The story of Kuhaylat al-Musinnah, the “listening mare”, from Mustafa al-Jabri

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on July 19th, 2010 in General, USA

Mustafa heard this story from ‘Anazah Bedouins, and graciously accepted to let me publish my translation of it; you can also find these stories in Arabic and soon in English, on the website: al-Khuyul al-‘Arabiyah al-Asilah, on Facebook:

“Kuhaylat al-Musinnah is originally a Kuhaylah Khdiliyah, in reference to the clan of al-Khdilaat of the Fad’aan tribe of ‘Anazah; some clan members were once safely sitting in their tents, when suddenly one of their mares broke loose and started running around, knocking the ground with her foreleg; then she leaned down and put her ear on the ground, then she rose and ran up to a nearby hill; then she came down and went on to repeat the same actions all over again; the mare’s owner realized something unusual was going on across the hill, and upon checking, he and his fellow tribesmen saw enemies trying to make their way to the came and take its people by surprise; they prepared themselves for a fight and were eventually able to repell the attack thanks to the mare. The mare was henceforth known as “al-Musinnah”, because in the Bedouin dialect of Arabic the verb ‘sanna’ means ‘to listen’, and al-Musinnah means ‘she who pays attention and listens eagerly’.”

Now here’s what Charles Craver (“And Noah Begat…” in the Arabian Horse Journal, 1981) wrote about Muson (picture above, with groom Said Abdallah up), the Kuhaylan al-Musinn stallion imported by Homer Davenport to the USA in 1906:

Of the horses in the Davenport importation, *MUSON was probably the most striking individual in that he was a “listening” horse. Davenport considered this a strain characteristic rather than an individual trait. He writes a charming story about it to the effect that a certain mare in an Arab encampment was observed by the Bedouins to be “listening” to some unknown sound. That night the camp was attacked by enemy raiders. Thereafter the mare’s decendants were called “listening horses” after her behavior.

How nice to see that the same a story that was told to Homer Davenport in 1906 would resurface more than a 100 later, almost word for word..

2 Responses to “The story of Kuhaylat al-Musinnah, the “listening mare”, from Mustafa al-Jabri”

  1. You know, it is so interesting to hear the al Jabri version of the story, as it was told to us by Jerald and Debra Dirks after their big visit in Syria, nearly 20 years ago now. We had difficulty following it because of the ear to the ground description. Our assumption had always been that the listening horses posed, almost like a hunting dog, with ears pricked and facing the sound. Like *Muson is doing above, and like some of our horses do. They focus on the distance, and become almost rigid with attention. So the ear to the ground is not what we were expecting!!!

  2. I personally feel that ‘the ear to the ground’ part of the story is more myth than reality, perhaps a later addition to give the story some spice… What matters to me is first, the naming of the strain after a certain listening ability of a mare, and second, that this characteristic seems to be transmitted over several generations.

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