Khattak horsemen

Khattak horsemen
Khattak horsemen, 1878. Illustration from the magazine The Graphic, volume XVII, no 430, February 23, 1878.


Khattak horsemen as described in 17th century by their chieftain Khushal Khan Khattak in his poetry:

خټک چه به اس سور شي
درسته وتړی په کونه
شمله ډ دستار پريږدي
په ټڼدي کښي اوږده پلنه

“A Khattak, when he mounts on horse-back,
Binds his shield upon his back ;
Lets loose the end of his turban
Over his forehead long and broad ” [1]

Khushal Khan Khattak in his Dastar nama says ;

“….Jousting of spears and hitting a mark are also useful on the horse-back. If a king is not involved in these practices he is not a king. Rather he is an unfortunate person. A person who can throw arrows on a horse-back that horseman is better than many Jousting fighters. A Verse: “A horse-man skilled in archery on a horse back is better than a big group of Jousting fighters.” The best things in the world are best young men, best horses and best arrows. Those young men are best who are good archers. The best horses are those which are under these Skill”. [3]

The Marwats, once the hereditary enemies of the Khattaks, had a saying : “Though the Khattak it a good horseman, yet he is a man of but one charge,” [2]

Khattak horsemen
Khattak horseman, equipped after the fashion of the tribe in armour, 1861. From “The people of India” by Watson and Kaye.


Description given with above photograph ;

“The plate represents another man of the Khuttuk Afghans, who is a horseman, equipped after the fashion of the tribe in armour. Over his turban he wears a cap of light steel chain mail, part of which, thickly quilted with cotton or wool, and fastened across his chest by straps, descends as far as his waist, and, when mounted, protects his back and arms. He has bright steel gauntlets reaching to the elbow, the leather covering for the hands being studded with bosses of steel or brass. His tunic is of quilted cotton, thick enough to turn a sabre cut, and with strong jack boots reaching to the knee, completes the costume. His arms are a light matchlock and sword, and his powder horns and bullet bag hang at his waist and on his right side. The Khuttuks cannot, however, bring many horsemen into the field, and their strength lies in their foot soldiers, who are formidable in mountain warfare”. [5]

Khattak horsemen
Khattak horsemen in chain armour, 19th century [4]


1- “Afghan poetry of the seventeenth century: being selections from the poems of Khushhal Khan Khatak”, with translations and grammatical introductions; edited and compiled by C. E.. Biddulph, p-104
2- A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Vol-III, p-248
3-  Dastar nama of Khushhal Khan Khattak, p-62
4-  “Across the Border: Or Pathan and Biloch” by Edward Emmerson Oliver, p-152
5-  The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with …, Volume 5, p-253


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