The Complete Guide to the Professions of Veterinary Medicine and Horse Breeding, Called “The Nasiri Book”


The horse holds an important place in Arab heritage, dating from before Islam and continuing to the present day. Arabian horses are widely regarded as the “fountainhead” of the world's breeds, and have existed on the Arabian Peninsula since around 2500 BC. Pre-Islamic accounts of horses existed only orally, however. After Islam, many works on horses were composed, first as poetry anthologies, and later on such subjects as equestrianism and veterinary medicine. The manuscript presented here was written by Abu Bakr ibn Badr al-Din al-Baytar (died circa 1340), who served as chief veterinarian of the stables of the Mamluk sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (reigned three times between 1293 and 1341). The book is titled Kāmil al-ṣinā ʻatayn fī al-bayṭara wa al-zardaqa (The complete guide to the professions of veterinary medicine and horse breeding), or simply al-Kitāb al-Nāṣirī (The Nasiri book), in honor of the sultan, who commissioned the work. It is divided into ten “essays,” each of which is divided further into “chapters” discussing many equestrian-related subjects, such as the health of horses, breeding, and sports. The first essay highlights the importance of jihad and the merit of horses in wars. This inclusion is not surprising considering the character of the Mamluk state, which was built around a strong military that succeeded in defending Syria and Egypt from Crusader and Mongol invasions. The last essay―on the combat qualities of soldiers from different nations around the region and on hunting and sports―is taken from another work, Āthār al-uwal fī tartīb al-duwal (The traces of the ancient on the arrangement of nations) by al-Hassan ibn ‘Abd Allah al-ʻAbbasi (died 1310). In writing the text, the author referred to earlier writers, including Ibn Akhi Khizam and Galen, but he also added his own observations and those of contemporary veterinarians, including his father. The manuscript is not illustrated, except on a few pages describing cautery. The manuscript was completed by ʻAbd Alla Muhammad Hassuna, on Muharram 1, 1316 (May 13, 1801).

Last updated: September 29, 2017