veterinary medicine.


DĀM-PEZEŠKĪ, veterinary medicine.

i. In the pre-Islamic period.

ii. In Islamic Persia.

i. In the Pre-Islamic Period

Widespread and developed animal husbandry, which was a prominent feature of Iranian economic and social life in ancient times, could not have prospered as it did without commensurate veterinary practice. The horse (see asb), ox (see cattle), and dog (see also domestic animals) were venerated allies of the Iranian horseman and herdsman. The cow, as the benign source of livelihood, and the dog, as the unfail­ing guardian of cattle and home, were highly revered by the Zoroastrians. Therefore the care and welfare of cattle, which were patronized by the Amahraspand (see aməša spənta) Vohu Manah “Good intention,” were not only urged as a response to the exigencies of life but also imposed upon the faithful as a religious obligation.

The dignity (sahīgīh) and worthiness (arzōmandīh) of medicine in general are reflected in an ancient legend about the prophet’s wondrous resourcefulness in converting Wištāsp. The tradition, mentioned cur­sorily in the Dēnkard (ed. Madan, II, p. 639) and drawn out and ramified in a popular version in the late Zarātošt-nāma (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 280; Molé, p. 55; Jackson, pp. 62-64), was an account of how the prophet, in order to win his own release from prison and demonstrate the veracity of his divine mission, acted as a horse doctor and miraculously cured the favorite horse of King Wištāsp, which had become paralyzed. This story attests to the fact that veterinary medicine was traditionally regarded as an art compa­rable to the art of healing human bodies.

The veterinarian was called in Middle Persian stōrbizešk (lit., “draft-animal physician”), which in New Persian became peješk-e sotūr and pezešk-e sotūr (Zamaḵšarī, p. 316), in contrast to mardom bizešk (lit., “physician of men”; Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, p. 752; West, p. 118). In the Dēnkard the stōr bizešk “veteri­nary surgeon” is mentioned as an indispensable atten­dant in the entourage of the army (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, p. 730; West, p. 87). It is to be assumed that some medical treatments were applied to men and beasts alike (cf. Fichtner, pp. 49-50).

In the section on the sheepdog (Av. pasuš haurva-, Mid. Pers. pasušhōrw) in the Duzd-sar-nizad nask (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, p. 726; West, p. 82) care of the dog and cattle is stressed. Every day at dawn the shepherd was to inspect the flocks and apply remedies to sick, wounded, bruised, and unhealthy (āhōgōmand) sheep. He was the one who had to function as veterinarian, dressing the common or minor injuries of his flock.

To the suppliants who asked how to treat a mad dog (sag ī dēwānag) or one that bites without barking Ahura Mazdā replied: “They shall put a wooden collar around his neck, and they shall tie him to a posṭ . . . by the two sides of the collar they shall tie him” (Vd. 13.29-30). And to the repeated question from the faithful about how to care for a mad or apathetic (Av. a-hąm.baō’əmna-, Mid. Pers. abōy “unperceiving”) dog Ahura Mazdā answered “They shall tend him in the same manner as they tend one of the faithful” (Vd. 13.35), which suggests that, if neces­sary, they were to call a veterinary physician. From the passage of the Vidēvdād about fees for medical treat­ment it follows that at that stage veterinary medicine had not yet developed into a distinct branch and that physicians treated men and beasts for the same fees: “He (i.e., a healer) shall heal the master of the house for the value of an ox of low value; he shall heal the master of a village for the value of an ox of average value . . . (Vd. 7.41). He shall heal the son of the master of a village for the value of an ox of high value; he shall heal an ox of high value for the value of an ox of average value; he shall heal an ox of average value for that of an ox of low value; he shall heal an ox of low value for the value of a sheep; he shall heal a sheep for the value of a meal of meat” (Vd. 7.43). On analogy with the manner of payment to the physician, the veterinary practitioner must have been paid after the animal had been cured (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, p. 751; West, p. 117). The reckoning of fees for physicians and veterinarians in terms of the values of the domestic animals and natural products was evidently a relic of an economy based on barter.



H. Fichtner, Die Medizin im Avesta, Leipzig, 1924.

A. V. W. Jackson, Zoroaster. The Prophet of Ancient Iran, New York, 1899; repr. New York, 1965.

Kaykāvūs Rāzī, Zarātošt-nāma, ed. and tr. F. Rosenberg as Le livre de Zoroastre, St. Petersburg, 1904.

J. de Menasce, Le troisième livre du Dēnkart, Paris, 1973.

M. Molé, La légende de Zoroastre selon les textes pehlevis, Paris, 1967.

E. Pūr-e Dāwūd, Farhang-e Īrān-e bāstān I, Tehran, 1947 Š./1968, pp. 212, 256.

E. W. West, tr., Pahlavi Texts IV, SBE 37, repr. Delhi, 1969.

Jār-Allah Abu’l-Qāsem Maḥmūd b. ʿOmar Zamaḵšarī, Pīšrow­-e adab yā Moqaddamat al-adab, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.

(Mansour Shaki)

ii. In Islamic Persia

Traditional veterinary science in Persia. The an­cient Persian traditions of dām-pezeškī (Ar. bayṭara) and human medicine were carried over to the Islamic period. Most of the early writing about veterinary matters is to be found in books on hippology (faras-­nāma) and falconry (bāz-nāma), but a few more com­prehensive works were also compiled, and useful discussions of animal diseases and their treatment were sometimes included in books on general human medi­cine (see below). Writings of Abū ʿObayda Maʿmar b. Moṯannā Bājarvānī (d. ca. 213/827), a Persian mawlā of Taym, namely his Ketāb al-ebel (on camels) and Ketāb al-ḵayl (on horses) are among the earliest works on animal physiology and veterinary science compiled by a Persian after the Arab conquest (Ebn al-Nadīm, ed. Flügel, p. 59; Ebn Ḵallekān, ed. ʿAbbās, V, p. 239). Ketāb al-ḵayl (ed. Hyderabad, Deccan, 1403/1982) contains passages about diseases of horses (pp. 41, 46, 121). The first work written on the subject in Arabic was Ketāb al-forūsīya wa’l-bayṭara by Ebn Aḵī Ḥezām, who is said to have served, during his long career, as stablemaster for both the caliphs al-Moʿtaṣem (218-­27/833-42) and al-Moʿtażed (279-89/892-902; Brockelmann, GAL, S. I, pp. 432-33; Sezgin, GAS III, p. 375). The oldest Arabic work dealing solely with general veterinary medicine, however, seems to have been the translation (Ketāb al-bayṭara), probably by Ḥonayn b. Esḥāq (d. 260/874), of a treatise on hippiatrics by the 4th-century Greek writer Theomnestos, preserved in the Köprülü library in Istanbul (ms. no. 959; Sezgin, GAS III, pp. 353-54). In the same library is an Arabic manuscript on veterinary medicine (Ketāb al-bayṭara fī ṣefat al-dawābb men al-ḵayl wa’l-ebel wa ḡayrehā) translated from Persian in the 9th century (Köprülü Kütüphanesi I, p. 488-89, ms. no. 959; cf. de Slane, p. 506). The existence of this manuscript not only shows that veterinary science had been a subject of interest to Persians but also attests to the continued vigor of the tradition in the Islamic period. According to Ebn al-Nadīm (ed. Flügel, p. 85), Ebn Qotayba Dīnavarī (d. 276/889) was the author of a book on horses (Ketāb al-faras) in forty-six chapters, a book on camels (Ketāb al-ebel) in sixteen chapters, and a book on beasts of prey and other wild animals (Ketāb al-sebāʿ wa’l-woḥūš) in seventeen chapters.

The 9th-century physician ʿAlī b. Rabban Ṭabarī described in the fourth discourse of his Ferdaws al-­ḥekma (pp. 421-27) the functions of parts of the bodies of various animals—camels, bulls, asses, elephants, and lions—and discussed animal diseases and their appropriate treatments. In the 10th century Moḥammad b. Aḥmad Ḵᵛārazmī devoted a paragraph to the teeth of animals as indicators of their age (pp. 12-13). His contemporary Senān b. Ṯābet b. Qorra deserves men­tion as another observer of animals and their diseases (Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, I, p. 221). In the 12th century Sayyed Esmāʿīl Jorjānī discussed veterinary topics in his medical encyclopedia, Ḏaḵīra-ye ḵᵛārazmšāhī, in which he included studies of rabies in dogs, wolves, jackals, foxes, and weasels (pp. 638-40). Faḵr-­al-Dīn Rāzī (543-606/1149-1209) also allotted space in his Jāmeʿ al-ʿolūm to veterinary subjects, including nine diseases of riding animals and the behavior and diseases of falcons (pp. 140-41, 143-45).

Persian research on animal diseases, as in other fields of medicine, won a high reputation in distant countries. Ebn ʿAwāmm of Seville is thought to have based the chapter on animal diseases in his Ketāb al-felāḥa on information about Persian stockbreeding and veteri­nary practice (Senet, pp. 51-54). In India Faḵr-e Modabber (12th century) included in his Ādāb al-ḥarb wa’l-šajāʿa descriptions of such animal diseases as cataracts, coughing, chest pain, night blindness, fever, and worms (in horses), with recommendations for treatment (pp. 221, 227, 228-29).

Regulations related to veterinary practice, as set forth by a very strict moḥtaseb (controller of the market), Ebn al-Oḵūwa, must have been enforced, at least for a time, in the eastern territories of the caliph­ate. They required that a veterinarian be expert on no fewer than 320 diseases of riding animals, including quinsy, headache, rabies, stomach disorders, and eye and ear ailments, as well as on the proper treatments for each. If a veterinarian made a mistake resulting in the death of an animal or a fracture of any of its bones, he had to pay compensation (pp. 150-51).

As noted above, books about horses and falcons are the main source of information about medieval Persian veterinary practice (for a partial list of mss., see Monzawī, I, pp. 405-96). In an anonymous faras-­nāma written in Persian prose, probably dating from before the Mongol invasion, the author discussed such equine eye diseases as cataracts, amaurosis, night blindness, and pterygium (nāḵona), then described in detail the symptoms of glanders (ḵonām) and cutane­ous glanders (sorāja); he also wrote about plague (rinderpest) in cattle and horses, inflammation of the udders and teats, diphtheria, asphyxia, rabies, infec­tious fevers, and other diseases (Do faras-nāma, pp. 22, 80, 82-83, 98-99 and index). The 14th-century author Moḥammad Āmolī devoted part of the fourth chapter of his Nafāʾes al-fonūn to veterinary medicine (ṭebb al-dawābb), writing about some common dis­eases of horses and game birds (pp. 345-50).

In the Il-khanid period (654-136/1256-1336) veteri­nary work appears to have been a vocation distinct from medicine, as is clear from a story about a veteri­narian in Saʿdī’s Golestān (ed. ʿA. Qarīb, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984, p. 173). Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Donayserī, in a compendium of scientific knowledge from this period, described curative properties of parts of the bodies of certain animals, some animal diseases, and appropriate remedies (pp. 215-46).

Works on veterinary science continued to be written under the Safavids (907-1145/1501-1732). According to Ḥasan Rūmlū (ed. Navāʾī, p. 454), Moṣleḥ-al-Dīn Moḥammad Lārī (d. 980/1571) wrote a treatise on veterinary science. Another noted scholar of the pe­riod, Mollā Moḥsen Fayż Kāšānī, wrote Waṣf al-ḵayl (Šīrāzī, p. 83), a description of horses. In the reign of Shah Ṭahmāsb (930-84/1524-76) equine diseases like pterygium and quittor (šoqāq) were mentioned in a faras-nāma composed in verse by a certain Ṣafī (Do faras-nāma, pp. 143-44). In the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629) Moḥammad-Taqī Tabrīzī translated into Persian Damīrī’s Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān under the title Ḵawāṣṣ al-ḥayawān (Wāseṭī, p. 101). At the behest of Shah ʿAbbās II (1052-77/1642-66), Neẓām al-Dīn Aḥmad wrote Meżmār-e dāneš, in three chapters and a conclusion; it was devoted to the train­ing of horses and symptoms and cures of equine diseases (fols. 41b-89a). D. N. Marshall (Mughals in India, p. 184) mentions a faras-nāma written by Moḥammad-ʿAlī Ḥazīn in Isfahan in about 1127/1715; the author prepared an abridged version of the book during his later stay in India.

In fact during the 16th and 17th centuries numerous books on veterinary subjects were written in the Per­sian language in India. Notable among them is a faras-­nāma with the title Toḥfat al-ṣadr, by Ṣadr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Khan b. Zabardast Khan in the reign of Awrangzēb (1068-118/1657-1707); its sixteenth chap­ter is devoted to a wide range of equine ailments, for example, the growth of superfluous teeth preventing insertion of the bit and the swallowing of food. The author recommended extraction and application of pitch (zeft) and asafetida (ḥeltīt) boiled in olive oil to make the wound heal quickly (p. 32). To cure inflam­mations and green-colored swollen veins under the tongue, he recommended phlebotomy (p. 32). For listlessness and lethargy in horses he found it useful to feed them barley meal mixed with Chinese rhubarb and dūḡ, and he was confident that equine eye diseases like pterygium (ẓofra) and cataracts could be cured by the same therapies applied to similar human diseases (p. 33). Another, similar work is a farās-­nama translated from an old Sanskrit work, Śālihotra, into Persian by Abu’l-Ḥosayn Hāšemī during the reign of Moẓaffar Shah of Gujarat (968-80/1561-73; see Barafrūḵta, no. 1321 Š./1942, pp. 2779-80). It deals first with equine diseases of particular parts of the body, beginning with the head, eyes, and mouth (pp. 58-62), then with fevers, catarrh (pp. 65-67), and so on. Apparently an earlier Persian translation of the same work had been made by ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ṣafī at the request of the Bahmanid Aḥmad Shah I (825-39/1422-36; Monzawī, I, p. 449). Also noteworthy are Aʿmār al-ḥayawānāt by Moṣṭafā-Ḥasan Kassāb; the anony­mous Faras al-fawāʾed, in verse with illustrations; an illustrated Fīl-nāma, about elephants, by an unknown author and artist (Fehrest-e kotob-ḵāna-ye Āṣafīya [Hyderabad, Deccan] III, p. 420); and manuscripts with the titles Dām-pezeškī and Ḵayl-nāma by un­known authors (Monzawī, I, pp. 433, 448).

From the Qajar period there are more reports about infectious animal diseases then common. Kalāntar Żarrābī (p. 201) mentioned an epidemic of hematuria (ḵūn-šāš), a symptom of anthrax, among both animals and humans. Najm-al-Molk, in his account of his travels in Ḵūzestān described infectious diseases that afflicted dogs and human beings and methods used to treat them (p. 137). Both Mīrzā Ebrāhīm (pp. 209, 213) and J. E. Polak (II, p. 98; tr. p. 333) noted that rinderpest was widespread and often destroyed all the cattle in a district. Contemporary Persian veterinar­ians were well informed about diseases of particular organs in animals, for example, the eyes, nose, diges­tive system, and genitalia, and also about wounds of all kinds, as well as sores on the foot, leg, and skin. The methods of treatment were traditional, including drugs concocted from mineral, vegetable, and animal sub­stances and ancient surgical procedures. From this period, aside from faras-nāmas and bāz-nāmas, chap­ters on veterinary medicine were included in general medical and pharmacological texts (e.g., ʿAlī b. Rabban, pp. 421-28; Jorjānī, pp. 280-83, 638-40; Heravī, p. 166). Among the techniques then in use were cauterization, phlebotomy, excision of bone tumors, eye surgery, disinfection of the uterus, and stomach surgery for relief of dropsy (estesqāʾ).

Modern veterinary science in Persia. The crown prince ʿAbbās Mīrzā was the first Persian offi­cial to attempt to import modern veterinary knowledge into the country. He arranged with the French military mission from Napoleon, led by General Claude Gardane, for the appointment of several French veteri­nary officers to work in Persia, but with the failure of the French mission this plan came to nothing (Trézel, tr., p. 84). In 1267/1850, during the reign of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah (1264-1313/1848-96), two British veterinar­ians arrived in Persia, but no record of their activities has been found. In the time of his successor, Moẓaffar-­al-Dīn Shah (1313-24/1896-1907), a French veteri­narian with the surname Carré was engaged to work in the royal stables, and for a time he also taught veteri­nary science at the Moẓaffarī college of agriculture (Madrasa-ye falāḥat-e moẓaffarī). Under Moḥammad-ʿAlī Shah (1324-27/1907-09) two Russian veterinary officers were employed in the Cossack Brigade, and it was they who organized the first formal courses in veterinary science in Persia (Barafrūḵta, 1322 Š./1943, pp. 3765-68). In 1332/1914 two veterinar­ians and an expert farrier from Sweden came to Persia and opened the first veterinary school, offering a two-­year course; apparently four of these courses were completed, but in 1343/1924 the school was closed. During the same period the veterinary services of the army were placed on a firm footing (Barafrūḵta, 1324 Š./1945, pp. 3767-68), and most of the graduates of the veterinary school found work with the army. In a manual of regulations for internal services (Neẓām-­nāma-ye ḵadamāt-e dāḵelī) issued by the Ministry of war (Wezārat-e ḥarb) in 1303 Š./1924 veterinarians were repeatedly described as “special personnel of the military” (fard-e neẓāmī-e ḵārej az ṣaff; pp. 16, 19, 20, 33); each had a number of apprentices (šāgerd), whose duties were to inspect the horses daily and to report to him on their condition (pp. 40, 65, 180).

The Pasteur institute of Iran was established in 1300 Š./1921 with the help of the Institut Pasteur of Paris; Joseph Mesnard was appointed its first director. It included departments of human, animal, vegetable, and industrial bacteriology. The department of animal bacteriology produced an antianthrax vaccine, which was distributed to the veterinarians then working in the country (Mesnard, p. 7). In 1304 Š./1925 this department, together with the Department for combating pests of animals (Šoʿba-ye dafʿ-e āfāt-e ḥaywānī) in the Ministry of public welfare, agriculture and com­merce (Wezārat-e fawāʾed-e ʿāmma wa falāḥat wa tejārat), was moved to Ḥeṣārak near Karaj. In addition to the antianthrax vaccine, it began to produce a vac­cine against rinderpest, which had spread at an alarm­ing pace in the 1920s, mainly in the Caspian region. Later the Ḥeṣārak laboratory was closed, then re­opened as the Rāzī institute (Moʾassasa-ye Rāzī) in 1310 Š./1931. Its reactivation was owing to the efforts of Dr. ʿAbd-Allāh Ḥāmedī and a newly appointed French colleague, Dr. Louis Delpy. The Rāzi institute, later renamed Moʾassasa-ye vāksan wa serom-sāzī-e Rāzī (Rāzī institute for vaccines and serology), has continued to produce vaccine and serums for human and animal use until the present day.

In 1927 the International Health Office issued a resolution stressing the need to establish regular veterinary services in all countries. After some delay, in 1312 Š./1933 the Persian government responded by establishing a veterinary section (Edāra-ye koll-e dām-pezeškī) in the Ministry of agriculture (Barafrūḵta, 1326 Š./1947, p. 190).

Ḥāmedī can be considered the founder of the modern veterinary profession in Persia. In 1302 Š./1923, in the course of his medical studies, he had worked under Mesnard in the department of animal bacteriology at the Pasteur institute; later he was transferred to the department for combating pests of animals, where he was engaged in the production of the antirinderpest serum. In 1305 Š./1926 the government sent him to France, where he obtained a doctorate in veterinary medicine and received practical training at the Institut Pasteur. He returned to Persia in 1310 Š./1931 and was entrusted with the task of organizing the Rāzī institute. In 1315 Š./1936 he established a large number of veterinary offices throughout the country.

The idea of founding a faculty of veterinary medicine had come up in 1306 Š./1927, but nothing was done until 1311 Š./1932, when Moṣṭafāqolī Khan Ṣamṣām-al-Molk Bayāt was head of the Department of agricul­ture (Edāra-ye koll-e falāḥat). In that year a veterinary college (Madrasa-ye ʿālī-ye bayṭārī) was opened un­der the supervision of the department. It was at first located in the Bāḡ-e delgošā in the western section of Tehran, but for the school year 1312 Š./1933-34 it was moved to the nearby Bāḡ-e Sardār Moḥtašam and in 1313 Š./1934 to Karaj. Delpy, then head of the Rāzī institute, and Dr. Vechten, who was director of the Veterinary institute (Moʾassasa-ye dām-parvarī), taught at this college for several years (Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, p. 367). The veterinary college was attached to the College of agriculture in 1314 Š./1935 (Maḥbūbī, Moʾassasāt I, p. 408; Behnām, p. 148) and returned to Tehran in 1318 Š./1939. In 1319 Š./1940 responsibil­ity for its scientific and technical performance passed to the University of Tehran, but control of its financial and administrative affairs remained in the hands of the Department of agriculture. In October 1945 it was formally incorporated into the university (Maḥbūbī Ardakānī, p. 368). In 1315 Š./1936 Ḥāmedī, by then director of the Veterinary department (Edāra-ye dām-­pezeškī) of the Ministry of agriculture, was appointed dean of the veterinary college, and in the same year he launched its journal, Nāma-ye dām-pezeškī, which is still published (ʿAṭāʾī, pp. 20-29, 281-82).

The functioning of the veterinary college, the civil and military veterinary departments, the Rāzī insti­tute, and similar bodies in the provinces made it pos­sible to control infectious diseases of animals in Per­sia. Since the 1930s Persian veterinarians have contin­ued this work and have conducted basic research. During the 1970s veterinary faculties were established at the universities of Shiraz, Ahvāz, and Urmia.



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(Mansour Shaki, Ḥasan Tājbaḵš, and Ṣādeq Sajjādī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 11, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 6, pp. 619-623