The Horses and Customs of the Sahara Desert


Les chevaux du Sahara et les mœurs du désert (Horses of the Sahara and the ways of the desert) is a study of the horses of North Africa accompanied by ethnographic commentary based on the author’s residence in Algeria as well as on the reflections of ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri, Amir of Mascara (1808‒83). The book is by General Eugène Daumas (1803‒71), a French soldier who participated in his country’s conquest of Algeria. The first half of the volume deals with the Saharan horse, how it differs from the Arabian horse, and details of its uses, care, and breeding. Because the author was first and foremost a cavalry officer, he discusses at length the Saharan horse’s virtues as a military mount. The second half of the volume is devoted to the manners and customs of the inhabitants of North Africa, i.e., the Berbers or, as Daumas calls them, “the people of the tent.” This section is not a comprehensive or scholarly ethnography but rather a collection of observations, folklore, proverbs, and equestrian lore covering war- and peace-making among tribes, hunting, and the husbandry of horses, camel, and sheep. Throughout the volume Daumas supplements his own observations with the testimony of ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri, whom he consulted through correspondence. ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri fought against the French occupation of his country. He was captured and later released from prison, after which he spent the remainder of his life in Bursa, Turkey, and in Damascus, Syria. Through his writing, personal charisma, and especially his defense of the Christian population in the upheavals of 1860, he established a reputation for tolerance that persists to the present day in Europe and the Middle East. The book first appeared in 1851. It was followed by many later editions in French and German. The edition shown here was published in 1862.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

Hachette & Company, Paris


Title in Original Language

Les chevaux du Sahara et les mours du desert

Type of Item

Physical Description

544 pages : portrait ; 25 centimeters


  1. Kiser, John W. Commander of the Faithful: the life and times of Emir Abd el-Kader (1808-1883). Rhinebeck, N.Y.: Monkfish, 2008.
  2. “Abdelkader,” in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Fifteenth edition. Chicago, 1986. 1:18

Last updated: March 17, 2016