Concerning the whip made from hippo hide : corbage, korbadj, kurbash, corbash, and kibosh

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 1 06:10:56 UTC 2010

There was some discussion on the list about the possibility of
travelers bringing home whips made out of hippopotamus hide.  Many
names have been used to refer to whips constructed in the Middle East
using hippopotamus hide, including: corbage, korbadj, kurbash,
corbash, and kibosh.

Some of the terms are used imprecisely and descriptions of the whips
vary. For example, writers use the term corbash to refer to whips that
are supposedly made out of hide of the rhinoceros, bull, and sea-cow
as well as the hippopotamus.

Here is an 1820 example of a traveler bringing home a whip called a
korbadj made out of hippopotamus hide:

Cite: 1820, Journal of a Tour in the Levant by William Turner, Volume
2, Footnote, Page 365, John Murray, London.

I bought in the bazaars half a dozen korbadj (whips made at Sennaar,
of the skin of the hippopotamus) and described by Burckhardt; of the
six, five were stolen or lost, in the passage to Smyrna, and I only
succeeded in bringing home one which I still possess.

Here is a description in 1835 of the corbash and a statement of its
prevalence in Egypt.

Cite: 1835, A Summer Ramble in Syria by Vere Monro, Volume 1, Page 6,
Richard Bentley, London.

... although he might lose his life from severe chastisement with the
corbash, an instrument cut from the hide of the hippopotamus. supplies
of which are brought down the Nile by the slave boats. In size and
form this weapon resembles an English jockey-whip, but is more
elastic; when kept well oiled it takes a polish and becomes perfectly
black. It is occasionally mounted with silver, and may be seen in the
hands of most well-bred Egyptians.

In a memoir published in 1800 the traveler John Antes describes the
"bastinado" which is a form of foot whipping. The soles of the feet
are whipped with a "corbage", However, I could not find a good
description of the corbage in this 1800 text. A description does
appear in reprint in 1802.

Cite: 1800, Observations on the Manners and Customs of the Egyptians
by John Antes, Page 132, Printed for John Stockdale, London.

The one is given upon the soles of the feet, with the so called
corbage, which instrument I have described in my dissertation on the
Nile, page 121. Each of the men, who has hold of the stick with the
chain, by means of which the feet are held up, so as to be horizontal,
has one of them, with it they beat alternately, like two threshers, at
the command of their masters. The operation is called receiving,
sometimes eating the corbage.

The accounts of John Antes in Egypt were reprinted several times in
different periodicals in the UK and the USA. It was reprinted in the
1820s and 1830s. In 1802 the foot whipping story appears in a
newspaper in Virginia. A description of the corbage is included in the
narrative and it mentions that the whip is derived from a

1802 April 21, Alexandria Advertiser, Egyptian Justice, Page 3, Column
2, Alexandria, Virginia. (GenealogyBank)

... this chain is thrown round both feet above the ancles, and then
twisted together, while two fellows on each side, provided with what
they call a corbage (which is a strip of the skin of the hippopotamus,
about a yard and a quarter in length an inch in diameter) hold up the
soles of the feet ...

The story also quickly appeared in New York and Connecticut..

Cite: 1801 April 21, Hudson Gazette, The Bouquet, Page 4, Column 3,
Hudson, New York. (GenealogyBank)
Cite: 1801 May 25, Rural Gazette, Page 4, Column 3, Sharon,
Connecticut. (GenealogyBank)


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