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  • Writer's pictureBryan R. Saye

A Brief History of the Medieval Horses of The Crusader Chronicles

Updated: Aug 25

History of the Medieval Al Khamsa Horses

There are many different medieval stories of how the horses called Al Khamsa came to be. Translated, it means "The Five," and this alone should give us some hints as to their origins. I chose the following form of the legend (and yes, I tend to believe it is a legend and not based in history).

Five Horses in the Desert (Al Khamsa)
The Al Khamsa

Muhammed, after leading his men and horses on a long journey and without rest, released his horses to drink once they came upon a lake in the desert. When they were close to drinking (or already drinking, as some stories say), he blew his battle horn and called them back. Only five mares returned, and these became his favorite. Hence, Al Khamsa or "The Five."


Whether or not this is true history is up for debate, though I suspect there is some amount of truth to it, as there are with most medieval legends. For more information, there is a website dedicated to Al Khamsa: https://alkhamsa.org


Safanad — A Medieval History of a Biblical Horse

Rather than look at the history of a breed of horses, this time we'll look at a specific one: Safanad. According to yet another legend (a lot of legends in medieval history), Safanad was the name of the horse that the Queen of Sheba gifted to King Solomon when she visited him in Israel (see 1 Kings 10:1-12 and 2 Chronicles 9:1-13). Safanad then became the mother of all Arabian horses. This, like the story of Al Khamsa above, is shrouded in legend and myth. Likely, there is little truth to this story from history. But what a story! King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, also the first breeder of Arabian horses? How cool is that?


In any case, I like to imagine that Safanad's head is on the helmet below.

The Crusader Chronicles with Helmet on Bookshelf

Tencendur — The Medieval horse of King Charlemagne

This time we're a little bit closer to history. Maybe. Maybe not. I'll let you decide.

Brown horse on black background, jumping

Likely written sometime in the early eleventh century, the Song of Roland (found here) retells in poetic form the story of (you guessed it) Roland during the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in AD 778. While it mainly recounts Roland's adventures during the medieval battle, it mentions the famous King Charlemagne in several parts. One goes like this:

He seizes his lance and brandishes it aloft; then he mounts his good steed Tencendur, which he conquered at the fords below Marsone when he slew Malpalin of Narbonne.

Tencendur is mentioned in various other parts, as well, always as the steed of King Charlemagne. I liked the name and thought Hendry deserved to ride on the back of a royal horse. He is, after all, my favorite character.

Ankída — Okay, this one's made up

Okay, this one's completely made up. Daniel's horse isn't based in history or part of any medieval lineage of horses. Ankída is Greek and roughly translates to splinter, just as I mention in Dorylaeum. Ankída is a rouncey, which was a smaller, faster horse generally used for scouting and all-purpose riding. Essentially, she's nothing special. She only really matters to Daniel, though I suppose that makes her my favorite horse.


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