheikh, and the importance of an ‘asil’ horse help us understand why the Arabian is still so respected and treasured. He quotes many of the glorious poems in Arabic honouring the desert horse.

The analysis of the tribes, and the strains of their Arabian horses – the Kuhailan, the Saqlawi, the Hamdani Simri, the Hadban Enzahi, the Shuweyman and others - are covered in detail, with the attributes of each examined.

Of particular interest the Arab Horse Society members is the tribute he gives to the Blunts who travelled through the Middle East in the 1880s searching for the finest horses to start their stud at Crabbet Park in Sussex.

The chapter on genetics is of particular value out-lining the Bedouins’ breeding principles for desired conformation and temperament and their use of line-breeding, in-breeding and out-crossing. The author describes the characteristics most desired respected by them. He quotes from many writers, including a translation from Erika Schiele who makes the important point that: “Textbooks were not known to the Bedouin; their judgement was based on neither rules nor dogma, but on years of daily observations and the experience of their forefathers.”

Other sources include Homer Davenport and his moving description of riding the snorting war mare Wadduda into a desert sunset back in 1906, before her export to the USA.

Oster himself concludes that breeding a horse that combines the characteristics of a war horse and a family horse “remains a challenge in handling those animals.”

Susanne Bösche

Rezension in Equus Arabian 2/2017:

 

„Die Weisheit hat ihr Haus gebaut, die sieben Säulen behauen“, so ist es in den Sprüchen Salomon zu lesen. Nicht nur T.E. Lawrence (1888 - 1935) orientierte sich mit seinem Buch „Die sieben Säulen der Weisheit“ daran. Das neue Buch „Bedouin Heritage“ von Dr. Matthias Oster offeriert sieben Säulen, mit denen er den Leser mitnimmt auf eine informative, inhaltsreiche, teils spirituelle Reise zur Geschichte der Beduinen, kombiniert mit Erkenntnissen der Wissenschaft.

 

Flirrende Hitze, Sandstürme, karge Nahrung. Eine unbarmherzige Natur prägte das arabische Pferd ebenso wie das enge Zusammenleben mit dem Menschen vor Jahrhunderten, formte es zu der Rasse, die heutzutage weltweit geschätzt wird. Mit seinem 2016 erschienenen Buch „Bedouin Heritage“ nimmt Tierarzt Dr. Matthias Oster, selbst Vollblutaraber-Züchter, den Leser nicht nur auf eine Reise mit in die Vergangenheit und erinnert an das unwiederbringliche Leben der Beduinen.

Es bietet außerdem eine neue, faszinierende Perspektive auf das arabische Pferd, umwoben mit Zitaten und poetischen Versen - ohne in eine verklärte Romantik abzugleiten. Dr. Oster versteht es, immer den Bezug zur modernen Araberzucht herzustellen und offeriert in unserer modernen, von Technologie geprägten Welt dem Leser neue Denkansätze.

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