El Arnab
The Hare


[Page 149] The only interest of this puzzle lies in the speculation how anyone ever came to discover its existence. It suggests the idea that some inquisitive mind has been carrying out experiments in counter-distribution, a probability which is increased by the discovery which I made of a somewhat similar puzzle called El 'Agrab, or The Scorpion, whose layout, however, I have forgotten.

Figure 14

Eight hollows are made in the sand and contain counters as in Fig. 14, of which the likeness to a hare will at once be obvious. The "house" containing the three counters, is of course the head. Behind it are the fore-feet, with two counters each; then the loins, with one each; then the hind-feet, with two each; and finally the tail, with one counter.

The puzzle-monger picks up the two counters in the fore-foot marked X, and proceeds to a distribution, in the direction of the arrow, by the method explained for the game Um El Banāt. That is to say, he drops one counter into the head and the next into the nearside fore-foot; picks up the three counters now in that "house" and drops them one by one into the next three houses, thus reaching the tail; and so on.

The first surprising thing is that it never happens that the last counter to be dropped falls into an empty house.

The second and this is the point of the puzzle, is that after the counter-distribution has gone twenty-six times round the board but not before, the hare reappears in its original shape.

This puzzle was shown to me by an aged Arab who scattered and picked up, with a dexterity born of long practice, the counters which the well-field provided in profusion. He observed me counting his circuits of the board and, when the hare had duly reappeared, he asked me what the tally came to, and I told him "Twenty-six". "Ah," he said, with a shade of disappointment in his tone, "a clever player can do it in much less."

Last update January 6, 2010