The Book of Horses


This work is an undated manuscript copy of the Faras-nāma (The book of horses) of ʻAbd Allāh Khān Bahādur Fīrūz. It apparently was written during the reign of Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–58) and based in part on a versified source in Sanskrit of 16,000 shloka (couplets), the Shalihotra, dating from 2500–1500 BC. Among the topics treated are the color of a horse's coat and its significance (chapter 2), the horse's mane (chapter 3), signs indicating the agility of a horse on the battlefield (chapter 4), and signs indicating that a horse was inauspicious (chapter 6). Chapter 2 states, for example, that “a horse that is white with a bit of yellow mixed in ... and that has a red mane ... is considered auspicious.” The text is fully illustrated. In addition to the Shalihotra, the author claims to have incorporated material from a Faras-nāma dating from the sultanate of Mahmud of Ghazni (reigned 998–1030). The earliest complete surviving example of the genre of Persian literature dealing specifically with horses and their care appears to be a Faras-nāma by a certain Moḥammad ibn Moḥammad ibn Zangī, dating from the 12th century, of which a single manuscript copy exists in the Genel Kütüphanesi in Bursa, Turkey. The genre of the Faras-nāma is divisible into several categories: books attributed to Aristotle, books translated from Arabic, books originally written in Persian, and books from Hindu sources. ʻAbd Allāh Khān's work belongs to this last category. It is likely that the book was also partially plagiarized from an earlier work reportedly based on a Hindu source: Faras-nāma-ye Hāshemī by Zayn al-Ābidīn Husaynī, written in 1520.

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Title in Original Language

فَرَس نامه [رسالة في الخيول]

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Physical Description

232 pages (11 lines) : illustrations ; 25 x 17 centimeters

Last updated: February 12, 2016