FARAS-NĀMA, Persian term for a category of books and manuals dealing with horses and horsemanship. Topics treated in this literary genre include horse-breeding, grazing, dressage, veterinary advice, horseracing and betting, and the art of divination based on the mien and movements of horses.

Persian literature in general abounds with references to horses (see ASB). There are special sections devoted to them in medieval encyclopaedias, mirrors for princes, and manuals of warfare as well as in poetry. Horses are a favorite topos in qaṣīdas in particular, both in the nasīb (ʿAwfī, Lobāb II, pp. 114-17) and as the gift requested by the poet from the subject of the panegyric. All these, however, fall outside the scope of this article, which will deal exclusively with Persian monographs on horses and the influences from other languages and cultures on their composition.

Faras-nāmas have appeared under such specific titles as Anīs al-mosāfer, Kanz al-hedāya, Ḵayl-nāma, Maḥāsen al-ḥeṣān, Meżmār-e dāneš, Rāḥela-ye tawfīq, Rāḥat al-faras, Samand-e dawlat, Ṭebb al-afrās, and Toḥfat al-ṣadr while others are simply entitled Faras-nāma. A large number of books on horses also exists in Arabic under the general title of Ketāb al-ḵayl (Ebn al-Nadīm, tr. Dodge, II, pp. 737-39; Hammer-Purgstall; Mercier; Ritter). A comprehensive bibliography of Persian faras-nāmas has yet to be compiled, but there are some partial listings (al-Ḏarīʿa XVI, pp. 168-72; Storey II, pt. 3, pp. 394-402; Monzawī, Nosḵahā I, pp. 440-44; Monzawī, 1983, pp. 446-545; Solṭanī Gordfarāmarzī, in EIr II, p. 736).

ʿAbd-Allāh Ṣafī’s Faras-nāma, also called the Bahmanī faras-nāma, written in 810/1407-8 (Storey II/3, p. 395; Huda, pp. 152-53) preserves what it is purported to be a chapter from a lost Ghaznavid faras-nāma. However, the earliest complete faras-nāma in Persian is perhaps the Faras-nāma of a certain Moḥammad b. Moḥammad b. Zangī, also known as Qayyem Nehāvandī. It may date to the sixth/twelfth century since it contains references to such historical figures as Šaraf-al-Dīn Mowaffaq Gerd-Bāzū, ʿEzz-al-Dīn Satmāz, and Zayn-al-Dīn ʿAlī Kūčak (on whom see Camb. Hist. Iran V, pp. 176-77). The unique manuscript of this work, comprising fifty-four chapters, is in the Genel Kütüphanesi in Bursa, Turkey.

Faras-nāmas in Persian may be divided into five categories:

1. A work attributed to Aristotle and supposedly written at the behest of Alexander the Great. This short treatise, which survives in a number of manuscripts, probably went through several changes and emendations after it was translated from Arabic. The text and a facsimile of one of the manuscripts has been published by Ḥasan Tājbaḵš (Tārīḵ-e dāmpezeškī wa pezeškī-e Īrān I, Tehran 1372 Š./1993, pp. 414-28).

2. Faras-nāmas which have been translated directly from Arabic into Persian, such as ʿErfān al-ḵoyūl (Monzawī, Nosḵahā I, pp. 436-37) and Kāmel al-ṣenāʿatayn (Storey II/3, p. 397, no. 665).

3. Faras-nāmas written in India and reportedly based on Hindu or Sanskrit sources. They include the Faras-nāma-ye hāšemī by Zayn-al-ʿĀbedīn Ḥosaynī Hašemī, written in 926/1520 (Huda, passim; Storey II/3, p. 395, no. 663), and the Toḥfat al-ṣadr by Ṣadr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Khan b. Zebardast Khan (fl. 1135 /1722-23; Storey II/3, p. 398, no. 672). Some of these manuals are copiously illustrated (e.g., Anand Rām Moḵleṣ Rāḥat al-faras, MS New York, Public Library, Spencer Indo-Pers. no. 33; Rāḥat al-ferās, MS London, British Library, Or. 5762; Sālhūtār or Ketāb-e asb-nāma, MSS London, British Library, Or. 6704, Or. 11918; see Schmitz, pp. 178-79; Meredith-Owens, p. 30).

4. Faras-nāmas originally written in Persian rather than being translated or adapted from other languages, such as the Faras-nāma or Asb-nāma of Moḥammad b. Moḥammad Wāseʿī in 767/1365-66 for Noṣrat b. Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Bā-Kālanjār (MS Tehran, Ketāb -ḵāna-ye Malek, no. 5754; Fehrest-e ketābhā-ye ḵaṭṭī-ye Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Mellī-e Malek III, p. 575; al-Ḏarīʿa XVI, p. 170, no. 499; Storey II/3, p. 397, no. 667; Monzawī, Nosḵahā I, p. 441).

5. Faras-nāmas in verse, such as the anonymous faras-nāma dedicated to Shah Ṭahmāsb (ed. ʿA. Solṭānī Gordfarāmarzī, Teheran, 1366 Š./1987).

Plate I.  On the characteristics of black horses with white patches, from the Faras-nāma-ye hendī (a translation of the Sanskrit Sālihōtra), MS London, Wellcome Institute, WMS.Per.47(A), f. 7a (undated). Courtesy of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine.

Plate II. On the characteristics of white horses with a shade of black, from the Faras-nāma-ye hendī, MS London, Wellcome Institute , WMS.Per.559, f. 18a (dated 1218/1803). Courtesy of the Wellcome Institutefor the History of Medicine.


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

J. F. von Hammer-Purgstall, “Das Pferd bei den Arabern,” Denkschriften der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Wien 6, 1855, pp. 211-46; 7, 1856, pp. 147-209.

Zayn-al-ʿĀbedīn Ḥosaynī Hašemī, Faras-nāma-ye Hāšemī, ed. D. C. Phillott as The Faras-nāma of Hāshimī, Calcutta, 1910.

Fehrest-e ketābhā-ye ḵaṭṭī-e Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Mellī-e Malek, vābasta be Āstān-e Qods-e Rażawī, ed. Ī. Afšār et al., 12 vols, Tehran, 1352-75 Š./1973-96.

M. L. Huda, “Faras Nāmah-i-Hāshimī and Shālihorta” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Pakistan 16/2, 1969, pp. 143-65.

F. Keshavarz, A Descriptive and Analytical Catalogue of Persian Manuscripts in the Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, 1986, pp. 353-67, nos. 190-201.

L. Mercier, tr. and ed., La parure des cavaliers et l’insigne des preux, Paris, 1924.

G. M. Meredith-Owens, Handlist of Persian Manuscripts, 1895-1966, London, 1968.

Monzawī, Nosḵahā I, pp. 440-44.

Idem, Fehrest-e moštarak-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭī-e fārsī-ye pākestān I, Islamabad, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 446-54.

H. Ritter, “La Parure des Cavaliers und die Literatur über die ritterlichen Künste,” Der Islam 18, 1929, pp. 116-54 (review of Mercier).

Ṣadr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Khan b. Zebardast Khan, Toḥfat al-ṣadr, ed. D. C. Phillott as The Faras-nāma of Zabardast Khān, Calcutta, 1911.

B. Schmitz, Islamic Manuscripts in The New York Public Library, New York, 1992, pp. 178-79.

ʿĀ. Solṭānī Gordfarāmarzī, ed., Do faras-nāma-ye manṯūr wa manẓūm,Tehran 1366 Š./1987.

Idem, “Asb iii. In Islamic Times,” in EIr. II, pp. 731-36.

A. Zajaczkowski, Le traité iranien de l’art militaire Adāb al-ḥarb wa-š-šağāʿa du xiii siècle, Warsaw, 1969 (facsimile ed. with introduction).

(Īraj Afšār)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: December 15, 1999