Nose to Tail

On another folio of the Baburnama, the artists Kanha and Mansur provided an illustration for each entry. Babur wrote that the blue bull, a kind of antelope, is bluish-gray and therefore known as nila-gau (indigo cow), and that the hog deer, at bottom, has stumpy legs. Other details, such as the dappled coats of the hog deer, do not follow the text and must be based on firsthand knowledge.

Two Blue Bulls and Two Hog Deer
Folio from the First Baburnama
Designed by Kanha and painted by Mansur
India, Mughal dynasty, ca. 1589
Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Purchase—Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
F1954.29 (reverse)

In the words of Babur…

The two sides of this page are a single leaf from Akbar’s Baburnama manuscript. In the text on these pages, Babur records in detail the appearances of animals that are particular to Hindustan:

“Another [animal that is particular to Hindustan] is the wild buffalo, which is much larger than our oxen. Like ours, however, its horns curve backward without touching the back. It is a dangerous, ferocious animal.

Nilgai. The nilgai is as tall but more slender than a horse. The male is blue, which is probably why it is called nilgau [indigo cow]. It has two smallish horns. On its throat it has hair longer than a span that resembles a yak tail. Its hooves are like those of a cow. The female’s color is like that of a doe, and it has no horns or hair on its throat. The female is also plumper than the male.

Hog deer. The hog deer is as large as a white deer, but its fore- and hind legs are shorter, for which reason it is called kutahpay [short legged]. Its horns are branched like a stag’s but smaller. Like the stag, it sheds its horns annually. It is a poor runner, and for that reason it never leaves the forest.”

Thackston, Wheeler M., trans. The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. New York: Oxford University Press in association with Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1996. 337.