Names of Arabian Horses, Their Pedigrees, and Their Horsemen


Asmāʼ khayl al-ʻarab wa ansābuhā wa dhikr fursānihā (Names of Arabian horses, their pedigrees, and their horsemen) is a compendium containing 518 names of Arabian horses from the pre-Islamic and Islamic eras and the knights who owned them. In some entries, the horse pedigree is also provided, together with excerpts from poems and anecdotes pertaining to the horse or to the battles in which it fought. The names are alphabetically grouped, but within each alphabetical group the entries are not in order. The author was al-Hassan ibn Ahmad al-Ghundijani, also known as Abu Muhammad al-Aʻrabi, a philologist and genealogist who was active in the 11th century. Writing about horses emerged as a genre during the first five centuries of Islamic history, probably as a result of the key role played by horses in the spread of Islam. Among the earliest works on the subject were Ibn al-Kalbi’s Ansāb al-khayl fī al-jāhiliyya wa al-islām (Horses' pedigrees before and after Islam), Ibn al-Muthanna’s al-Khayl (Horses), and a book by al-Asmaʻi bearing the same title. In many places, the treatise presented here reads like an anthology of poetry, sampling a wide array of poetic texts that express the strong bond between the Arab horseman and his horse. For example, one poet describes his horse named ʻArib (The eloquent) as the “most loved among the loved ones,” and pledges to use himself as a shield to protect his horse in combat. The text is rendered in a voweled naskh style in black ink, in 16 lines per page. The rubricated horse names are given at the beginning of each entry. This manuscript copy was completed on Jumada al-Akhirah 3, 1203 (February 28, 1789) in Medina, in present-day Saudi Arabia.

Last updated: September 29, 2017