Le cheval arabe du Nejd et le système des races orientales dans le manuscrit de Wenceslas Severyn Rzewuski

Bernadette LIZET

fr Anthropozoologica 39 (1) - Pages 79-97

Published on 30 July 2004

This article is a part of the thematic issue Animal domestications: social and symbolic dimensions. Homage to Jacques Cauvin

The Arabian horse of the Nejd and the system of Oriental breeds in the manuscriptof Wenceslas Severyn Rzewuski.

In his French manuscript, Sur les chevaux orientaux et provenants [sic] des races orientales (On Oriental horses and horses from Oriental breeds, published in France in 2003 under the title Impressions d'Orient et d'Arabie), the Polish count Wenceslas Severyn Rzewuski uses the word "race" (breed) three hundred and fifty times. What meaning did the author, nephew of the famous Orientalist traveller Jan Potocki, intend for this word? What sort of classification system did he attempt to establish through his "list of Oriental breeds", or his "gradation table for horse blood" or indeed his "gradation of the affection held by the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula for horses" (another way to judge the quality of their "blood", in other words, the value of each bloodline)? Wenceslas Severyn Rzewuski's intellectual constructions are examined on their own merits and then compared to scholarly theories valid at the time among European equine specialists. Through these constructions, it is possible to clarify the portrait of this penniless Orientalist aristocrat, who went on an expedition among the nomadic Bedouins of the Arabian Nejd in order to buy horses.


Horse, Bedouins, Nejd, breed, blood, breeding theory.

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