Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/165

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138
PERSIA.

amuse themselves with riding at full speed, throwing the jureed on the ground, and catching it as it rebounds.

The king’s cavalry are also trained to an exercise called the keykaj, which consists in turning about on the saddle at full speed and firing a carbine backward. This they learn from their childhood, and it gives them great confidence and dexterity on horseback. It is probably a remnant of the old Parthian custom so frequently alluded to in ancient authors; with this difference, that fire-arms are now used instead of bows and arrows.

The modern exercise of the bow is likewise performed on horseback. The horsemen gallops away with a bow and arrow in his hand, and when he has reached a certain point, he inclines either to the right hand or left, and discharges his arrow, which, to win the prize, must hit a cup fixed at the top of a pole one hundred and twenty feet high.

Another species of exercise, which seems to be less cultivated than the preceding, is thus mentioned by Kotzebue:—When the review was ended, the master of the horse came forward, standing upon a wild Arabian, and turned himself round while the horse was bounding about in every direction at full speed, not in the measured canter of our riding-schools. Sometimes he would suspend himself by either foot, while his head and arms hung down to the ground; then swinging himself on the horse, he would stand in the saddle upon both legs or one: in short, he went through a great variety of feats, the sight of which was really alarming. This man's performances certainly surpassed any thing of the kind that I had ever witnessed in my own country: and when the minister asked my opinion of them,I assured him that we had nothing equal to them in Russia. "And yet," added he, "this is not our best tumbler; the best is sick." I did not, however, give much credit to this assertion: and I afterwards learned that this man was the only performer at the king's court, and indeed superior to any in Persia.

The game of the mall is also known to the Persians, who play at it on horseback. At the extremity of the place appropriated to this exercise, there are two posts which serve for a wicket. The ball is thrown down in the middle of the place, when the players, provided with a short stick, pursue and strike it while going at a gallop, and endeavour to drive it between the two posts.

Scarcely any but people of superior rank play at these games, in which they display great skill as well in the sport itself as in riding.

In many cities of Persia, particularly at Shiraz, there are