Story of Kuhalyan Harqan as case study

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on October 20th, 2014 in General

Yesterday, I spent some time reading the story of al-Kuhaylah al-Harqah in the Abbas Pascha Manuscript (not the English version of Forbis and Sherif, but rather the large excerpts in Hamad al-Jassir’s Usul al-Khayl al-Arabiyyah al-Hadithah).

The story of al-Harqah is remarkable for its simplicity (it’s not hard to follow), its conciseness (relative to other strains’ long-winded accounts in the Manuscript), its consistency (most witnesses interviewed relate the same story) and its comprehensiveness (from the originating Kuhaylat ‘Ajuz down to the mares that went to Abbas Pasha). For all these reasons it could serve as a case study of how strains changed hands and moved from tribe to tribe in Bedouin Arabia. The story is also remarkable as an account of how strains names are formed, an account of several Bedouin customs and traditions, and it can also be used to reconstruct a rough chronology. I would like to document all this at some point.

Here’s a summary of how the strain got its name:

A Kuhaylat al-‘Ajuz mare was part of the ransom the Shammar (then all in the Jabal Shammar) asked the captured Sharif of Mecca to pay in return for his freedom; a descendant of this mare (still a Kuhaylat al-Ajuz with the Shammar) was born in the midst of day so had the tips of her ears cut per Bedouin tradition; the blade missed, and instead sliced through the whole ear, a part of which dropped down, so the filly was called “al-Ru’ayl”. A descendant of al-Ru’ayl was stolen from the Shammar by people from Jawf al-Yaman (in Northern Yemen today); a descendant of the stolen mare went from the people of Jawf al-Yaman to the Aal Murrah Bedouins when these were in nearby Najran; that mare, by then referred to as a Kuhaylat al-Ru’ayl, was taken in war by the Ajman from the Aal Murra; at the Ajman, a daughter of this mare, sire by a Kuhaylan Jellabi was being kept inside the tent during the cold,  she lied down in the hearth were coffee was being made, the remaining embers burned her side, and she hence became known as “al-Harqa” (“the burnt one”). That burnt mare al-Harqah was taken in war by a man of the Qahtan as she was in shackles, and Muhammad ibn Qarmalah the Shaykh of the Qahtan bought her from that man. At the Qahtan, the filly that was burnt had many descendants that spread among the tribes, where they became known as Kuhaylat al-Harqa. A daughter of the burnt filly was taken in war from under Muhammad ibn Qarmalah by Ibn Hathleen, Sheikh of the Ajman, but the man to whom the strain belonged to within the Ajman (see above) claimed her under trover.

My remarks here:

— According to the Lesan al-Arab (one of the oldest and most comprehensive Arabic dictionaries), the  word “ra’al” means the strong (even excessive) stabbing or cutting with a sword, spear, dagger, etc., which means that al-Ru’ayal is he/she who is stabbed or cut in that way; so the first name of the strain (Kuhaylat al-Ru’ayl) is indeed a reference to the accident that befell a filly of that Kuhaylat al-Ajuz line while at the Shammar .

— The account refers to at least six different ways horses could change hands in Bedouin Arabia: first, as ransom for an important prisoner of war; second, planned theft (hihyafah); third, during war by unhorsing its rider (qila’ah or as Bedouins pronounced it, gla’a); fourth, buying and selling; fifth, while raiding another camp by surprise and untying a mare from that camp (akhadaha wa hiya muqayyadah), and sixth, claim under trover (‘irafah) — more on this one separately.

— The account indicates that the original Kuhaylah ‘Ajuz of the Sharif of Mecca was held in such high repute that she was deemed worthy to be part of the Sharif’s ransom. Remember that the Sharif of Mecca was one of the most important person in Arabia at that time, equal to the Sultan of Mascate and Oman (and their dependencies including Zanzibar and the East African coast) and to the Imam of Yemen.

— There is an interesting reference to the practice of letting precious fillies into the tent when the weather is cold, and to these fillies being confined (muqayyadah) inside the tent, where they could wander freely.

— There another interesting cultural reference to the practice (known from other sources) of cutting the tips of foals ears, when these are born in the midst of day; that practice even gave its name to a horse strain (the Wadhna).

— There is evidence of systematic in-breeding at Ibn Qarmalah, in excerpts I did not mention above: son to mother, father to daughter, grand-sire to grand-daughter, and brother to sister. More on this later.

— There is much more than can be added, in commentary, and I will update this entry from time to time.

2 Responses to “Story of Kuhalyan Harqan as case study”

  1. Edouard memo to myself: in APM Harqan section Usaymah likely the mare of Ibn Qarmalah dam of the APS stallion Harqan.

  2. Terrific, Edouard! I’ll be in touch about this.

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